After more than three decades of hit making, Tom Petty is one of rock and roll's ultimate survivors. But in today’s world of instant stardom, Petty wonders whether singers that win shows like “American Idol” might actually be missing out on the most valuable industry training of all – the slog.
“The only bad about [winning record contracts] is all the training you get while you work your way up. We came up in increments – you got a gig, then you got a bigger gig, then you got a record contract bit-by-bit,” Petty told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “We’re into instant gratification. They want to be stars right away. So what we’ll have to see is how many of them are around in 30 years, and how they’ll handle that.”
The 60-year-old musician and his wife, Dana Petty, were being honored at The Midnight Mission’s Golden Heart Awards in Beverly Hills for their dedication in helping the many homeless people in Los Angeles over the years.
“I’m a very blessed person so I feel it’s important to give something back and I like this particular charity because it’s for everyone and it offers a hand to anyone under any condition on the street,” he said. “It’s called ‘On the Cracks.’ It’s really simple stuff and I’m just trying to raise awareness, do what I can, and maybe I can inspire somebody else to do what they can.”
Speaking of inspiration, Petty had the fortunate of meeting his inspiration, Elvis Presley, when he was just a little boy. “That was just a really impressive thing, I think was only 10 and Elvis was pretty larger than life,” Petty continued. “It was 1961 so he was bigger than life and inspired me. I bought a few records and after that I caught the bug, the rock n’ roll bug.”
And 50 years later, he's still got it.
“I’m always playing a gig and that’s never stopped yet. Pretty much the same M.O.,” Petty said. “I just want to live and be happy and continue to do what I’m doing. I’ve been greatly rewarded so I am humbled.”
Petty, who is in between albums right now – certainly paid his dues in the beginning, working random “mainstream” jobs while trying to make ends meet in the more “unconventional” music arena. His worst job?
“I was a gravedigger,” he admitted. “Just briefly.”