With his passionate rock & roll style, Tom Petty, the iconic American musician made an impression on the music industry. He was an exceptional guitarist whose instrument of choice was a distinctive feature of his approach. But, What Guitar Did Tom Petty Play?
In this article, we’ll look at the guitars that helped build Tom Petty’s trademark sound and discuss their significance in his musical legacy. Tom Petty was a driving force in the world of rock & roll for nearly four decades, producing multiple albums.
He was noted for his unique voice and virtuosity guitar playing, both of which he perfected through years of practice and experimentation. During his time in the limelight, Tom Petty used a variety of guitars, but one in particular stood out as his go-to instrument.
- Brand: Fender
- Color: 3-Color Sunburst
- Top Material Type: FE0144522500
- Brand: Rickenbacker
- Color: Blue
- Top Material Type: Maple
- Brand: Gibson
- Body Material: Cherry
- Back Material Type: Cherry Wood
Tom Petty (Thomas Earl Petty) was born on December 8, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida. His father left when he was young so his mother raised him and his two brothers by herself. She was a waitress at a diner, and Petty’s mother struggled financially to raise her three children.
In 1965, Petty dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles. There he started playing guitar in local bands.
His first band was the group The Rascals. They released two singles before disbanding in 1968. Undeniably, Petty had a lot of talent. He played guitar, sang, and wrote songs for the band.
When he encountered Elvis Presley at the age of 10, he became interested in rock & roll music. His uncle was working on the set of Elvis Presley’s film Follow That Dream in neighboring Ocala in 1961, and he asked Petty to see the filming.
Tom Petty formed the Epics, which subsequently developed into Mudcrutch, immediately after pursuing his musical ambitions. He and the other members of Mudcrutch were looking for a new name for their band. They wanted something that would be easy to remember, and they settled on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band played cover songs and played some of Petty’s own compositions. After recording an album with the group, Petty decided to leave Mudcrutch and form his own band.
The first album with Petty’s new band was the self-titled Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was released in 1970 and sold poorly. It wasn’t until after he released his second album that Petty became famous.
After the release of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Petty released six more albums which eventually made him famous.
A Bird’s Eye View Of Tom Petty’s Guitars
Petty is a guitarist, and he has played many different guitars throughout his career. In the beginning, he used a Fender Stratocaster and later switched to a Gibson Les Paul. He also used a Gibson SG and a Fender Telecaster.
In fact, the first song he ever recorded was a cover of the song “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. He used a Gibson ES-335 and a Gibson ES-150. The ES-335 is a hollow-body electric guitar.
When Petty was a teenager, he bought a guitar from Sears. The guitar was made by Gibson, and it was Les Paul Junior costing around $80. He used to play guitar at home and in his garage.
When he went to college, he traded the guitar for a Les Paul. He didn’t like the guitar, so he sold it to a friend. In 1971, he bought a Fender Stratocaster, and he still plays it today.
Petty had a pair of antique Gretsch guitars that he used to play. He also had a fireglo 1964 Rickenbacker Electro ES-17. Petty also used a white Vox Mark VI teardrop guitar from 1966.
Petty used different guitars throughout his career. He used a Gibson Les Paul for the first few years of his career. He also used a Gibson SG during the early years of his career. Les Paul and the SG are considered to be classical guitars.
In the 1970s, he used a custom-made guitar. It was built by the luthier Albert Lee. He also used a Fender Stratocaster during the 1980s. Petty used a Fender Telecaster for the 1990s and the 2000s. He switched back to a Les Paul in the 2000s.
We are going to have a look at the guitars that Tom Patty played since his childhood. Some of his guitars are mentioned below, along with some necessary details about them:
Guitars Tom played quite a few guitars over the years, and we are going to take a look at some of his most important ones.
1. Rickenbacker 620 Electric Guitar
Beginning in 1979, Tom Petty had a tight relationship with Rickenbacker. He was captivated by its different manifestations and tones.
Background of this instrument
Rickenbacker 620 is one of the best guitars used by Tom Petty. In 1902, George A. Rich, a New York City man, began making stringed instruments, and the company’s name came from his initials.
In the early 1900s, he began selling instruments, and by the 1920s, the company was a well-known brand. In 1931, the company’s founder died, and the company went through a series of owners until 1952, when the Gibson company purchased it.
In the 1960s, Rickenbacker was acquired by the Harmony company, and then, in 1981, it was bought out by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.
Rickenbacker was founded by George A. Rich. In 1921, he hired a young luthier named Leo Fender to work at his shop. Together, they created the first commercially successful electric guitar.
The first models were called the Standard and the Special. The Special had a wider body than the Standard. The Special was meant to be a jazz guitar, while the Standard was more suitable for rock and roll. Both models were based on the same design. Fender then developed the “Telecaster” model, which became a staple of the rock genre.
The 620 is constructed with a solid body. The body is made of maple, mahogany, and rosewood. This guitar has two humbuckers. It also has a built-in tuner that gives it a very distinct sound, which is known for its fullness and punch. It has a very deep bass, which makes it ideal for heavy metal and rock music.
It has a bright treble, which makes it perfect for pop music. The neck extends all the way through the body, making it a massive piece of equipment capable of providing warmth, sustain, and playability.
The instrument features two patented single-coil pickups and a stereo output. The strings are set up for medium tension. The 620 has a medium action. It allows players to play guitar for long periods of time. The guitar offers a pretty cool sound and feels very stable and sturdy.
2. Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar
One of the earliest guitars of Tom Petty is Fender Stratocaster 1964. He loved this guitar and played it a lot. Until the 80s, his main guitar was a Fender Stratocaster. A Fender Stratocaster is an electric guitar model first released in 1954 and remains one of the most popular instruments in the world.
The Fender Stratocaster is a traditional solid body electric guitar and is considered by many to be the most popular electric guitar in the world. It is a versatile instrument that is suited to a variety of musical genres.
The Fender Stratocaster was created by Leo Fender in response to requests from musicians for a more compact and durable version of his standard Telecaster.
Petty’s Stratocaster was sunburst in color, with three single-coil pickups. From 1967 until 1982, he nearly exclusively used it—until he found Rickenbacker guitars.
In a 2006 interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Petty stated that he and Mike Campbell were watching old concert videos. They noticed the old Strat and wondered, “How’s that instrument doing?” Because neither Tom Petty nor Mike Campbell are known for getting rid of guitars, they took it out and realized it was in excellent condition!
Some popular features of this guitar are that it comes in three colors of Sunburst. The sound of the Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar is crisp, and the instrument’s well-balanced volume control delivers a powerful tone.
The body is considerably altered, and a third pickup was installed. This arrangement would prove to be a game-changer in the guitar manufacturing industry. Not only was the instrument ideal for jazz, but rock and blues performers would want to take one up as well.
The solid-body movement had begun by the end of the 1950s, and most major guitarists were performing on one. This product is the best electric guitar in its class. It has a great feel and tone and the versatile features that make Fender Player Stratocaster so popular.
The medium-sized body of the Fender Stratocaster is composed of alder or ash. This porous wood is rather thick and, when combined with the design of the body, produces a bright, powerful tone.
The neck is thicker today, but it was relatively narrow when it was initially introduced. The maple neck adds warmth and sustains the strings. The form of the body and neck make this guitar perfect for both soloing and chording, for which it is famed.
The Strat has three single-coil pickups, which gives it a wide spectrum of tones. These pickups provide a light, airy tone, but having three of them means the instrument is extremely versatile.
The guitar player may regulate the arrangement and level of all of the pickups by using a switch and knobs. The Strat is also equipped with an onboard preamp. This allows players to experiment with different sounds without having to add additional equipment.
The Fender Stratocaster is designed to be a “big” electric guitar, which means that it’s designed to have a lot of volumes, sustain, and a fairly bright tone. It’s not as mellow as an acoustic guitar, and it doesn’t produce as much sustain as a jazz guitar or a steel guitar.
Songs In Which It Appeared
Until the 1980s, the Strat was Petty’s primary guitar, which is what we hear on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, You’re Gonna Get It!, Damn the Torpedoes, and Hard Promises. This includes blockbusters like “American Girl” and “Refugee,” as well as a slew of other songs that cemented Petty’s standing in the guitar world at the time.
3. Epiphone Casino Archtop Hollowbody Electric Guitar
- Brand: Epiphone
- Color: Natural
- Top Material Type: Maple
- Body Material: Laminated-and-solid-wood
- Back Material Type: Mahogany Wood
Perhaps the most famous Epiphone model of all time, the Casino is still going strong. This thin-line full-hollowbody archtop is constructed with traditional Maple Laminate with a Mahogany neck and gives its classic "sparkle" tone through a pair of authentic "Dog Ear" P-90 Classic pickups.
In one of his interviews, he talked about his favorite guitar for recording. This is Epiphone Casino. He said that he used it for recording his song “American Girl.” He used it for recording because it has a nice and clear tone.
Epiphone Casino is one of the most popular hollow-body electric guitars.
Gibson made the agreement in 1957 to acquire Epiphone’s profitable upright bass business, with the guitar lines only a byproduct of the brand name.
In reality, the basses were a failure for Gibson, and manufacturing was cut short. You simply have to look around today to realize how well Gibson’s guitars have sold.
Gibson produced the first of its new Epiphone-brand guitars in 1958, adding an additional category to the Gibson range. Some of these ‘new’ Epiphones carried on the style and intent of older Epi models, while others were Epi near-equivalents of Gibson models, with different pickups and feature sets to differentiate the two brands.
Gibson had recently debuted the semi-solid double-cutaway Thinline electric ES-335, and in the aftermath of its popularity, the company’s executives formed a series around it, adding a few other models in the same manner.
In terms of fancy appointments, Epiphone’s semi-solid Sheraton (originally meant to be called the Deluxe) was about akin to the Gibson ES-355, while the Casino was similar to Gibson’s hollow 330.
The essential specifications were all in place when the very first copies were dispatched from the Gibson facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1961. The Casino was advertised in Epiphone’s catalogs that year as having “ultra-modern, thin-body, double cutaway style.”
The body was approximately 16 inches wide and three inches deep. It was made of poplar for the outer and soft middle plies and maple for the pressed top and back.
When it came to forming the laminated tops and backs of the Casino, Gibson employed specialized presses that molded and arched them, as well as formed the sides. There are actually three possible results. You may be getting the royal tan or the shaded.
Epiphone took its time making changes to the Casino. When it finally started production in 1961, the Casino was a different guitar from the one that exists today.
Epiphone has used different-shaped headstocks in the past. You may remember the earlier metal curves that were common among the company’s guitars in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The fingerboard inlays were altered from dots to offset diamonds at the end of 1962. According to Gibson’s shipping statistics, the Casino’s finest year in terms of sales was 1967, when 1,814 were produced.
Following its retirement in 1970, the Casino returned subsequently, initially as part of Epi’s Japanese-made lines in the 1980s, and then more recently in several reissues, modifications, and signature models, including a number of Beatle-related variants.
So, to sum up, the Epiphone Casino was designed by Larry Kaman. It was the first hollow-body electric guitar that Epiphone produced. The Casino was made in 1964. It was released in a couple of finishes: black and white. It had a mahogany body with a maple top. The guitar had two single-coil pickups.
Epiphone Casino’s Construction
Epiphone Casino series is made of solid Mahogany with the classic style of the 1950s. These solid-body electric guitars have easy playability and a nice weight for the fingers.
The Casino series comes with Epiphone’s legendary EMG active pickups that reproduce the full tonal range of acoustic instruments. The EMG active pickups deliver a warm, rich sound, and they produce a bright, clear tone even in the low frequencies.
This guitar features an open body style, featuring the classic Epiphone look. The body features a single-cutaway that opens up at the 15th fret and a solid maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard that has 18 jumbo frets.
This guitar has a bolt-on neck with a 22-inch scale length. This instrument is fitted with an adjustable bridge that gives you the perfect intonation and great sustain. Epiphone’s Casino series is built to last, and we will have a piece of history in our hands for years to come.
4. Gibson SG
Tom Petty doesn’t use Gibson guitars as frequently as he does Fender or Rickenbacker, although he has been seen with a number of SGs throughout the years.
He was spotted performing with them largely in the 2000s and 2010s, and they were most likely utilized on his later solo albums. It has a very rich, deep tone that works well with a variety of styles and is Gibson’s best-selling model of all time.
Gibson was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1894 by Orville Gibson and Henry Lesley. The company started off as a small business making woodworking tools, but they soon began making electric guitars. They also made the first hollow-body electric guitar.
In 1949, Gibson moved into its current location in Nashville, Tennessee. Gibson made the first electric guitar with a vibrato bar, which was a big hit. The first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1954.
The first electric guitar with a built-in pickup was introduced in 1959. In the 1960s, Gibson started to make the first electric guitars with tremolo systems. The first semi-hollow body electric guitar was introduced in 1962. Thus, Gibson has been making guitars for more than 100 years.
Gibson is considered to be one of the oldest companies in the world. In 1967, Gibson introduced the Les Paul. This was a landmark model in the history of electric guitars. The Les Paul was designed by the legendary luthier Ted McCarty.
The Gibson SG design, which was formally introduced in 1961, was a significant departure for the solid-body electric guitar, almost as if a sculpture rather than a guitar builder had been at work.
Petty used the vintage SG nearly entirely during the trip. Many Bob Dylan masterpieces use the guitar, including a duet interpretation of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Tom Petty doesn’t generally sell guitars, but when he spotted the Rickenbacker Morris-Rose at Norm’s in 2007, he gave his 1965 Gibson SG for the chance to possess the classic Ric.
In the late ’60s, Gibson decided to make a radical change in the look of their guitars. The first of these was the SG. The SG was a huge success and helped Gibson to become a major force in the guitar market.
The SG was also the first electric guitar to use a two-piece body, which other guitar makers would later copy.
The body featured a beautiful mix of levels, points, and angles, and the comparatively lightweight instrument enabled players to reach the instrument’s uppermost frets with ease and speed, owing to a pair of pointed cutaways.
It was unlike anything the firm had done before – even if the influence of Fender could be seen in some of its concepts. In retrospect, Gibson’s rationale for introducing this new design appears almost unbelievable. The original single-cutaway Les Paul was to be replaced.
The SG features a curvy figure and neck made entirely of mahogany. The neck profile provides far more movement than a Les Paul, and the double-cutaway provides even greater access to the top frets.
The instrument’s solid wood produces a deep, hefty sound, yet its narrow body prevents the tone from becoming overpowering. In terms of electronics, the SG and the Les Paul are identical. They each have two P90 pickups in the traditional bridge-neck configuration.
The guitar player has control over the pickups, as well as the tone and loudness of each instrument. Burstbucker pickups, which are made in the same way as old humbuckers, are standard on modern SGs. These pickups are coiled loosely, giving an antique sound to the listeners.
Amplifier Used By Tom Petty
Petty’s preferred recording and touring amplifier is a 1970s Vox AC30, a legendary tube instrument amp that helped establish popular music’s sound. Tom Petty used a Marshall JMP-1 amp for his recording sessions.
The Marshall JMP-1 is a tube amplifier that was released in 1966. It was the first tube amplifier to have a built-in speaker. Some other amplifiers used by Tom Petty are Fender Bassman Combo, Fender Deluxe Reverb Combo, Fender Princeton Combo, Fender Tweed Deluxe, and Fender Vibratone Cabinet, and Kustom 250 Head.
Tom Petty’s amp setup is a combination of a Fender Bassman Combo, a Fender Princeton Combo, and a Fender Tweed Deluxe. The amp that Tom Petty uses for his live performances is a Marshall Super Lead. It has a cabinet size of 30 inches and a power output of 100 watts. This amp is used for all of his live performances.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we will answer a few faqs to clear your mind further.
Who is Tom Petty?
Tom Petty was a well-known singer-songwriter and vocalist for the successful band ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.’ After meeting the great musician Elvis Presley when he was ten years old, he became serious about music.
He started his career as a member of the Mudcrutch. Following the dismantlement of the group, he went on to create the band that would later become known as ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.’
He also had a significant role in the epic adventure picture ‘The Postman,’ which was a commercial and critical flop. He died in 2017 after a cardiac arrest caused by an accidental prescription medication overdose.
‘Damn the Torpedoes,’ his band’s third studio album, was a significant effort by Tom Petty. The album, which was launched on the eve of his 29th birthday, was a financial triumph, selling more than 3 million copies in the United States.
The album was included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 best albums of all time in 2003, including songs such as “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “Even the Losers.”
Does Petty play electric guitars only?
Yes, mostly, he played electric guitars due to their superior performance and extra features.
Petty has established himself as one of the most iconic performers and composers of the modern period. He was nominated for 18 GRAMMY awards, won three of them, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is now placed 91st on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists.
Tom Petty is most recognized for his use of Rickenbacker guitars, although a Stratocaster was his primary instrument for much of the first three albums he made with his band, the Heartbreakers. He’s also played a variety of different electric and acoustic types.
What Guitar Did Tom Petty Play?
He played a lot of guitars in his life, including Rickenbacker 620, Gibson SG, Gibson dove, Rhythm guitar, Epiphone Casino electric guitars, several vintage guitars, and a few acoustic guitars, vox guitars, and vintage Gretsch guitars. However, Tom Petty’s favorite guitar was a Stratocaster throughout his first several albums with the Heartbreakers.
Stratocaster has an instantly identifiable renowned tone. It has a very deep voice that is very prominent in the songs, and it can be heard in “American Girl,” “You Got Lucky,” and “Listen to Her Heart.”
Tom Petty played the Stratocaster for a long time, and this was his primary instrument. He switched to a Les Paul Deluxe after he left the Heartbreakers.
What is “The Heartbreakers”?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a Gainesville, Florida-based American rock band. The band was founded in 1976 by Tom Petty (lead vocalist and guitarist), Mike Campbell (lead guitarist), Ron Blair (bass guitar), Stan Lynch (drums), and Benmont Tench (keyboards).
The band’s music has been described as both Southern rock and heartland rock, with performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and John Mellencamp identified as predecessors of the genre that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
While the heartland rock trend faded in the 1990s, the Heartbreakers persisted and were influential, playing regularly until Petty’s death in 2017, at which point the band dissolved.
In their first year of qualification, the band was honored in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Petty recorded three solo albums, the most popular of which being Full Moon Fever, despite the fact that the majority of their content was created and presented under the moniker “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”
What is the style of Tom Petty’s playing?
Tom Petty was a one-of-a-kind musician that blended Southern and Heartland rock. Due to his employment of a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar, Tom Petty had an extraordinary voice quality as well as a characteristic stripped-down guitar technique reminiscent of Roger McGuinn of the Byrds.
Petty’s music has one characteristic with yacht rock/California sound contemporaries: it seldom scores highly on quick and hard rock qualities. His preferred style is mid-tempo rock, with occasional forays into the soft rock.
The skillful playing of player Mike Campbell and Petty’s jangly Rickenbacker produce a tremendous guitar impression. Petty’s tracks also feature a lot of bass and percussion.
Many of Petty’s songs are propelled by a backbeat, a focus on the second and fourth beats of a measure, which is common in pre-rock and roll R&B songs. His tracks frequently have a dance atmosphere to them, most notably “American Girl.”
Did Tom Petty work with only one guitarist?
No, Petty’s desire for artistic progress drove him to change the artists with whom he collaborated. Initially, he wanted to engage only artists other than the Heartbreakers.
While he did use other musicians on some parts, like Ringo Starr, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Michael Kamen for the sophisticated orchestrations, he ended up employing three-fifths of the Heartbreakers on every track. These include lead guitarist Mike Campbell, pianist Tench, and bassist Howie Epstein. “He couldn’t stop them,” Wharton explained. “Those are the people you want if you’re putting together a dream squad rock’n’roll band.”
Tom had a long and fruitful collaboration with Mike Campbell. They had spent their entire lives working together. Tom Petty started to believe that the Heartbreakers’ drummer, Stan Lynch, didn’t have the appropriate feel as he worked on the songs and planned his artistic future. So he made a tough choice to dismiss him and replace him with Steve Ferrone, who stayed with the band until Petty’s death.
What was the cause of Petty’s early death?
Petty died at a very early age. He was discovered unresponsive at his house in the early hours of October 2, 2017, not breathing and struck by a heart attack. He was revived and transferred to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, where he died after news of his death surfaced throughout the day.
According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner, Tom Petty died unexpectedly from combined drug poisoning on January 19, 2018. Petty’s daughter and wife say he had a variety of medical issues, including emphysema, knee injuries, and “most notably a shattered hip.”
He was given pain medicine for these issues and was told that his hip injury had deteriorated on the day he died.
What are some famous guitarists of Tom petty’s era?
Among Petty’s fellows, the most common and well-known include, Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, George Harrison, Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Eric Clapton, and Roy Orbison.
Finally, Tom Petty’s guitars were an important part of his musical legacy. His Fender Telecaster will be eternally connected with his signature sound. Tom Petty’s guitar playing was always at the forefront of his songs
In this article, we have discussed What Guitar Did Tom Petty use. We have also mentioned some of his guitars here. Take a moment to admire the guitar that helped bring Tom Petty’s music to life the next time you listen to one of his iconic compositions.