Tom Petty remembers the mystery, joy of the Traveling Wilburys: ‘We made that record for us’

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The mystery and the joy of the Traveling Wilburys — an all-star amalgam that grew out of this session for a George Harrison b-side — continues to amaze Tom Petty. He was joined in this off-handed supergroup by Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan.

“That extra track turned into the Traveling Wilburys,” Petty tells HazyRock, in a newly posted talk. “It was a wonderful time. I think the one thing I remember is, there was never a negative moment doing that. We really enjoyed that. I think we made that record for us, really. [Laughs.] We just enjoyed it.”

Harrison, Lynne and Orbison were working on tandem studio projects. Petty reportedly became involved after Harrison came to his house to retrieve a guitar. Dylan soon followed, and they repaired to Dave Stewart’s house to record.

Something magical happened. All of a sudden, they had “Handle With Care” — a No. 2 hit on Billboard’s mainstream rock charts. That led to the Traveling Wilburys’ triple-platinum, Grammy-winning debut effort, recorded in about two weeks.

“It’s a very hard thing to explain, and tell people about,” Petty adds. “Those 10 tracks were all we did. There’s not anything left over. And we did it pretty fast, really. We’d all sit on the floor in a circle, and write the songs. Then we’d go and cut the track. We’d have dinner, and work on the lyrics over dinner, and then go do the vocals — bang. … I love all of those guys.”

Orbison died in 1988, before the Traveling Wilburys’ sophomore effort could be recorded. Harrison died in 2001. Their work was later collected into a 2007 box set titled The Traveling Wilburys Collection.

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