In the late 1960s, Glenn Frey was living, playing and even recording with local bands in Detroit. His first brush with any amount of real success was singing and playing on Bob Seger's single "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man", which was recorded at Capitol Records' studio in L.A. After a taste of California weather, it wasn't long until Frey moved to L.A. to share an apartment with his girlfriend. On his first day there, he met John David Souther, who was dating his girlfriend's sister. The two had much in common, including a love of music. They decided that they'd had it with rock and roll, formed an acoustic country folk duo called "Longbranch Pennywhistle", and made one album for a soon to be deceased label. Another act on the label was a band called "Shiloh", a Texas band containing drummer Don Henley.
Born in Gilmer, Texas, July 22, 1947, Henley cut his first solo album about his life in Texas called "Talking To The Moon" when he was still a boy. He attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas where he majored in English Literature and found that his love for music suited him well. Henley heeded the advice of an English teacher to pursue his interest and move to L.A.
Glenn's and J.D.'s and Don's recording hopes dried up when their record company went down the drain. The two future Eagles commiserated together, hanging out at the Troubadour and in Don's words, "getting drunk a lot," until they were assembled by producer John Boylan in 1970 as backup musicians for Linda Ronstadt on her "Silk Purse" album, as well as serving with her tour band for two years. They played so well together that it was obvious they had to form a band of their own and Linda had to resign herself to losing them.
Randy Meisner came from Nebraska. He met the Buffalo Springfield when his group, The Poor, played the Whiskey in L.A. When the Buffalo Springfield broke up, he helped form Poco with Jim Messina and Richie Furay. After a year, Randy was not happy with the sound of the original Poco on record. He quit to join Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band. He wasn't happy in that situation either, and he had even left music altogether for some time before the Eagles rescued him from selling tractors. One night he filled in when Linda Ronstadt's bass player didn't show up, and Don and Glenn knew they had a bassist.
Meanwhile, Bernie Leadon was leaving his group, the Flying Burrito Brothers. Don, Glenn and Randy gave him a call, and he sat in one night when Linda played at Disneyland. They all liked what they heard. The foursome needed a name and decided on The Eagles because of its connection with Hopi mythology. After rehearsing for two weeks, they went to see Glenn's manager, David Geffen, who helped them get a month of playing four sets a night in an Aspen, Colorado bar. Geffen then packed away the newly born Eagles off to England to work with producer Glyn Johns at the hi-tech Olympic Studios in London. In just over two weeks, the recording process was finished.
The resulting album, "Eagles", was an incredible success. Three songs from that very first album - "Take it Easy", "Peaceful Easy Feelin" and Witchy Woman" became hit singles. "Eagles" also established a precedent for future albums. They were to be a blend of country flavored rock, spiked with bluegrass and strong ballads and topped with sweet, full, high harmonies. The rocking pulse of a "Witchy Woman" would continue to be balanced by the banjo or mandolin oriented tunes such as "All of Us Are Sad" or Randy's plaintive "Take the Devil."
Their albums would also be, in Glenn's words, "song-oriented. It wasn't a planned move to record an album full of singles," he has said, "but we did set out to put ten good songs on every album instead of having fillers, where one song is the single because it's so obviously a better song than any other on the album." And just as the albums were to be song-oriented, the band itself was to be music-oriented. "It seems that for bands like Alice Cooper and the Sweet, the music is secondary to a theater trip. For us, the music comes first," said Don Henley. There were those who argued that The Eagles were just a cover band for better and more sensitive songwriters such as Jackson Browne, who co-authored their first hit, "Take It Easy". But there had to be some skepticism regarding The Eagles' instant success. After all, they had barely been together for a few months and they had immediately received the commercial acceptance denied to other descendants of the superstar groups.
Their second album would force the Eagles to prove they were not a fluke. Once again, the band went off to work in England with Glyn Johns. In foggy London, they recorded the tales of a band of Western outlaws, the Doolin-Dalton gang. Critics did not respond to the concept behind the album, but as time has passed, cuts from the "Desperado" album such as "Tequila Sunrise" have become increasingly popular. In their stage show, in fact, the band performed "Desperado" not once, but twice, just as they do on record.
In 1974, The Eagles' third album, "On The Border", was a success by any measure. It was not, however, as easy to come by as one might think. The Eagles could not instantly wind up and grind out solid gold smashes, and "On The Border" marks the separation of the Eagles and producer Glyn Johns. The third time around their union failed to produce musical magic and the Eagles were simply not satisfied with the tracks they had recorded. They had no choice but to leave Johns and damp London to look for inspiration back in the U.S.A. "What our music needed was a good kick in the ass," Glenn Frey told Circus magazine. The group decided that producer Bill Szymczyk was the man for the job and ended up saving only two tracks they had originally cut in England, "You Never Cry Like A Lover" and "Best Of My Love".
"On The Border" also brought studio guitarist Don Felder to the Eagles' nest. Glenn had called him because Joe Walsh wasn't available to play slide on "Good Day in Hell". The four original Eagles got off on Felder's playing and company so much they eventually asked him to join the band permanently. The LP was a breakthrough record, going Gold in three months and producing the #1 hit "Best of My Love", which didn't top the charts until almost a year after the album's release, just in time to set up their fourth LP.
"One of These Nights", the first of four straight albums to top the charts, featured the title track along with "Lyin' Eyes" and "Take It to the Limit," both Top Ten hits in 1975.
The album also marked Don Felder's emergence as a full-fledged Eagle. "He's definitely the fifth Eagle," said Glenn. "No doubt about it." This new, slightly harder-edged sound gave The Eagles their mainstream breakthrough. The album went Platinum in America and finally cracked the European and British markets.
Near the end of 1975, The Eagles would lose their banjo and mandolin player Bernie Leadon, who by now had grown tired of life on the road. The grind and pressures of touring made Bernie announce his retirement from the group, to return to session and studio work. He would be replaced by the one and only Joe Walsh.
Joe Walsh's musical career began in the form of the leader of the James Gang. An enigmatic, humorous and clever musician with an awesome talent for the guitar, Walsh's approach and blend of rock, pop and skewed humor had helped to forge an attractive solo career. Although chiefly recognized as a guitarist, Walsh has proved himself to be a handy keyboard player, along with being a competent, if croaky vocalist.
Fearing that their most popular act was always on the edge of breaking up, Warner Records released an Eagles' greatest-hits album in 1976. The collection, culled from just three previous albums, became America' best-selling LP of all time and provided the band with the determination to follow it with something spectacular. Later that year they completed what would become their signature album, "Hotel California". The title track, for which Don Felder wrote the music, transitioned the band from soft country to a harder, more electric mainstream rock sound. The songs were mostly downbeat tales about coping with LA's rock-star lifestyle and its title track, portraying California as a hedonistic prison, hit #1 in the US as did "New Kid In Town". The band hit the road on a long and spectacular tour, using the Hotel California theme as a back drop.
By 1977, Randy Meisner had also grown tired of the hectic road life and left the band to attempt a solo career which saw three Billboard Top 40 hits, "Deep Inside My Heart" (#22 in 1980), "Hearts On Fire" (#19 in 1981) and "Never Been In Love (#28 in 1982). Further efforts however failed to maintain his momentum and Randy went back to session and road work with other musicians. In 1987 he teamed up with former Firefall member Rick Roberts to form Meisner-Roberts and in 1992 was a part of a band called Black Tie with Charlie Rich, Jimmy Griffin and Billy Swan, where he found only modest success. He was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, who had previously succeeded him in Poco. A native Californian, Schmit had been playing in local bars since he was fifteen. One of his early groups, The New Breed, enjoyed a local hit single called "Green Eyed Woman" in 1965 and recorded an album which wouldn't be released until 2007.
Although he was a full-fledged member of The Eagles, Joe Walsh still found the time and energy to record and release a solo album called "But Seriously, Folks" in early 1978, taking full advantage of his freshly boosted fame. The other four Eagles all contributed vocals and Don Felder chipped in on guitar. A single from the L.P. called "Life's Been Good" reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Eagles toured the world starting in July, 1978, on the strength of their big hits, flying in the face of the Disco dance craze and the Punk counter-culture movement. Billboard magazine featured them on the front cover in 1979, calling them "America's Number One Band". In a seemly odd move for a group that tried so hard in the beginning to be taken as serious musicians, they issued a special holiday single called "Please Come Home For Christmas", backed with "Funky New Year". Their loyal fans pushed it up the US charts to #18.
It took the Eagles until the fall of 1979 to issue their next album, "The Long Run". Joe Walsh would later recall the frustration of trying to come up with something to equal "Hotel California" by saying "We lost perspective. We kinda sat around in a daze for months." The end result however was another million-selling, number one album, featuring the chart-topping "Heartache Tonight" and Top Ten successes with the title track and "I Can't Tell You Why". Although it was a valiant effort, even Don Henley later admitted "The Long Run was not as good as Hotel California and was an excruciatingly painful album to make. We were having fights all the time..." "The Long Run" L.P. was bashed by critics in The Village Voice and Rolling Stone, but record buyers still loved it and sent it to Billboard's number one spot for thirteen weeks. It eventually went to Platinum status and was the best selling album of the year.
By 1981, The Eagles had grown in separate directions and constant artistic differences had taken their toll. In fact, the five of them could hardly stand each other. They traveled separately and stayed in different hotels, seeing the other members only on stage. Their final show was a benefit concert for Democratic hopeful Alan Cranston in Long Beach, California on July 31st, during which Glenn Frey and Don Felder nearly came to blows. After the show, a still angry Felder smashed an acoustic guitar on his way to band's waiting cars. Witnessing the incident were Frey, along with Alan Cranston and his wife. Everyone seemed to know that the end had come.
According to their contract, the band still owed Warner another L.P. and it would take the form of a 'live' album. Assembled mainly from the 1979 / 1980 tour, the tracks were mixed by Glenn Frey and Don Henley on opposite coasts. The two indicated that they could not be in the same state, let alone the same studio. Although Asylum offered the band two million dollars for some new material for the album, they said no. After the tracks had been mixed, Frey and Henley spoke over the phone. During the conversation, Frey casually mentioned that he was finished with The Eagles. Released in November of 1980, the two disc set went to the top of the Billboard chart and yielded one modestly successful single, "Seven Bridges Road", which reached #21 in America.
The public heard nothing from the band until the spring of 1982 when Frey told the media of his decision while announcing his new solo album, "No Fun Aloud". He would later recall: "I just couldn't see myself spending all of the '80s making just three more Eagles albums."
After the Eagles split, apparently to Henley's surprise, he immediately established himself as a viable solo artist with his very first album, "I Can't Stand Still". Not as financially rewarding as the later Eagles' records, the album still provided the listener with an impressive array of songs, launching the #3 hit "Dirty Laundry". Henley's second album, "Building the Perfect Beast" followed in 1984, further helping to establish him as a solo star and continue to impress the critics with his rich and thought-provoking lyrics. Further ambitious aspirations led Henley to pen and record his third and most successful album to date, 1989's "The End of the Innocence", providing the listening world with such gems as the title track (#8), "The Last Worthless Evening" (#21) and "The Heart Of The Matter" (#21).
Frey's "No Fun Aloud" L.P. notched a pair of Top 40 hits with "I Found Somebody" (#31) and "The One You Love" (#15). 1984's "The Allnighter" spawned the #20 hit "Sexy Girl" and "Smuggler's Blues" (#2), which subsequently inspired an episode of the hit TV series Miami Vice, on which Frey guest-starred. Other ill-advised acting roles saw a rapid return to music and the highly successful 1985 Top Ten smash "The Heat Is On", a single released from the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy Beverly Hills Cop. In the Fall of that year "You Belong To The City" also reached #2 on the Billboard chart and helped the "Miami Vice Soundtrack" album reach the top spot of the Billboard Hot 200 chart for 11 weeks. Three years later, the L.P. "Soul Searchin'" produced "True Love", which climbed to #13.
Joe Walsh had been down the solo act path before and had no trouble resuming his pre-Eagles career. He released "There Goes The Neighborhood" in 1981, which included "A Life Of Illusion", a song that reached #34 on Billboard's Pop chart and #1 on their Mainstream Rock chart. Joe however was in a bad state. His battle with alcohol, which began when his young daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1974, grew to extreme. Joe would later say "there was a whole long period of being an alcoholic, when I didn't pursue any hobby other than vodka." 1983 brought "You Bought It, You Name It", an album that included appearances by Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit and Don Henley, but could climb no higher than #48 on the Hot 200. Singles from the L.P. didn't fair much better, with "Space Age Whiz Kids" stalling at #52 and "I Can Play That Rock And Roll" managing #13 on the Mainstream Rock chart. By 1988, Joe was reduced to joining Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band and in 1991 he appeared as a guest with The Doobie Brothers in a series of disappointing shows. His 1992 album "Songs for a Dying Planet" quickly fell off the charts.
Don Felder wasted no time getting work as a studio musician. After contributing the title track to the 1981 Canadian animated film Heavy Metal, he accepted a recording contract with Warner Records. Working from his home studio, Felder completed an L.P. called "Airborne" in 1983, which included contributions from Kenny Loggins, Dave Mason and Timothy B. Schmit. Like many sidemen's efforts, the album was mostly ignored by the record buying public. Don also guested on The Bee Gees' "Living Eyes", Stevie Nicks' "Bella Donna" and "Wild Heart", Diana Ross' "Eaten Alive" and Bob Seger's "Distance".
Timothy B. Schmit, the quietest and least famous of The Eagles, chose to stick to session work and touring with other artists, including Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Crosby, Stills And Nash, Jimmy Buffet, Warren Zevon and even Don Henley. He also contributed a song called "So Much in Love" for the soundtrack to the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, on which Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Don Felder also appeared on. Tim did try his hand at a solo album in 1983 called "Playin' It Cool", but neither it or the singles released from it were successful. He tried again in 1987 with "Timothy B.", an L.P. that gave him his only solo, Top 40 hit, "Boys Night Out", which reached #25 on Billboard's Hot 100.
The appeal of The Eagles didn't dissolve with their break-up. Their back catalogue continued to sell throughout the '80s and '90s. As an alternative to Punk, Techno-Pop and Rap, baby-boomers had turned to Country music in large numbers, seeking more melodic tunes and lyrics they could relate to. In 1993, Country starlet Trisha Yearwood contacted Don Henley, whom she had met following a performance on The Tonight Show, and asked him to join her on a song called "Walkaway Joe". To her surprise, Henley agreed and the single soared to #2 on Billboard's Country chart. The pair performed the duet on the Country Music Association Awards show in Nashville. Producer Irving Azoff, who was now running his own label, Giant Records, was convinced that an Eagles Tribute album would be a big seller and proceeded to enlist the likes of Country music stars Vince Gill, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker, Alan Jackson, Lorrie Morgan, Billy Dean, John Anderson and Little Texas for a album called "Common Thread". The project was a huge success, selling over 4 million copies. The first single from the L.P. was Travis Tritt's rendition of "Take It Easy". When talk of a video came up, Tritt suggested including all of the members of The Eagles. Calls went out, first to Don Henley, then to the rest, each one in turn agreeing to appear. Before filming began, Henley, Frey, Walsh, Felder and Schmit ran through a quick version of "Rocky Mountain Way". It was the first time in fourteen years that the five of them had worked together and over that time, many of the old wounds had healed. They actually hung out for a bit and reminisced about old times. Irving Azoff quickly floated the idea of a reunion past them, suggesting that there was pent-up demand for their music. All were in agreement and rehearsals began soon after. When word leaked out to the press, original bassist Randy Meisner was publicly vocal about his disappointment of not being invited.
The reformed Eagles recorded a 'live' album as part of an appearance on the TV show MTV Unplugged, that featured acoustic versions of old favorites as well as several new songs. At the beginning of the show, Glenn Frey joked to the audience: "For the record, we never broke up; we just took a 14-year vacation." The resulting album, "Hell Freezes Over", was the first Eagles album of new recordings since 1980. The name of the disc was chosen in reference to the answer Don Henley would give to fans when asked when The Eagles would get back together. It was released on November 8th, 1994 and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Album chart. "Hell Freezes Over" has sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. to date (certified six times platinum) and remained in the Top 100 for nearly two years. The album was number 4 on Billboard's 1995 year-end Top Album Of The Year ranking and the band was number 5 among Top Album Artists of the year.
The Eagles won three 1995 American Music Awards: Favorite Pop Group, Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and Favorite Pop Rock Album for "Hell Freezes Over". Winners of four previous Grammy Awards, the Eagles were nominated for four more Grammys: Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Love Will Keep Us Alive", Best Pop Album and Best Engineered Album for "Hell Freezes Over" and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Hotel California".
In the US, the single "Get Over It" was released Oct. 11, 1994, and reached the Top 10. In February 1995, the track "Love Will Keep Us Alive" hit number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and enjoyed a stay of more than seven months. That summer, "Learn To Be Still" made the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary list.
When the tour ended, the band once again went their separate ways to pursue solo projects. Don Henley began work on a new album and Joe Walsh appeared as a spaced out guitar player on The Drew Carey Show.
Don Henley had this to say about touring with The Eagles again in the 1990s. "It was just like it always was, actually. There were moments of great elation and joy, and there were moments of great misery and disappointment, anger. Things don't really change that much, you know. People don't change that much... people don't change, they just become more who they really are."
On January 12, 1998, the band was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and after much discussion and debate, it was decided that Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner would be included in the ceremony, since it was they, and not Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit that had recorded the band's "Greatest Hits 1971 - 1975" LP. The event marked the first time that all seven current and past members were photographed together. Although everyone smiled for the cameras that night, Leadon and Meisner were virtually ignored by Henley and Frey and were forced to the extreme edges of the stage when the band played a short set of past hits.
Despite their in-fighting, The Eagles got together to play a farewell to the '90s concert at Staples Center, Los Angeles on New Year's Eve, 1999. They shared the stage with their long time friends, Jackson Browne and Linda Rondstadt.
Even though they had smoothed out many old arguments, dissention once again split the Eagles when guitarist Don Felder was abruptly fired on February 6th, 2001. Felder was unhappy about being paid less than the two he called "The Gods", Henley and Frey. He then filed a lawsuit against the pair, claiming that he was wrongfully dismissed from the group. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on February 9th, reportedly sought the dissolution of Eagles Ltd., the band's corporation, as well as an accounting of record royalties, touring revenue and merchandising since Felder joined the band in 1974. Henley and Frey then countersued Felder for breach of contract, alleging that Felder had written and attempted to sell the rights to a "tell-all" book.
In 2003, the remaining Eagles released a new greatest hits album called "The Very Best of the Eagles". The two-disc compilation encompassed their entire career, from "Eagles" to "The Long Run" and also included a new single, the September 11-themed "Hole in the World". The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts and eventually gained triple Platinum status.
The band continued to tour and in November, 2004, recorded their show in Melbourne, Australia for a DVD release titled "Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne". Footage from that night was part of a 2-hour TV special on NBC, shown in the US on June 1st, 2005. The band played all of their hits backed by an eight-piece backup band that included new guitarist Steuart Smith. Over the Summer of '05, Don Henley played a series of shows with Stevie Nicks, after which The Eagles went out on a mini-tour of California, where they filled arenas in Los Angeles for twelve straight dates - a first in arena-rock history.
On May 8th, 2007, the Felder vs. Frey and Henley lawsuit was dismissed after being settled out-of-court for an undisclosed amount.
In October, 2007, The Eagles released "Long Road out of Eden", their first album of all-new material since 1979. For the first year after the album's release, it was available in the US exclusively from the band's website, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, although it was sold at traditional retail outlets in other countries. The album debuted at #1 in the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and Norway. It became their third studio album and seventh release overall to be certified at least seven times platinum. In an interview with CNN, Don Henley said, "This is probably the last Eagles album that we'll ever make." The first single from the album was called "How Long".
In January 2008, the second single off "Long Road Out of Eden" was released. "Busy Being Fabulous" peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and at #18 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. A month later, the Eagles won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "How Long".
On March 20, 2008, the band kicked off a world tour in support of "Long Road out of Eden" at The O2 Arena in London, England. On November 12, they appeared at the 42nd Country Music Association Awards, where they performed "Busy Being Fabulous". On December 4th, the album received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 51st annual Grammy Awards, with the group earning a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song "Waiting In The Weeds".
April finally brought the long anticipated book by Don Felder: Heaven and Hell - My Life In The Eagles (1974 - 2001). The publication was originally set for 2006, but a lawsuit brought by Henley and Frey caused a change of publishers which delayed the release. In it, Felder describes the highs and lows of playing in one of the world's most successful bands and the anguish he felt when he was told that the band was going to continue without him.
As if The Eagles weren't busy enough, 2009 brought two new solo albums. In June, Don Henley issued "The Very Best Of Don Henley", which featured fourteen of his best solo efforts. In October, Tim Schmit released "Expando", which was recorded at his home studio near Los Angeles, with a little help from his son Ben, Dwight Yoakam, Graham Nash, Kid Rock, Garth Hudson and a host of others.
The Long Road out of Eden tour continued in 2010, with dates across America and a long awaited return to Australia. The schedule for 2011 had the band booked for shows in Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. 2012's show dates had The Eagles in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dubai and America. As for the possibility of another album, bassist Timothy B. Schmit replied, "My first reaction would be: no way. But I said that before the last one, so you never really know." Joe Walsh had a similar answer when he said that they might be able to make one more album before the band "wraps it up".
Berklee College of Music announced that they would present honorary doctorate in music degrees to the members of The Eagles at their 2012 commencement ceremony on May 12th at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The band concluded a short tour on the first weekend in May in 2012 with a show at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, after which they were slated to take a break while members persued solo projects. Glenn Frey will tour in support of "After Hours", his first solo album in 20 years. Joe Walsh hit the road on May 17th and releases a new solo album, "Analog Man" on June 5th. Bassist Timothy B. Schmit began a solo tour on May 19th at the Cherokee Creek Music Festival in Texas. Don Henley headed to Nashville to record some new material.
Along with their 5 US number one singles and 6 Grammy Awards, The Eagles have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide. They sold more albums in the 1970s than any other American band. Their "Greatest Hits 1971-1975" is the largest selling album of all time in the US and was the first album ever to receive Platinum certification, selling over 29 million copies. Their "Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2" has sold over 11 million and the "Hotel California" LP enjoyed sales of 16 million copies. A new round of certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America pushed the Eagles' to the third highest certified band, behind only the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and the fifth highest certified artist of all time. "The Eagles are the epitome of rock music," said RIAA president and CEO Hilary Rosen. "The accomplishment of selling more than 120 million records over their career is monumental."
One last thing for the record: During a 2009 interview on TV's Night Talk, Don Felder was asked about the band's name. Although some fans insist that it is simply Eagles, Felder said the official name has always been The Eagles.