Leon Russell scolded Tom Petty for wearing sunglasses in the studio because it’s ‘an honor you deserve’
In the early 1970s, Leon Russell trusted Tom Petty to make the best music in the recording studio. Petty was new to the scene and took his duties seriously. However, when Petty decided he wanted to look as cool as the studio guys, Russell put him in his place. Russell told him he had to earn the right to look like a rock star.
Leon Russell signed Tom Petty to his Shelter Records in 1974
In 1974 Petty moved to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, Denny Cordell signed Petty to Russell’s record label, Shelter Records. Soon Russell became very impressed with Petty’s songwriting and gave him a special job in the recording studio.
In his acceptance speech to the MusiCares Personality of the Year Gala, Petty explained: “Leon took me to his house and he said, ‘I want you to just hang out. He liked the songs I had done. “If it’s something where we need a few words, I need you there and I’ll pay you for it.” And he was going to pay me, I was going to be there, right? »
RELATED: Tom Petty Said George Harrison Helped Record ‘Free Fallin’ After His Record Company Turned Him Down
Russell scolded Petty for wearing sunglasses in the studio
During Petty’s first session, he met George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles. Drummer Jim Keltner also came. Petty thought Keltner’s sunglasses were cool. However, when Petty started wearing the accessory, Russell called him out.
In her speech, Petty continued, “These cats were so cool, you know? And I found myself – after the session where we were hanging out – I found myself putting on my sunglasses. Leon said, “What the hell are you doing with the dark glasses, man?” I said, ‘I don’t know? It’s cool, you know, like Jimmy Keltner; he has his.
“He says, ‘Wearing sunglasses at night is an honor you deserve. Lou Adler had Johnny Rivers and the Mamas and Papas before putting glasses on them. Jack Nicholson made some really shitty Boris Karloff movies before putting glasses on them.
“Well, I’m putting on my glasses [removes eyeglasses, puts on shades]but I thank Leon for this advice.
RELATED: John Lennon Said George Harrison Looked Like an ‘Asthmatic Leon Russell’ on ‘All Things Must Pass’ Cover
The Heartbreakers frontman met two Beatles
Petty might have had to earn his right to wear sunglasses, but at least he was working with some of the top artists, including George and Ringo. So working for Russell wasn’t too bad for Petty.
In a Rolling Stone special titled “Remembering George,” Petty explained, “It’s a scary thing to meet the Beatles, but George was so nice to me and included me in everything.”
Petty and George crossed paths again in the mid-1980s when George came to one of The Heartbreakers shows in England. After that, they became best friends.
“I reminded him that we had met, and there was kind of a weird click,” Petty continued. “It felt like we had known each other forever, and in a very personal way. We ended up hooking up a lot.
So, in a way, working for Russell gave Petty his first memorable moment with George.
RELATED: Tom Petty Said George Harrison’s Greatest Gift To Him Was Spirituality, And He Wasn’t A Preacher About It