On television, Tom Petty was more than ''Lucky''
The rock icon touched on classic sci-fi TV in his videos and quietly voiced one memorable cartoon character.
Once again, the pop world is heartbroken at the loss of another rock titan. On October 2, Tom Petty joined the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael on the list of music icons who recently left us. Many will eulogize the Florida-born singer-songwriter with lists of his greatest tunes. Perhaps you will do the same. There are an uncommon amount of gems, from "American Girl" to his work with the Traveling Wilburys. We could easily spend hours picking favorite tracks from his catalog, but instead we wanted to shine a light on his television work.
Though his guitar anthems were bright and bold and jangly and spangly, Tom Petty was rather soft spoken as a rock star. So much so that some of his fans might not have realized he had a rather significant role in a hit sitcom. For half a decade, Petty provided the voice of Elroy "Lucky" Kleinschmidt on King of the Hill, Mike Judge's animated comedy that lovingly satired life in Texas. Lucky — so named because he earned his modest fortune after slipping and falling in a Costco — was the husband of Luanne, the niece of the Hills. The couple married in the season 11 finale.
Lucky was a musician, too, of course, playing in the band Big Mountain Fudgecake. That didn't sound too far off from Petty's real-life act Mudcrutch. As you can see above, it was hardly an incognito role for Petty, as the toon was somewhat styled after the man himself.
In total, Petty provided his voice in 28 episodes of the series, from 2004–09. He hardly acted otherwise, outside from appearing as himself in a handful of shows like The Larry Sanders Show, It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Simpsons. Clearly, he had a sense of humor, as well as an affinity for Fox cartoons and Garry Shandling.
Of course, the bulk of his acting appeared in a string of cinematic music videos, clips that helped shape the artform in its golden era of the 1980s. One in particular is of note for lovers of 1970s science-fiction.
"You Got Lucky" from 1982 took place in the sort of dusty, rusty post-apocalypse seen in the Mad Max films. A keen eye might have picked up on some references to the small screen, as well. At the start of the video, Petty and his Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell pull up in the egg-like hovercar from the Logan's Run television series. Later, Petty watches a stack of television sets, one of which plays a clip from Galactica 1980, the sequel series to Battlestar Galactica. A Cylon ships swoops down from the sky, blasting lasers. The scene appeared in the series opener, "Galactica Discovers Earth, Part I."
Take a look at the video.
Of course, Petty's music itself provided the cool backbeat to several television shows in the 1980s, as his tracks appeared in episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati, Knight Rider and Miami Vice.