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Tom Petty tribute Friday night at Live on the Levee

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This week, Live on the Levee celebrates the music of Tom Petty with a tribute show featuring a variety of West Virginia musicians and fans.

John Inghram has been on a roll.

Following up a busy couple of weeks that included performing with the Bob Thompson Unit on “Mountain Stage” and Fletcher’s Grove during Yakfest, the bass musician and concert organizer’s latest big tribute show opens Friday night for Live on the Levee.

“Everybody had such a good time last year, the committee gave me the green light to do something else,” he said. “I feel really honored to get to do this again.”

For this show, Inghram has gathered some of West Virginia’s best area musicians to pay tribute to rock star Tom Petty.

Petty, best known for a slew of hits over four decades, died unexpectedly in October 2017 of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers, just after he’d wrapped up what was supposed to be his final tour before retiring from road.

Inghram explained, “This tribute will be in the same vein as the Bill Withers Tribute we did last year. We’ve got The Sea The Sea, Hello June, William Matheny — just tons of awesome people.”

The music will be individual interpretations and arrangements of Petty’s songs, which could branch off into wildly different directions.

Inghram said booking musicians wasn’t difficult.

It helped that he was able to book months and months out from the show, but nearly everyone he approached was a fan of Petty — the songwriter and rock star’s career spans over 40 years. He influenced pop, rock, country and Americana music.

Petty released 13 studio records with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, three solo records, and three records with supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.

He had hits in the 1970s with “Breakdown” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.” In the 1980s, Petty had more hits with the Heartbreakers including “Refugee,” “You Got Lucky” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” plus solo hits without his band and songs with The Traveling Wilburys.

In the 1990s, he hit again with “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “Walls.”

“We had a lot of material to work with,” Inghram said. “I could have done another one of these with a whole other set of musicians.”

If anything, he said the hardest part was narrowing down the playlist and making sure there was a good mix of the radio and MTV hits, along with fan favorites and deep cuts.

Inghram said he spent months listening to Petty’s records, becoming familiar with his entire catalog.

“I listened to the point where I had to put it down for a while,” he said. “You can squeeze a beautiful thing to death.”

But he needed to know the music well because he wanted to give the performers on the show as much latitude as he reasonably could.

“For the most part, I let people pick their own material,” he said. “I helped some of them navigate through the playlist a little.”

Inevitably, there would be cases where performers wanted to play the same song. Inghram had to make some decisions about who could play a song and offer some alternatives if musicians went too far afield.

“I didn’t want to just come out and do a tribute where we just did the top 15 songs or whatever,” Inghram said. “I wanted some curveballs, but I kind of had to tell people that maybe we should do some of the more radio friendly stuff.”

With so much material, people have probably forgotten some of the hits, anyway, he said.

Tribute shows are something Inghram is still experimenting with. He said he has a list of potential tribute projects and ideas of how to pursue them, but he isn’t looking to put together another tribute show soon.

“It’s a cool thing for me, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome,” Inghram said. “I want to keep these shows fresh, keep them special.”

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @lostHwys on Twitter. He’s also on Instagram at instagram.com/billiscap/ and read his blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth.

Funerals for Sunday, July 21, 2019

Bly, Betty - 4 p.m., We're Family Park, Exchange.

McBrayer, Doris - 1 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Teays Valley.

Morrison, Jo - 2 p.m., Elizabeth Memorial United Methodist Church, Charleston.

Morrison, Sheldon - 2 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Nichols, Anna - 2 p.m., New Hope Baptist Church, Morris.