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Running Down a Dream: Tracking Tom Petty's Florida Roots in Gainesville

When I told my brother I'd help him move out of his house in Gainesville, I planned to pay tribute to Tom Petty's place of origin by visiting sites that were important to him as a young man.

Jacksonville gave us Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tallahassee spawned Creed, Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne and went to Florida State University for a minute but was really a California guy. Tom Petty, though, was born, raised, and learned to play music in Gainesville. As far as the Sunshine State's contribution to rock music, Petty is ours.

I figured finding Petty's former hot spots would be easy. After all, Tennessee famously turned Elvis Presley's Graceland into a shrine. Every California guidebook has the address in San Francisco where the Grateful Dead lived. Hell, even Indiana has an "audio driving tour CD" where you can visit places important to John Mellencamp. But a quick internet search on significant Tom Petty sites showed nothing.

I asked a messageboard dedicated to Gainesville rock history and heard crickets. Some deeper sleuthing revealed old Gainesville phone directories where Earl Petty, Tom's dad, was listed. In 1950, the year of Tom's birth, there was an address at 1114 NE Ninth St. The phone book for 1958 listed him as living at 1715 NE Sixth Terrace. That was a start.

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland