Friends remember Tom Leadon, guitarist in Tom Petty’s earliest bands

Leadon was the guitarist in both of Petty’s first bands: The Epics and Mudcrutch
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 9:57 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Reaction is pouring in following the death of Tom Leadon, who played in one of Tom Petty’s earliest bands.

And while he never made it as big as some of Gainesville’s legends, people who knew him say he was just as talented.

“He had this older brother that was well known as just the baddest dude around,” said Mike Boulware. “Between [his brother] Bernie and Don Felder and [Stephen] Stills, they were the three best guitar players in town. Tommy was as good as them just hadn’t been discovered yet.”

His brother, Bernie, was one of the original members of the legendary rock band, The Eagles.

Tom received writing credits for the song “Hollywood Waltz” on their hit album One of These Nights.

More than a musician, his friends spoke highly of him as a person.

“Tom was what you’d call just a genuinely good person,” said the co-owner of Heartwood Soundstage, Hoch Shitama.

“As a human being there’s nobody sweeter that I’ve ever known,” said Boulware.

Shitama grew up engulfed in the Gainesville rock scene that raised legends like Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers and Stephen Stills.

It also produced Leadon, who played in both of Petty’s first bands: The Epics and Mudcrutch.

For the people who grew up with them, it is still hard to believe how much talent this town produced.

“We saw The Beatles on TV,” said Boulware, “we saw The Allman brothers around here, but what we didn’t realize was that Petty and Leadon and all these other guys were going to be the guys we would one day see on tv playing with all these heroes of ours.”

Each year since Tom Petty died, Heartwood has hosted a Tom Petty Weekend to honor his music.

Shitama said he will always appreciate Tom Leadon for making the effort to appear at each one.

“He was one of the only old musicians from Mudcrutch and The Heartbreakers and that whole gang that actually made it down here to do it.

Some of Leadon’s long-time friends shared what they’ll miss about him most.

“Just his smile and what a friendly, easy guy he was.,” said Boulware.

“I just miss him as a person,” said Shitama. “He’s a gentle soul.”

Messages for Tom Leadon have poured in from Tom Petty’s family and fellow Mudcrutch members, including Heartbreakers’ guitarist, Mike Campbell, who said on Instagram “Tom Leadon was my deepest guitar soul brother...A kinder soul never walked the earth.”

Tom Leadon was 70 years old.

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