E is for Eagles

The Eagles had five number one singles, 14 Top 40 hits, and four number one albums, and they are considered among the most successful recording artists of the 1970s.  The Eagles have the first, their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 selling five million more than Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the third Hotel California best-selling albums of all time in the U.S.  Although worldwide, Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time.  The Eagles rank as the biggest-selling American band of all time, having six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards.  The original members were drummer Don Henley, guitarist and keyboard player Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon playing guitar, banjo, steel guitar, mandolin and dobro, and Randy Meisner on bass.  Later members included Don Felder, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit.  In 1998, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Eagles were all perfectionists, they were all very talented and could play several different instruments and they wrote their own music and all of them could sing.  This group changed country and rock forever, because of their extraordinary blend of voices, and a wonderful harmony sound that they were able to produce.  They took their distinctive version of country rock music that they bred in Los Angeles to international acclaim, and thanks to a combination of relentlessly catchy songs, an astute business plan and fortuitous timing, they found early fame as the epitome of California’s new country-rock movement.  In the band’s first nine years together, they scored gold records for every album they released and delivered songs that changed the musical landscape.  They released seven studio albums, two live albums, 10 compilation albums, as well as three video albums and 30 singles.

During the ‘60’s, Henley was playing drums and singing in a group called Four Speeds with bassist Richard Bowden and keyboard/trumpet player Jerry Surratt.  In 1967 they changed their name to The Felicity and Richard’ cousin Mike Bowden took over on the bass, while Richard switched to lead guitar.  Jerry Surratt died in a motorcycle accident in March of 1970.  Henley and the Bowden’s soon regrouped, joined by journeyman steel guitar player Al Perkins and future country record producer Jim Ed Norman (who replaced Surratt as their keyboardist).  This five-man country-rock band took the name Shiloh.  In 1969, Kenny Rogers of The First Edition discovered Don Henley when he was playing in Shiloh.  This was in Linden, a small town in Texas and Kenny secured the group a record deal.  Henley moved to Los Angeles from Texas with his band Shiloh to record an album produced by Kenny Rogers.

Glenn Frey was from Michigan and he took up the guitar at the age of 16, after seeing the Beatles perform in 1964.  He was in several amateur and semi-professional Detroit-based bands in his late teens, including the Mushrooms, which became a major-local attraction on the local television show Robin Seymour’s Swinging Time, and he cut a single, that was produced by Bob Seger.  When the Mushrooms split Frey joined the folk-rock group the Four of Us, then he formed two more Detroit teen bands, the Subterraneans and the Heavy Metal Kids.  Frey worked as a recording session musician for Bob Segar and then he moved to California where he joined Longbranch Pennywhistle, a country rock/folk music group that featured John David Souther, a fellow Detroit transplant and they made one obscure self-titled album in 1969.  Longbranch Pennywhistle also featured Ry Cooder, Jim Gordon, Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw and James Burton.

Al Perkins came to California from Texas with Shiloh, but he quit them to join the Flying Burrito Brothers.  Henley and Frey met in 1970 at The Troubadour in Los Angeles when they became acquainted through their mutual record label, Amos Records.  Linda Ronstadt was at the Troubadour when Shiloh, fronted by Don Henley with Mike Bowden, Glen Frey and Richard Bowden were playing a gig and she liked what she heard and her manager John Boylan, was already in the process of putting a band together for her forthcoming Silk Purse tour, so they hired Don and Glen, and they went out on the road with Linda in the summer of 1971.  Other members hired were Ken Bloom (ex- Lewis & Clark with Boomer Castleman) on pedal steel and standard guitar, and bassist Casey Van Beek.

While on the tour, Frey and Henley decided to form a band together and informed Ronstadt of their intention.  Frey said that Ronstadt suggested Leadon for the band, and arranging for Leadon to play for her so Frey and Henley could approach him about forming a band together.  They also pitched the idea to Meisner and brought him on board.

Randy Meisner co-founded a band called the Dynamics which became the Drivin’ Dynamics in 1961, where he played bass and was the lead singer.  In 1966, Meisner left the group to join another Midwestern band called the Soul Survivors, who later moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to the Poor.  By 1968, Meisner joined a band that was initially called Pogo, but later they changed this to Poco, and it was organized by Richie Furay and Jim Messina out of the collapse their earlier band, the Buffalo Springfield.  Randy Meisner left Poco after they completed their debut album and he was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit.  Randy Meisner started working with Ricky Nelson’s backing band, the Stone Canyon Band.

Bernie Leadon was a country-rock pioneer who began playing in a California bluegrass outfit called the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers in 1962.  He relocated to Florida by the mid-’60s, and joined the short-lived country-folk band Hearts and Flowers, and in 1968, he became part of the group, Dillard & Clark which featured ex-Byrds member Gene Clark and bluegrass banjo player Doug Dillard.  Leadon became part of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, the Corvettes, before he joined up with one of the first-ever country-rock outfits, the Flying Burrito Brothers, in the fall of 1969.  Bernie Leadon was also part of the Music From Free Creek super session, an album from a series of 1969 recordings by Free Creek, a group composed of a number of internationally renowned musical artists of the time, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keith Emerson, Dr. John, Buzz Feiten, Mitch Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt.  Although it’s a well-regarded album by critics, this lone album by Free Creek pretty much flew under the radar since its original recording in 1969.

When Ken Bloom left Shiloh, Michael Bowden joined as replacement guitarist.  Soon after Randy Meisner replaced Van Beek and three quarters of the group that would eventually become the Eagles were now playing together regularly joining Ronstadt’s group of performers.  The dream team of Frey, Henley, Meisner and Leadon came together for the first time on July 12, 1971 while backing up Linda Ronstadt.

Linda let them rehearse in her house one afternoon, a bungalow where she lived with J.D. Souther on Camrose Place near the corner Highland and Jackson Browne lived in an adjacent bungalow.  She had a bigger living room than they did, so she let them rehearse there while she went out to see a movie with J.D. Souther.  When she came back, they completed ‘Witchy Woman’ which would become their trademark song.  The four were signed to Asylum Records, the new label started by David Geffen, who was introduced to Frey by Jackson Browne.  Geffen bought out Frey’s and Henley’s contracts with Amos Records, and sent the four to Aspen, Colorado to develop as a band.

They performed their first show in October 1971 under the name of Teen King and the Emergencies and Bernie Leadon suggested that they change their name during a peyote and tequila-influenced group outing in the Mojave Desert, when he recalled reading about the Hopis Indian’s reverence for the eagle.  The Eagles formed in September 1971 and a few months later, in February 1972, they headed to England to record their debut album with producer Glyn Johns.  Their eponymous debut album The Eagles was released in June and gave them three hit singles including ‘Witchy Woman’ which reached #9, ‘Take It Easy’ that got to #12 and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ that got to #22.  This album reached No. 22 on the charts and it went platinum.  In 2012, it was ranked number 368 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Glenn Frey wrote two songs and he co-wrote ‘Take It Easy’ with Jackson Browne.  Browne also wrote ‘Nightingale’, which was sung by Henley.  Henley and Leadon collaborated on ‘Witchy Woman’, which was also sung by Henley.  Leadon collaborated on a song with Gene Clark and another with Meisner and he sang lead vocals on both of those.  Meisner wrote two songs and he sang lead vocals on both of those.  Frey sang lead on ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’, which was written by Jack Tempchin.

Unfortunately, when it comes to The Eagles music, they are very strict about what they allow on YouTube and they tend to block a lot of their stuff from being available in the USA.  You can get some slide shows with background music and you can watch them on Dailymotion, which does work with WordPress, but Glenn Frey didn’t like YouTube feeling that it was ripping him off and greed does funny things to people, as the rich want to keep getting richer.  There is nothing anyone can do about it, as it’s their copyrighted material.  They made plenty of money, a whopping $100 million, which was enough for the band to be ranked number eight on Forbes 2019 list of the World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities.  The bulk of The Eagles’ earning came via their tour dates where they gross on average $3.5 million per show.


Desperado was their second studio album and it was released in 1973.  The songs on Desperado are based on the themes of the Old West.  The title track song ‘Desperado’ was never released as a single, but it was ranked number 494 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.  The album reached number 41 on the Billboard album chart and was certified gold.  The album had two singles, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ which reached number 64 in the US and ‘Outlaw Man’ which got to number 59.  Bernie Leadon wrote two songs and he sang lead vocals on both of those and he collaborated on the writing of another song.  Randy Meisner collaborated on two songs.  Frey and Henley co-wrote both ‘Desperado’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and they were collaborators on all of the rest of the songs on this album.  J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne and Tom Nixon who met Don Henley back when they were both playing frat parties in Texas all got writing credits.  When the Eagles first started touring, Tom Nixon became one of their roadies.

On the Border was their third studio album, released in 1974, and it has more rock oriented sound than the country-rock feel on their first two albums.  It is the first Eagles album to feature guitarist Don Felder, who was called by the Eagles to add slide guitar to their song ‘Good Day in Hell’ and some guitar solos to ‘Already Gone’.  Shortly afterwards, he was invited to join the band.  Felder and Leadon both attended Gainesville High School and they played frat parties in Florida.  Felder gave guitar lessons at a music shop, where he learned how to play slide guitar from Duane Allman, and one of Felder’s students was a young Tom Petty.  On the Border reached number 17 on the Billboard album chart and has sold two million copies.  It included three singles, ‘Already Gone’ which reached #32, ‘James Dean’ which peaked at #77 and ‘Best of My Love’ which went all the way to #1 and became the band’s first of five chart toppers.

One of These Nights was their fourth studio album, released in 1975, and it became their first number one album on Billboard’s album chart transforming them into international superstars.  It yielded three Top 10 singles, ‘One of These Nights’ which went to #1, ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ reached #2 won Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal and ‘Take It to the Limit’ got to #4.  This was the first of the four consecutive number one albums by the Eagles.  Bernie Leadon left the band after this album tour in order to spend more time devoted to exercising and taking care of his health and he was replaced by Joe Walsh.  During a particularly heated fight, before Bernie quit, he dumped a beer over Frey’s head, as a way of tendering his resignation.

This album featured some additional musicians with David Bromberg on fiddles for ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ while The Royal Martian Orchestra played strings on this song.  Albhy Galuten played synthesizer on ‘Hollywood Waltz’ and Jim Ed Norman played piano ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, ‘Take It to the Limit’, orchestrations, conductor, string arrangements, while Sid Sharp was concert master.  The Eagles wrote all of these songs and Patti Davis (Ronald and Nancy’s daughter) contributed on one of them.  Patti was romantically involved with Bernie Leadon and he helped her finish ‘I Wish You Peace’, a song that she started.  Patti Davis adopted her mother’s maiden name in an effort to have an independent career.

Hotel California was their fifth studio album and it was released in 1976.  It was their first album with guitarist Joe Walsh, and their last album to feature bassist Randy Meisner who quit the group claiming he was exhausted and his replacement was Timothy B. Schmit.  This album became the third best-selling U.S. album in history, and it has recently been certified 26-times Platinum by the RIAA.  The album was nominated for Album of the Year, but lost to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

Three singles were released from the album, and two topped the Billboard Hot 100.  ‘New Kid in Town’ went to #1 in 1976 and ‘Hotel California’ reached #1 in 1977, and each won a Grammy award, while ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ got to #11.  This was an urban theme concept album released in the bicentennial year, where the eagle is the national symbol, and Henley said that they were obliged to make some kind of statement, like we have been here for 200 years, but we’re gonna have to change, if we want to continue to be around.  Don Henley said that with ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, they were trying to paint a picture that cocaine wasn’t all that great of a drug.  It turns you on, but it also messes you up and makes you paranoid.

Joe Walsh was a well-established solo star who replaced guitarist Glen Schwartz in the James Gang at the end of 1967 when Glen moved to California and formed Pacific Gas & Electric.  Joe Walsh came from a band called The Measles.  After their fourth album, James Gang Live in Concert, Walsh left The James Gang for a solo career.  Joe’s next band was Barnstorm and he had a big hit with them ‘Rocky Mountain Way’.  The Eagles hired him because they were looking for some song writing input from him.  Joe had actually shared a few concert bills with the Eagles, and they had the same manager in Irving Azoff.  Joe jumped at the chance to join the Eagles, as he was already been jamming and writing with some of the members as part of the magically fertile LA scene, and now he was able to bring his rock edge to their vocal harmonies, and this result was lightning in a bottle.

The Eagles wrote all of the songs on this album with Henley and Frey collaborating with J.D. Souther on ‘New Kid in Town’, and Henley and Frey also collaborated with Jim Ed Norman who played keyboard with Shiloh on ‘Wasted Time’.  Joe Walsh collaborated with his former Kent State classmate and bandmate from Barnstorm Joe Vitale on ‘Pretty Maids All in a Row’.  In 1975, Vitale became part of the Eagles’ touring band playing drums, keyboards, and singing backing vocals.

In 1978, the Eagles covered and released ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ as a holiday single, which peaked at #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The Long Run was their sixth studio album which was released in 1979, and this was the first Eagles album to feature Timothy B. Schmit, who replaced Randy Meisner and the last full studio album to feature Don Felder.  The album was certified 7× Platinum by the RIAA and it sold more than eight million copies in the US.  Three singles were released from the album, ‘Heartache Tonight’ reached #1 and won a Grammy Award, ‘The Long Run’, and ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ both got to #8.  This was their second to last studio album and it took them 18 months to complete because the band was completely burned out, physically, emotionally, spiritually as the band’s creatively was exhausted.  28 years later in 2007, Long Road Out of Eden came out being their last studio album.

They wrote all of the songs for this album with some help from their friends. J.D. Souther and Bob Seger collaborated with Henley and Frey on ‘Heartache Tonight’ and J.D. collaborated with Henley, Frey and Walsh on another song.  ‘In the City’ was written by American singer, songwriter, producer, and composer Barry De Vorzon and Joe Walsh.  Barry De Vorzon had a total of twenty hit records, which he wrote and/or produced.  He discovered the highly successful group, the Association, and he developed a successful independent record and publishing company.  The Monstertones featuring Duane Monstertone, Leon Blazek, Freddy Buffett, Urban Azoff, Pee Wee Solters, Marion Kinde, Buckley Wideface, Tommy Obnozzio, Jingles Squirrel Heart, Floyd Tempchin, Ollie Blair, Hugh Gotteny, Peter Rennert, John McEnroe and Peter Fleming sang backing vocals on this album.  Bob Seger sang backing vocals ‘Heartache Tonight’.  Jimmy Buffett sings backing vocals on ‘The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks’.  David Sanborn plays alto saxophone on ‘The Sad Café’.  Joe Vitale played congas on ‘In the City’.

The Eagles put out Eagles Live in 1980 and then in 1994 they released their second live album Hell Freezes Over.  The initial end of the Eagles came with an epic meltdown at a show in Long Beach, Calif. on July 31, 1980, when Don Felder and Glenn Frey almost came to physical blows.  The’80s featured plenty of music from all but one of the band’s seven total members and some of the notable solo albums were Joe Walsh with All Night Long, and A Life of Illusion, Randy Meisner Hearts on Fire, Don Felder Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride), Don Henley Dirty Laundry, and The End of the Innocence and Glenn Frey The One You Love, and Smuggler’s Blues.

They never broke up, as they just took a fourteen-year vacation.  The original Hell Freezes Over Cd featured fifteen tracks with fresh takes on their classics, four new songs and ‘New York Minute’, which was originally from Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, his third solo studio album that was released in 1989.  On their Hell Freezes Over tour, over a three-year period, from 1994-96, the Eagles played 160 shows across the world, setting box office records at nearly every stop along the way.  Steuart Smith was hired by the Eagles in 2001 after Don Felder was fired from the band due to legal disputes.  Smith was a member of Don Henley’s solo touring band, and occasionally played concerts with Glenn Frey as well.

Glenn Frey died from pneumonia on January 18, 2016 and after a one-year hiatus, the Eagles re-formed in 2017, with Glenn’s 24-year-old son Deacon Frey and Vince Gill a country artist, and one of Frey’s close friends sharing lead vocals for Frey’s songs.  Vince Gill was the frontman for Pure Prairie League in the 1970s and he became a solo artist in 1983.  He recorded more than 20 studio albums, charted over 40 singles on the U.S. Billboard charts as Hot Country Songs, and sold more than 26 million albums.  He has been honored by the Country Music Association with 18 CMA Awards, including two Entertainer of the Year awards and five Male Vocalist Awards.  As of 2017, Gill has also earned 21 Grammy Awards, more than any other male country music artist.  In 2007 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and on February 4, 2016, Gill was inducted into the Guitar Center Rock Walk.  The Eagles current lineup consists of Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Deacon Frey and Vince Gill.  Steuart Smith has been with the Eagles for about 19 years now, touring with them and producing new music, but he has not been made an official member of the band yet.

28 thoughts on “E is for Eagles

  1. I have the un-trendy opinion that they deserve their success – their 70s music was a big part of the good memories of my childhood and , for the most part I still love those records. I like don Henley’s solo material a lot too. Loved the way they blended country and rock together so well and the different talents which all contributed to the mix.
    That said, they were cantankerous characters and seem to view music now as an obligation… they want to keep fans happy and keep getting richer at the same time. I know (very vaguely, not like a close friend by any means) a guy who is in a band who got to open for them at one show this century… he swears they were the grumpiest, least joyful bunch he’s ever seen at a concert.

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    1. I have always liked their music, but they are totally different from the Grateful Dead who encouraged their fans to record them at concerts. The Eagles have loyal fans, but their main concern has always been making money and I guess that is their prerogative. In Don Henley’s song ‘Boys of Summer’ he appears to be offended when he sees a Cadillac, the status symbol of the upper-middle-class having this Grateful Dead ‘Deadhead’ bumper sticker on it and I knew that he just does not get it and he can’t relate to common people, so I will never be a fan of his.

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  2. I love their music, but I don’t know much Eagles trivia. People are surprised by this because apparently one of the “rules” for enjoying a band or tv show or whatever is to be able to rattle off facts like a Wikipedia article. Pffft! I don’t worship celebs & it doesn’t surprise me that they’re greedy or have other human flaws.

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    1. I write things down, because I am not good at rattling off facts, but if I write it enough times, it eventually sticks with me. I am not one to worship celebrities’ either, but that may not hold true for the Grateful Dead, as I always adored them.

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  3. First off great post Jim…I really like these…

    I’m probably in the minority… I am not a big fan of the Eagles. I can’t lie and say I don’t like anything though…because I do like some early stuff. In the south they are looked at southern…and not California for probably the country leanings.

    After seeing that documentary of them…that just made me dislike them more. I like them all except Don and Glenn. I do like Don’s solo work more than the Eagles. I respect the work they put in and their talent…I must say that.

    You said it above…they were worried about making money more than anything…which is fine but it showed.

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    1. I finished the Kinks yesterday, but they made so many albums that my post got way too long after their 1973 Preservation Act 1 album. I guess that I caught their best stuff, but when I reach 4,000 words, I know it is time to stop. Now I am making progress on Led Zeppelin.

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      1. They do have a lot of albums and unfortunately America didn’t hear the late sixties ones.
        Yea you have to draw a line.

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  4. This group is woven into the fabric of my life and good or bad, can do no wrong with me. Broke my heart when Glenn died.

    While Vince is talented, he’s no Eagles…and annoys me. 😀 😀

    Nice history! 🙂

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  5. At first thought, the Eagles seem kind of generic, but when I see all of the hits you list that I like, they are better than that. Desperado is one of my favorites. Tequila Sunrise and Hotel California are also but they’ve played them to death on the radio which is a pity. I like Vince Gill’s voice very much. I haven’t heard him sing with them so will reserve judgment. Nice write-up, Jim. About the Kinks: you might not get to everything but maybe you can so a multi-part series on them after A2Z is over?

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