For 14-year-old Griffin Black the song “Refugee,” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was his favorite song. In fact, the Heartbreakers are his favorite band.
As you might expect, Black loves to watch old Tom Petty videos on YouTube. And, one night Griffin was watching footage of a 1985 concert when he saw “Mike Campbell, the lead guitar player from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing this really cool-looking guitar,” he says.
That guitar was a highly modified Fender Telecaster that Campbell called “The Red Dog.” And, it’s the guitar Campbell had used for the recording of the hit song “Refugee.” Campbell’s Red Dog is a one-of-a-kind custom build.
Griffin knew, “I wasn’t going to be able to find it at a Guitar Center somewhere,” Black says, “so I figured I’d have to build it myself.” And, that’s just what he did. He re-created The Red Dog partscaster using parts from Ebay and rare instrument dealers. But he wanted more.
“I just thought it would be pretty cool if Mike Campbell could see the guitar sometime,” Black says. “It’s his signature guitar — no one else in the world has this guitar except now me and him.”
Using the Internet, Griffin figured out the East End Management managed the Heartbreakers, and he gave them a call. It took a while to get to the right person, but finally the woman he spoke to said she’d call back if she could make it happen.
A few days later, his phone rang with the news that Mike Campbell had actually visited Black’s website and wanted to meet him backstage at an upcoming Philadelphia show.
“I was very impressed that a young 14-year-old kid would just build a guitar rather than buy one,” says Campbell.
It wasn’t long until Black was backstage with his hero. He and Campbell chatted a bit and then Mike asked to see the guitar. Campbell remarked that it looked and felt similar to the original Red Dog. Mike played a few riffs and then asked to play it — ONSTAGE.
“At first I was a little confused because he was already playing it,” Black says. “But then he said, ‘No, I want to play it onstage for ‘You Don’t Know How it Feels,’ and I just said ‘absolutely.‘ ”
So, at the July concert in Philly, Campbell picked up Griffin’s guitar played it for the second song of the night. While playing Campbell scanned the 3rd row of the audience looking for Griffin’s face, “As I was playing it, I looked and I saw him,” Campbell says of Black, “His face was lit up like a Christmas tree.”
After the show, Griffin found that both Campbell and Tom Petty had signed the guitar for him. He put a piece of plastic over the signatures so they won’t wear away while he plays Heartbreaker songs in the future.
Griffin sounds like a future TDPer for sure, we’ve reached out to him and hope to let him know about out little corner of this world. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.
Refugee, with Mike playing the original Red Dog Tele:
Story complied from numerous sources. Photos credited to Brad Horn/NPR and Courtesy East End Management