Roger McGuinn’s 2017 Tribute Performance to Tom Petty

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Petty and McGuinn performing at NYC’s Webster Hall, June 2016, with Tom Leadon and Herb Pedersen (Photo © Greg Brodsky)

When it was booked, it was just another date on a concert tour. But Roger McGuinn‘s performance on October 5, 2017, at Pepperdine University became an unlikely opportunity for the Byrds co-founder to pay tribute to his good friend Tom Petty. And by some karmic connection, the last time McGuinn played Pepperdine solo, Petty joined him on stage.

McGuinn’s appearance at the Malibu, CA campus’s Smothers Theatre allowed him to share a story about how the two first got to know each other.

“He was a good friend of mine,” says McGuinn. “I first met him back in 1976 and I was getting ready to do an album called Thunderbyrd. I was looking for some outside material to fill it in. And my manager was playing some stuff.”

Listen to McGuinn’s 1977 recording of a song from a new performer, complete with sax solo

“When I heard that, there was something familiar about it and I said ‘I want to meet that guy.’ My manager put me in touch with Tom and we got to know each other and we went out on the road together, went to New York and played The Bottom Line.

“I didn’t see him for some years after that and went to see him in Tampa, FL at a sports arena,” he says. McGuinn relates how he was backstage when he bumped into Petty, who invited him to play several songs with the Heartbreakers that very night. One thing led to another and McGuinn ended up as the opening act for a European tour that Petty and Bob Dylan did.”

McGuinn is referring to 1987’s “Temples in Flames” tour which ran for six weeks from Sept. 5 to Oct. 17.

“Tom and the Heartbreakers were the house band. They backed me on a couple of Byrds songs, they did their set, and they backed Bob up on his. And at the end we all sang ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’

“The very end of the tour was in England and George Harrison joined us.”

Watch McGuinn share the story and perform “American Girl” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

Related: Our review of the Byrds’ ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ @50 tour

Watch McGuinn play a portion of the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star” at the same concert.

Related: Tom Petty, a true rock and roll star

McGuinn tweeted before the concert

Oh yeah… that final performance of the 1987 “Temple in Flames” tour, on Oct. 17, 1987, included a guest appearance by George Harrison.

McGuinn was born July 13, 1942.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. baybluesman
    #1 baybluesman 5 October, 2021, 22:05

    Tom Petty, Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, J. Geils, Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell, Walter Becker, Glenn Campbell, amongst other musicians, all departed us within months of each other in 2017.

    2017 was truly “The Year The Music Died”, but they will never be forgotten, thanks to the recordings and videos, as well as websites that keep them with us, such as Best Classic Bands.

    Thanks for the remembrance.

    Reply this comment

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