Gear Rundown: Tom Petty

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Gear Rundown: Tom Petty

Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

The Rickenbacker 625 pictured with Tom on the cover of Damn the Torpedoes actually belongs to the Heartbreaker’s Mike Campbell.

Tom Petty’s catalogue of music spans a hugely important time in music, his first band Mudcrutch formed in the mid-70s and he went on to form The Heartbreakers who made music through the 80s and 90s, commenting on the world evolving and changing around them. Arguably their most famous record, 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes, Petty’s punk attitude informing the album’s name; the torpedoes referring to the record label sharks chasing Petty for music, money, publishing rights and intellectual property.

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Performing live solo, with the Heartbreakers, as a Travelling Willbury and other collaborations, Tom Petty was a guitar collector of sorts, sporting some choice pieces along the way, beginning with the Rickenbacker 625/12-string on the cover of Damn the Torpedoes.

Rickenbacker 660/12-string

The Rickenbacker 625 pictured with Tom on the cover of Damn the Torpedoes actually belongs to the Heartbreaker’s Mike Campbell. Mike found the guitar in Recycler, a newspaper trading post, answering an ad expecting the bigger-bodied 360/12-string, eventually realising that the 625/12 he bought had been built in a batch after George Harrison’s 12-string Rick’, of which Tom and Mike were huge fans.

The 12-string Rickenbackers aren’t made for leads, they’re made for chimney, resonant chords and texture. The small playing example from Mike in the video here sounds just like the record.


Tom played other Rickenbackers, including the 360 that he and Mike Campbell had lusted after. A Tom Petty 660/12-string was also released in the mid-to-late 90s, the Damn the Torpedoes cover having become almost as famous as Petty himself at that point.

Gretsch Country Gentleman

Petty played this one during his time as a Travelling Wilbury, the supergroup he played in with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison! Promo shots of the band show Petty’s Country Gentleman, an interesting build.

The Country Gentleman is hollow, but does away with the F-Holes to reduce feedback issues, while also featuring a switchable mute that engages at the bridge. Later models had independant bass and treble mutes, but Tom’s had a single mute he could engage.

Travelling Wilburys

Danelectro Longhorn Bass

Another special one from his time in the Travelling Wilburys is a longhorn bass, seen in a few promos and in the music video for “End Of The Line”. The Longhorn was born in 50s and has served as a constant in the evolving line of Danelectro.

The Longhorn features two lipstick style pickups and cutaways that offer access to rival even the most modern super-Strats.

Vox Amplifiers

A massive proponent of Vox Amps, Petty could often be seen with a wall of the vintage-styled amps, complete with rails to secure the head components to the speaker cabinets.

Vox is known for a particularly ‘chimey’ tone, their mids resembling a bell or synth, and were used extensively in British bands, the brand itself being British. The Beatles used them a lot, and as a huge fan, as well as a great match for the chimeyness of his Rickenbackers, Petty was a fan.

You can see Petty below using older Vox cabs where the logo is centred in a vertical style rather than the horizontal offset we’re used to today.


Petty used a variety of Gibsons, including a short stint with a Flying V that also featured on the cover of the Heartbreaker’s second, self-titled record.

In live performances with Stevie Nicks during “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, he played an SG Custom with three humbuckers, though this is possibly a 1963 Les Paul!

Learn more about the Gibson SG before it was the SG here.