Ron Blair

Ron Blair

Ron Blair (born Ronald Edward Blair, September 16 1948, in San Diego) was the original bassist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He was the band's bass guitarist from 1976 to 1981. In 2002, he returned to the group after a 21-year hiatus, replacing his own replacement, the late Howie Epstein.

His father was a Navy man, so the family relocated every few years throughout the U.S. as well as within Japan and Hong Kong. As a teenager in Japan, Ron was in a locally famous rock band. But it was the music scenes in Macon, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida, where Blair felt most at home. In Gainesville, Blair was a member of the band RGF.

Blair eventually moved to Los Angeles, and there teamed up with fellow Gainesville musicians Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Stan Lynch. Campbell and Tench, along with Tom Petty, had been members of the popular Gainesville band Mudcrutch. Mudcrutch had relocated from Gainesville to Los Angeles, but subsequently broke up.

After the breakup, Tench recruited Campbell, Blair, and Lynch to record demos in the hopes of getting a new record deal. After observing one of their sessions, Petty asked if they would like to assume his current recording contract with Shelter Records and start a band. (Denny Cordell, President of Shelter, seeing Petty's potential, had kept him under contract while releasing the other members of Mudcrutch). Blair went on to play on the band’s first four albums, "Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers", "You're Gonna Get It!", "Damn the Torpedoes", and "Hard Promises" and one track on "Long After Dark" before his departure in 1982.

He then rejoined them on March 18, 2002, to perform at the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The reunion led to Blair’s return to the group for their 2002 summer tour. He helped finish up "The Last DJ" album, and has been present for all subsequent tours.

Aside from the Heartbreakers, Blair has designed albums for Barbara Morrison and Carlos Zialcita. He has also played on albums by Kirstin Candy, Stevie Nicks, Del Shannon, Slobberbone, and The Tremblers. Blair was also part of the original lineup of The Dirty Knobs, Mike Campbell's side-project band.

Tom Petty had the following to say about Blair: "It’s great having him [back] in the band. It reminds me of the old days just seeing him around. ... We hung out. We knew each other. And he was always the best bass player in town." ("Orange County Register", August 26, 2002)

Blair has been seen with many basses (including a Rickenbacker 4001 and a Hofner Club bass, both owned by Petty), but in his early years with the Heartbreakers, he used a black Fender Jazz Bass and has used a white one ever since his return to the band.

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