As the rock world remembers Tom Petty with the October anniversaries of his death and birth, Jon Scott, the long-time friend and former record label radio promo man who saved the legendary rocker’s career “with a vengeance” en route to Hall of Fame status some 40 years ago is devoting the entire month to celebrating Petty’s life through the special relationship chronicled in Scott’s book, TOM PETTY AND ME: My Rock ‘N’ Roll Adventures with Tom Petty (CB Publishing, 191 pp., $25).
On his latest rock ‘n’ roll adventure with Petty, Scott will be crisscrossing the country in October to join fans at celebrations in Gainesville, FL, where Petty grew up, and Los Angeles, where he landed 1974 in search of his first record deal with his band, Mudcrutch, and remained until his untimely passing as a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer rocked the music world two years ago, Oct. 2, 2017.
Scott will be joining Petty fans in Gainesville Oct. 17-18 for several events at Tom Petty Weekend, honoring “Gainesville’s Favorite Son.” He returns home to Los Angeles on Petty’s 69th birthday, Oct. 20, to host Tom Petty’s Birthday, a four-hour celebration at Petty Cash Taqueria & Bar with live music by noted Petty tribute artists.
With a foreword by John Mellencamp writing he’s “grateful for the immense amount of work that (Scott) did on my behalf and others,” Scott’s book similarly recounts how the author, as a radio promo man, was one of the main forces in helping to get Petty’s music heard on radio stations around the country. It began when Petty’s debut album, ignored and miscategorized as punk by the label eight months after its release, literally fell off the record company shelf and into Scott’s hands as ABC Records was preparing to drop the artist from its roster. So moved by what he took home and discovered in the grooves, Scott risked his job at ABC to convince his bosses he personally needed to give the album a second chance at radio and resuscitate Petty’s career from the music industry precipice.
Petty acknowledged Scott’s importance from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017, at his last concert ever, dedicating “I Won’t Back Down” to Scott: “Six weeks before our first record was dropped by ABC Records, he went to the radio stations with a vengeance and brought that sucker onto the charts. And it wasn’t easy. We are forever grateful.” Watch that moment here.
In TOM PETTY AND ME, Scott shares the series of coincidences and serendipity that brought him and Petty together, altering both of their careers. This is the story of incredible talent realizing a seemingly once-impossible dream by overcoming obstacles through the passion and commitment of one man who created a movement. In the process, the course of rock ‘n’ roll history was forever changed.
Jon Scott was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and like many young Memphis kids growing up in the ’50s, he was exposed to all types of music, including gospel, blues, and rock ’n’ roll. Jon had music running through his veins.
When Jon was young, his mom would request songs and smile when the local country DJ would dedicate a song to her on the radio. That was when Jon knew what he wanted to do — make his mother smile, because she meant the world to him. Jon told his mother he would someday be a DJ. He began practicing with a tape recorder his father bought at Sears & Roebuck. At 16, Jon heard the Rolling Stones on the radio. He immediately went out and bought a Stones album and heard “Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man.” Jon thought that sounded like a pretty good job too.
His father’s dream, however, was for Jon to go to Memphis State University and get a business degree. Jon dropped out to pursue the radio career he longed for at the famous Keegan’s School of Broadcasting in Memphis. His father was not pleased and told Jon he’d have to pay for tuition himself, so Jon found work at a local movie theater, where he had the good fortune of meeting Elvis one night.
Jon’s dream finally came true when he graduated from Keegan’s and was hired by a small-town Tennessee radio station in Lawrenceburg. A year later, a premonition told Jon to go back home to Memphis, where he knew there would be a job waiting.
Within two weeks, Jon was hired by WMC-FM100, a station that had been playing soft music, and whose general manager was ready to turn it into a rock ‘n’ roll station. On February 7, 1967, FM100 started playing rock ‘n’ roll that had never been heard before on Memphis Top 40 stations. It would become a part of the progressive radio movement, and Jon developed a huge nighttime audience, free to play whatever he wanted. FM100 helped break acts like ZZ Top, David Bowie, Pure Prairie League, the Doobie Brothers, Henry Gross, Billy Joel and Elton John.
Another dream came true for Jon in 1973 when he left FM100 to work for MCA Records, first as a local promo man in the mid-South and then as a regional promo man in Atlanta. Soon after, he was offered his dream job at MCA as head of national album promotion and moved to Los Angeles in 1974. At MCA, he worked and traveled with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John, the Who, Olivia Newton-John, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and Golden Earring, among others.
Jon was offered a job at ABC Records, again as national head of album promotion, in 1977. This was when many serendipitous, cosmic coincidences would take place, especially with a relatively unknown band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Fate stepped in, and Jon has been credited with breaking the career of Tom Petty. He worked with Tom and the band for more than 40 years.
TOM PETTY AND ME is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle at www.tompettyandme.com.