Tom Leadon, a guitarist and pivotal member of Mudcrutch – the band Tom Petty fronted before he found fame with the Heartbreakers, and again during a fruitful reunion decades later – has died at the age of 70.
Leadon's death was confirmed by his brother, Mark Leadon, and subsequently announced on the Facebook page of Tom Petty's official fan club. The guitarist is said to have died of natural causes.
"Tom Leadon was my deepest guitar soul brother, we spent countless hours playing acoustic guitars and teaching each other things," Leadon's Mudcrutch bandmate, guitarist Mike Campbell, wrote on Instagram.
"A kinder soul never walked the earth. I will always miss his spirit and generosity. Sleep peacefully my old friend."
Born in Minnesota in 1952, Leadon and his musically-inclined family (which included future Eagles multi-instrumentalist Bernie Leadon) moved to Gainesville, Florida in the mid-'60s, where Leadon soon fell in with another aspiring young musician by the name of Tom Petty.
Members of rival bands in their early teens, the two soon formed their own group, with Randall Marsh on drums and Mike Campbell on lead guitar.
"Hot-headed," by his own admission, Leadon left Mudcrutch in 1972 following a falling-out with Petty, and moved in with his brother Bernie – by then experiencing huge success with the Eagles – in Southern California.
Inspired by his new surroundings, Leadon wrote a song called The Acacias Are Blooming that – when handed off to his brother, Don Henley and Glenn Frey – was soon transformed into Hollywood Waltz, a song that appeared on the Eagles' massively successful 1975 LP, One of These Nights.
Leadon also played in Linda Ronstadt’s backing band in the early '70s, and, later on in the decade, joined the band Silver.
Though short-lived, Silver scored a top 20 hit in 1976 with the song, Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang.
Following Silver's break-up, Leadon largely retreated from the spotlight until 2007, when he received a call from Petty.
With decades of remarkable critical and commercial success under his belt, Petty wanted to turn back the clock, and play with his old Mudcrutch bandmates again.
Following Leadon's departure in 1972, Mudcrutch had recruited – among other members – keyboardist Benmont Tench, and made their own journey to Los Angeles in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break through in the music industry.
After the band's dissolution in the mid-'70s, Petty, Tench and Campbell regrouped in a new band called the Heartbreakers, and the rest, as they say, was history.
The resurrected Mudcrutch – with Leadon and Campbell on guitar, and Petty on bass – would go on to record two albums, 2008's Mudcrutch and 2016's Mudcrutch 2, and stage multiple successful tours, before disbanding following Petty's untimely death in 2017.
"We are devastated to hear of the passing of Tom Leadon," Petty's daughter, Adria, wrote on the late rocker's Instagram page. "He was a dear friend of Tom and the fellas in the band and our entire family. He was part of the brotherhood.
"He was an excellent and accomplished musician and was the reason Tom reformed Mudcrutch, so that the band could enjoy more time and more music together. Tom loved him deeply."