Flashback: Tom Petty's Last Dance With Drummer Stan Lynch - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Tom Petty’s Last Dance With Drummer Stan Lynch

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play ‘Learning To Fly’ at drummer Stan Lynch’s final gig

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had been off the road for nearly a year when the 1994 Bridge School Benefit came around. Petty spent the downtime recording his solo album Wildflowers with producer Rick Rubin and every member of the Heartbreakers besides Stan Lynch, a decision that did not sit well with the drummer.

“He was pissed,” Petty told writer Paul Zollo. “He didn’t like the record. When we got back together for the Bridge School Benefit it was just misery. That’s when it fell apart with Stan.”

The tensions between Lynch and Petty had been building ever since the late 1980s when Petty recorded with the Traveling Wilburys and followed that up with his first solo album. The entire band was displeased by those decisions, but Stan was the most vocal. “Stan did everything he could to get fired,” Petty said. “I’d hear that he was auditioning for another group. Then I heard him at a gig talking to a guy in another band. He described us as not his main gig. And I thought, ‘Okay well, you’re being paid like it’s main gig.’ I had a feeling that the dough was the only reason he hadn’t walked off yet.”

Tensions were thick backstage at the Bridge School Benefit, but the Heartbreakers still delivered an incredibly moving acoustic set featuring “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and, appropriately enough, “Time To Move On.” Here’s a gorgeous rendition of “Learning To Fly.” Nobody knew it at the time, but it was Lynch’s final gig with the band.

Longtime Petty manager Tony Dimitriades fired Lynch on the phone shortly after the show, and the drummer didn’t say a word to Petty until the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “We got together and played at that and talked and were friendly,” Petty said in 2007. “But I haven’t seen him again since then.”


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