As he puts on scarves, sunglasses, and warms up his vocals, Phil Dunget prepares to become rock legend Tom Petty.
Prior to the start of a Totally Tom Petty show, the tribute act put on by Dunget, he listens to the pre-recorded history of Petty’s career and accomplishments backstage and starts to really get into the zone.
“That really puts me into it, it’s like ‘OK, here we go.’ I walk on, got the guitar on and open up with a big shebang,” Dunget said as he rushed around the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the tribute act has been playing recently, looking for a quiet spot to conduct the phone interview.
He has been performing as Totally Tom Petty for five years, stemming from an ABBA/Fleetwood Mac tribute band for which he used to be a sound engineer.
While doing sound work, a member ended up leaving the act, and Dunget literally filled his shoes.
“It was funny, tried on the suit and it fit me like a glove and he said ‘OK, I guess you got the gig man.’ It was just one of those things, I slid into it I really enjoyed it,” Dunget said.
During one show while switching costumes from ABBA to Fleetwood Mac, a fan approached and suggested that Dunget looked like Tom Petty.
“It never even dawned on me, so I thought this could be interesting and started learning some Tom Petty stuff,” Dunget said.
Petty would soon after cameo with the Fleetwood Mac show and fans responded well.
“It was great people just loved it,” Dunget said.
Dunget eventually sprouted off on his own, playing some shows with the full band, his wife playing Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar tunes.
He admits he wasn’t a huge Petty fan, but he grew up on his music.
“I already had the hair from the ABBA thing, long blonde hair, put some cool shades on and a top hat and there you go,” Dunget said.
He’s since delved deep into the life of Petty.
“Anything I can get my hands on ever since I started. Looking at his YouTube stuff, interviews, any kind of live shows. Just absorbing the guy’s whole vibe,” Dunget said. “He’s quite the character and he keeps himself pretty out of the limelight for the most part. He’s not a seeker of that kind of attention. When he’s off stage he’s just a dude with his family.”
He’s even starting to adopt some traits from playing Petty so long.
“I’ve found playing in the states, I’m starting to get a little more of his accent,” Dunget laughed. “Starting to get more of that southern drawl in there, I can‘t help it, and meeting people they say ‘hey man, you really sound like Tom Petty.’”
Part of putting on a tribute act is not only playing the famed music, but putting on a character performance as well.
“You’re sort of acting too. You’re not only playing and singing, but portraying this guy, this major, iconic rock star guy, it’s lots of fun. I get to dress up like him, wear the scarves and the chains and all that stuff, it’s a blast,” Dunget said.
Totally Tom Petty comes to the Penticton Legion Branch 40 on July 23. Tickets are $20. For more information call the Legion at 250-492-2882.