Gainesville's Muddy past


The reunited Mudcrutch is Benmont Tench, Randall Marsh, Mike Campbell, Tom Petty and Tom Leadon.

Courtesy of Martyn Atkins
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 6:42 p.m.

This week's release of the first album from Mudcrutch - Tom Petty's Gainesville band in the early 1970s - has rekindled memories of the hometown group that accompanied the singer to California in 1974. Though the band eventually broke up there (and Petty later resurfaced with Mudcrutch's Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench to form the Heartbreakers), Mudcrutch had become by many accounts Gainesville's biggest group before moving out west.

From 1970 to 1972, Mudcrutch's four-piece lineup - Petty on bass and vocals, Campbell and Tom Leadon on guitars, and Randall Marsh on drums (keyboardist Tench replaced Leadon in the band in '72) - became a fixture of several Gainesville locations, including famously at Dub's Steer Room on NW 13th Street. ("Queen of the Go Go Girls" on Mudcrutch's self-titled new album recounts their experiences at Dub's).

The group also performed at three homegrown music festivals at the "Mudcrutch Farm," an outpost at the end of NW 45th Avenue off 13th Street just south of Dub's that became the band's gathering place and rehearsal home.

Red Slater, who lived at the farm with Campbell and Marsh, documented Mudcrutch's time in Gainesville by taking many photographs, several of which are shown here (other pictures can be seen at www.redslater.com).

Today living in Dade City, Slater remembers large crowds arriving at the farm for the festivals. He also remembers the band returning home late from a gig at Dub's only to crank up the amps to play some more. Sometimes, they'd even blow a fuse with such late-night jams and would ask Slater to reset the breaker panel.

"I'd reset it once or twice but then after that, it was like 'No, I gotta go to sleep, I gotta work in the morning,' so I would just not answer the door," he remembers.

Isolated and remote at the time, the farm was a perfect headquarters for the band. "That was where everyone gathered, Tom (Petty) didn't live there and neither did (Tom) Leadon. But that's where they gathered, because Randall could have his drum set up and Mike lived there, so that's where they practiced most of the time."

The place was by no means luxurious, however: Slater, Campbell and Marsh ponied up $25 each to pay the farm's monthly rent of $75.

"It was just an old Cracker house, and they had an old refrigerator and the ice box was completely frozen over," Slater remembers. "Also, the hot water heater did not work and when we had to have hot water, we would cook up some hot water on the stove, like for a bath or something.

"It was pretty crude. But that's what you got for $75 a month.

Bill Dean can be reached at (352-374-5039 or bill.dean@gvillesun.com.

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