Mudcrutch co-founder Tom Leadon dead at 70

Tom Leadon onstage with the reformed Mudcrutch
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder)

Tom Leadon, co-founder of Tom Petty's first band Mudcrutch, has died at the age of 70. The news was confirmed in a Facebook post by his brother Mark Leadon.

The statement read: "It is with great sadness, but profound love and gratitude for his life, that the family of Tom Leadon (Thomas Joseph Leadon) of Nashville, Tennessee and Gainesville, Florida, announce his passing on March 22, 2023 peacefully of natural causes. He was 70."

Leadon formed The Epics in 1970 with a young Tom Petty, who grew up several blocks away from the Leadon family. That band evolved into Mudcrutch, who released one single, Up in Mississippi Tonight, in 1971, before Leadon left. The following year the band signed with Leon Russell’s Shelter Records, when they changed their name to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

After leaving Mudcrutch, Leadon worked with the likes of Eagles, the Beach Boys, Martha Reeves, Linda Ronstadt, James Jamerson, and Big Mama Thornton. He co-wrote Eagles' 1975 song Hollywood Waltz with elder brother and full-time Eagle Bernie, and was a member of country rock band Silver, who had a hit with Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang in 1976, a song later used on the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack. More recently, Leadon also formed his own pop-blues band, The Bayjacks.

When Tom Petty reformed Mudrutch in 2007, Leadon was back in the lineup, playing on the band's long-awaited debut album Mudcrutch, and on 2016's follow-up Mudcrutch 2. Leadon also joined the promotional tour that followed each album, but further activities were halted by the death of Petty in 2017. 

“Tommy was the closest friend I’ve ever had in my life and he was truly a wonderful, unique person who was a natural entertainer and so much fun to be with," Leadon said in 2018, while attending a ceremony to rename Gainesville's Northeast Par to Tom Petty Park.

Former Heartbreaker and fellow Mudcrutch founder Mike Campbell took to social media to pay tribute, saying, "Tom Leadon was my deepest guitar soul brother, we spent countless hours playing acoustic guitars and teaching each other things. A kinder soul never walked the earth. I will always miss his spirit and generosity. Sleep peacefully my old friend."

"Tom had a friendly and outgoing personality and sharp wit," the statement confirming Leadon's death concluded. "He was a great and very funny story teller. Tom loved his family and close friends, and all of the Mudcrutch, Tom Petty, and Bayjacks fans. He enjoyed meeting and talking with all of you. Thank you for helping make his last years great ones. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 37 years in music industry, online for 24. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.