Tom Leadon, the guitarist who co-founded Mudcrutch with Tom Petty and Mike Campbell and was the brother of Eagles co-founder Bernie Leadon, has died. He was 70. He died March 22, but no other details were available.
Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch guitarist Campbell confirmed the news on social media. “Tom Leadon was my deepest guitar soul brother,” he wrote on Instagram (see the post below). “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.”
Born on September 16, 1952, in Rosemount, MN, Leadon was the fourth of 10 children. His family moved to San Diego when he was 4 and relocated to Florida in 1964. He and Petty first played together as teens in Gainesville before forming Mudcrutch with Campbell, singer Jim Lenahan and drummer Randall Marsh in 1971. As they built a name around the local college circuit, Leadon left the band and moved to California, eventually landing a gig playing bass in Linda Ronstadt’s band.
Petty, Campbell, Marsh and recruited bandmate Benmont Tench followed Leadon to the Golden State in 1974, with the intention of visiting him — and seeking a record deal for Mudcrutch. The band released a single, “Depot Street,” which didn’t click but would end up on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1995 box set Playback, along with four other Mudcrutch songs. The band only lasted about a year in California before it split and later regrouped with drummer Stan Lynch and bassist Ron Blair and went on to have quite different career results.
Leadon later co-wrote “Hollywood Waltz” with his brother and fellow Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey. The track ended up on that band’s first No. 1 album, 1975’s One of These Nights, and was covered by country star Buck Owens the same year. While in L.A., Leadon jammed with the likes of Dobie Gray and Spanky McFarlane and landed a five-nights-a-week gig at the Scotch and Sirloin — at the corner of Pico and Sepulveda — with The Mark Bookin Band. He also taught guitar.
Leadon hooked up with ’60s hitmaker Johnny Rivers and toured the country with his band before joining the country-rock act Silver in 1976. The group hit the U.S. Top 20 with “Wham Bam (Shang-a-Lang)” and opened a U.S. tour for the Doobie Brothers before splitting up the following year. Silver also included future Grateful Dead keys player Brett Mydland.
Leadon then moved to Nashville and became a guitar teacher. He would get a phone call from Petty in 2007, not long after Mudcrutch featured prominently in Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream. Seemed the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wanted to play with his old Gainesville pals again in that band with “the terrible name,” as Petty would say.
Leadon and Marsh reteamed with Petty, Campbell and Tench, and Mudcrutch released an eponymous album in 2008. The disc included “Queen of the Go-Go Girls,” which was written and sung by Leadon, and he, Petty and Tench did some three-part harmonies on such tracks as the single “Scare Easy.” The album made the U.S. Top 10, and the band did a one-off tour of small clubs in California that wrapped with five nights at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. The group released Extended Play Live, a four-song EP recorded at the Troubadour and the Ventura Theatre and featuring an epic 15-minute version of “Crystal River.”
Fast-forward to 2016, and the band resurfaced with Mudcrutch 2, which peaked at No, 10 and included Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain.” He sang lead on that tracks and did background vocals on four others. The group did a national tour that spring and summer, including two nights at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, before signing off for good. Petty died the following year.