The late Tom Petty would have celebrated his 68th birthday, tomorrow, October 20, and to pay tribute to the legendary rocker, who passed away a year ago on October 2, his long-time friend and former record label radio promo man, Jon Scott, has published his new book, Tom Petty and Me: My Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventures with Tom Petty
With a foreword by John Mellencamp, Scott’s book traces his history with Tom Petty, first during Jon’s years as a well-respected radio DJ in Memphis, and later when Scott, as a radio promo man, was one of the main forces in helping to get Petty’s music heard on radio stations around the country.
Petty, himself, acknowledged this as such from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017, at what would become his last concert ever: “There’s one particular friend I want to dedicate this next song to. This is for Jon Scott. And six weeks before we were going to be dropped from ABC Records, he went to the radio stations…and got that sucker played and, on the charts, and we’re forever grateful to him.”
Tom Petty is one of the greatest front men in the history of American rock ‘n’ roll, yet Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers might never have achieved the fame they did without the passion and commitment of a few people in the music industry that worked behind the scenes.
In Tom Petty and Me, author and promo man Jon Scott shares the series of coincidences and serendipity that brought him and Tom Petty together, altering both of their careers. This is the story of incredible talent realizing a seemingly once-impossible dream by overcoming obstacles through the passion and commitment of one man who created a movement on Tom's behalf. In the process, the course of rock ‘n’ roll history was forever changed.
“It doesn’t matter how good your record is, you gotta have somebody behind it, a believer who is ready to work before the glory of it all kicks in. When it mattered most Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had Jon Scott. For that, we all should be grateful.” - Warren Zane, author of Petty The Biography
“We would not be listening to Tom Petty on the radio if not for you (Jon Scott), back in 1977.” - Mark Felsot, producer of Tom Petty Radio, Sirius XM
Jon Scott was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and like many young Memphis kids growing up in the ’50s, he was exposed to all types of music, including gospel, blues, and rock ’n’ roll. Jon had music running through his veins.
When Jon was young, his mom would request songs and smile when the local country DJ would dedicate a song to her on the radio. That was when Jon knew what he wanted to do—make his mother smile, because she meant the world to him. Jon told his mother that he would someday be a DJ. He began practicing to fulfill that dream with a tape recorder his father bought at Sears & Roebuck. At the age of sixteen, Jon heard the Rolling Stones on the radio. He immediately went out and bought a Rolling Stones album and heard “Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man.” Jon thought that sounded like a pretty good job too.
His father’s dream, however, was for Jon to go to Memphis State University and get a business degree. Jon went for two years and dropped out to pursue the radio career that he longed for at a famous Memphis DJ school, Keegan’s School of Broadcasting. His father was not pleased and told Jon that he’d have to pay for the radio school tuition himself, so Jon found a job at a local movie theater, where he had the good fortune of meeting Elvis one night.
Jon’s dream finally came true when he graduated from Keegan’s and was hired by a small-town radio station in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. A year later, a premonition told Jon to go back home to Memphis. He knew that there would be a job waiting for him.
Within two weeks, Jon was hired by WMC-FM100, a station that had been playing soft music, and whose general manager was ready to turn it into a rock 'n' roll station. On February 7, 1967, FM100 started playing rock ‘n’ roll that had never been heard before on Memphis Top 40 stations. It would become a part of the progressive radio movement, and Jon developed a huge nighttime audience, as he was free to play whatever music he wanted. FM100 played a part in breaking a large number of bands, such as ZZ Top, David Bowie, Pure Prairie League, the Doobie Brothers, Henry Gross, Billy Joel and Elton John. Jon worked at FM100 from 1967 to 1973.
Another dream came true for Jon in 1973 when he went to work for MCA Records, first as a local promo man in the mid-South and then as a regional promo man in Atlanta. Soon after, he was offered his dream job at MCA as head of national album promotion, and he moved to Los Angeles in 1974. At MCA, he worked and traveled with bands and artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John, the Who, Olivia Newton-John, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and Golden Earring.
Jon was offered a job at ABC Records, again as national head of album promotion, in 1977. This was when many serendipitous, cosmic coincidences would take place, especially with a relatively unknown band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Fate stepped in, and Jon has been credited with breaking the career of Tom Petty. He worked with Tom and the band for more than forty years.
The story put forth in this book is true, and it details the trials and tribulations of being a promo man and the exhilarating feeling of being a part of rock ’n’ roll history.
Tom Petty and Me can be ordered at www.tompettyandme.com