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(Credit: Raph_PH)


Watch Mike Campbell play one of Tom Petty's most famous guitars


Tom Petty liked to keep his circle tight. When Petty liked a person, whether it be a musician, producer, or a friend, he tended to keep them around. The Heartbreakers only saw two members depart in their 40-plus year career, with original bassist Ron Blair returning to the band after Howie Epstein’s death in 2002. No one was more essential to every Tom Petty record, however, both inside and outside the Heartbreakers, than guitarist Mike Campbell.

As part of the local group of Gainsville, Florida, musicians who eventually formed The Heartbreakers, Campbell has the same folksy southern drawl and laid back attitude that Petty had. He also had fantastic guitar chops and an ear for melodic songwriting, making him the ideal caporegime figure to Don Petty. The two would work together from their teenage years all the way to Petty’s death in 2017.

During his appearance on the GibsonTV programme ‘The Collection’, Campbell opened the doors to his Los Angeles studio and showed off a number of priceless instruments, including the 1954 Fender Broadcaster that he played on ‘American Girl’ and the 1962 SG Junior that he played the ‘Running Down a Dream’ solo on. But one guitar stood out among the rest, probably because it adorned the cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ most famous album.

That would be a 1963 Rickenbacker 625 twelve-string guitar. Campbell got it while the Heartbreakers were recording their second album You’re Gonna Get It!, specifically because both Petty and Campbell loved the sound of The Byrds and mid-60s Beatles records. Although disappointed that he didn’t get a Rickenbacker 360-12 as he imagined, Campbell threw down $120 and became the new owner of a Rickenbacker 12 string.

During the early days of the Heartbreakers, Campbell explained that he and Petty would often use each other’s guitars as a way to save money. A Fender Stratocaster was famously shared between the two, but so was the twelve-string Rickenbacker. The guitar saw plenty of use on Damn the Torpedoes, and when it came time to shoot the album’s cover, Petty posed with the 12 string, instantly giving the guitar iconic status. Campbell also played the axe during the video for ‘The Waiting’.

Since he was wearing it during the shoot, most fans assumed that the Rickenbacker was Petty’s guitar. In actuality, the guitar had always belonged to Campbell, and in fact, was the very next guitar off the factory line after George Harrison’s famous 1963 Rickenbacker 360-12. Campbell still uses the guitar in recordings today, even if it will forever be associated with Damn the Torpedoes and the band’s breakout success at the end of the 1970s.

See Campbell discuss the Rickenbacker down below.