Audition for Tom Petty cover band upstaged by conversation with Old Grey Wolf

I’ve played in my fair share of bands over the years, and at one point I aspired to be the piano man for a popular Dallas-area Tom Petty cover band called Petty Theft.

The year was 2003 or 2004, and I heard about the gig via a radio station I had listened to constantly since 1996, The Ticket in Dallas, 1310 AM. They talk sports, sure, but they’re best known in the industry as the pioneers and perfectionists of “guy radio.” Long story short, the afternoon host of “The Hardline,” Mike Rhyner, announced he needed a keyboard player for his TP cover band.

I was in.

So, I immediately bought a Tom Petty song book and learned the intricacies of every song from “Breakdown” to “Last Dance With Mary Jane.” I learned the progressions in “Don’t Do Me Like That” and the little riff in “American Girl.” I channeled my inner Benmont Tench the best I could.

Mind you, I’ve listened to Tom Petty forever, but I took the time to learn these songs inside and out. And the Old Grey Wolf picked a 17-year-old instead of me.

It was not meant to be.

While my audition was solid, meaning there were no obvious musical gaffes, I’m betting the band didn’t necessarily connect with me personally, and personality plays a lot into those sorts of endeavors.

However, I got a pretty cool story out of the deal because I got to talk to Rhyner one evening on the phone for what seemed like about two hours. You would have thought we talked about the potential gig, what was expected of the new guy and all that, but we didn’t talk much about Tom Petty at all. In fact, we had the most Rhyner conversation ever.

We talked Rangers and Steely Dan. For two hours.

I’m a huge fan of the great game, and while I have always loved Tom Petty, I revered Donald Fagen and the late, great Walter Becker. And as a massive fan of The Ticket during my time in Dallas, the conversation that night some 14 years ago always had me a little fanboi’d out.

However, because of that effort to learn Petty’s songs, I became a pretty big fan of the Petty himself. Not sure if he’s alive or dead or what at this point, but I’d love it if he were to pull through. By all accounts, he’s most definitely one of the good guys.

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