The Elvis Presley song Tom Petty called “high art”

It only took one moment for Tom Petty to become an Elvis Presley disciple for life. The legendary Heartland rocker was just ten years old when his uncle got a job on the set of Presley’s 1962 film Follow That Dream. Petty was invited to visit the set in northern Florida, where he witnessed Presley’s aura first-hand.

“He arrived in a fleet of white Cadillacs,” Petty later told Rolling Stone. “People were screaming, handing records over a chain-link fence for him to sign. I remember his hair was so black that the sunshine was glowing off of it.”

“Just a nod and a hello made your skin tingle,” Petty added. “I was high for weeks. It lit a fever in me to get every record I could, and I really digested it. Elvis became the soundtrack of my early years.”

Not long after his visit to the set, Petty traded in a slingshot for his first Elvis records. It was Petty’s first real exposure to rock and roll, and as he began to pick up the guitar as an instrument, Presley’s records were some of the first ones he learned from. It was Presley’s first major single, ‘That’s All Right’, that had the biggest impact on the young Petty.

“Elvis and his band were fooling around at the end of a session at Sun with this song, and Sam Phillips heard it right away,” Petty recalled about the track. “It was a pretty obscure Arthur Crudup song, and it’s incredible to me that Elvis knew it.”

“He really put his own whack on it. He sings with a hiccup in the timing – I don’t know where that came from,” Petty added. “The Sun stuff is really high art. It’s so pure, and that sense of discovery is there.”

Not long after, the British Invasion gave Petty another angle to approach rock and roll. The folk rock and psychedelic rock booms of the late 1960s gave Petty his own ideas about jangly rock songs with pop melodies. When put together with his classic Southern twang, Petty emerged as a true original, but only because Elvis Presley laid the groundwork for him.

Check out ‘That’s All Right’ down below.

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