The Eagles started as a band of four with Glenn Frey on the guitar, Don Henley playing drums, Bernie Leadon on guitar, and Randy Meisner on bass. The four-piece were established in Los Angeles in 1971 and would soon become one of the most influential bands of their generation.
They were eventually inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The rock stars dominated the charts and earned six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, five number-one singles, and six number-one albums. Here is their incredible story.
The band was formed when the founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley developed a friendship while playing for musician Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt helped convince the remaining members Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, her touring musicians, to join what would soon be the Eagles.
The band was soon signed to Asylum Records in 1971 while going under the name Teen King and the Emergencies. They changed their name and debuted with their album on June 1, 1972, where it instantly became a success, earning the group three top 40 singles.
Following up the success of their early releases, which includes their equally successful second album Desperado, Frey and Henley felt the need to switch up the band’s style and transitioned to playing with an edgier hard-rock sound.
They decided to take in Don Felder, Bernie Leadon’s childhood friend, who they often jammed with backstage in 1972 to play for the album. On the Boarder brought the Eagles their first number 1, and they followed it up with their fourth studio album months later with One of These Nights.
Don Felder became a permanent member and One of These Nights also became the band’s breakthrough album. It gave them the title of international superstars after the album brought them another number one song, its title track.
One of These Nights was also the last album that the founding member Bernie Leadon was featured on after he felt disillusioned with the direction the band was taking their music. He officially left the band in December of 1975.
In December of 1976, the band released its fifth studio album Hotel California featuring the newest addition to their lineup, Joe Walsh. He was no stranger to their sound as he was also a band’s good friend for years.
Hotel California took about a year and a half to complete, earning the band more singles with “Hotel California” and “New Kid in Town,” respectively. After topping the charts in 1977, Hotel California also garnered the title of the band’s signature song.
The downfall of the Eagles began just as soon as they rose to fame. The Long Run took the band two years to complete allegedly due to the pressure to outsell Hotel California rendering the members unable to produce the quality of music they intended to.
Though the album didn’t live up to the success of Hotel California, it still proved to be a hit on the charts. Come July 1980. However, the band allegedly went through what was dubbed as the “Long Night at the Wrong Beach” in Long Beach, where the internal tension between the band finally boiled over.
After their breakup in 1980, the individual members each pursued solo careers. The first member to establish himself in the industry was Joe Walsh, who released a successful album in 1981. Like Walsh, Don Henley got well-received commercially after going solo with his album I Can’t Stand Still in 1982.
His follow-up album earned him his first single to enter Billboard’s top 5 with “The Boys of Summer.” Despite the success, Henley’s career was cut short due to issues with his label. Glenn Frey also had a decent solo career as well as doing some acting work.
In 1993, a decade and three years after their breakup, a tribute album titled Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles was released to honor the legendary band. The band’s original members were invited to be featured in his music video for his rendition of their song “Take It Easy.”
After a year filled with speculations, the band came forward in 1994 with news of a reunion. The comeback tour was called “Hell Freezes Over,” with Henley’s previous statement after the breakup. He mentioned that the band would only get back together when hell freezes over.
Seven years following their reunion, the band decided to fire lead and rhythm guitarist Don Felder. He also responded by filing two lawsuits against “Eagles, Ltd.” Feldman reportedly sought $50 million in damages.
Henley and Frey thought that Feldman should no longer be part of the band creatively, chemistry, and performance-wise. They then proceeded to countersue the ex-band member for breach of contract for writing his tell-all book. The case got dismissed in 2007 after being settled outside of the court.
In 2007 and the Eagles continued as Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit. In October of the same year, the band released their album Long Road Out of Eden. Henley also hinted in interviews about the Long Road Out of Eden being the last Eagles album that the band will make, which it currently is.
The band kicked off their world tour in support of the album on March 20, 2008, by playing their first show at the O2 Arena in London. The tour went on for a good two years to huge success, which showed their lasting popularity.
In 2013, the band went on tour again, with a rumored eighth album never coming to fruition. Bernie Leadon appeared on the tour as they wanted to go back to their roots. The band then took another break until the sad death of a founding member, Glenn Frey.
He died at the age of 67 in 2016 from a combination of rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, and acute ulcerative colitis. The band would perform “Take It Easy” in his honor at the following Grammy awards, which he co-wrote and sung on.
Despite Henley being unsure of the band’s future, they continued to play live with Glenn Frey, replaced by his son, Deacon. Not only that, but Don Henley’s son Will also joined the band to help on guitar for a few shows.
The band continues to be active, with many more shows lined up. It has been a long and rocky road for them, but they continue to be hugely popular. They’ve not released any new music since 2007, but with their incredible back-catalog, they don’t need to.
With a band as legendary as the Eagles, there are always going to be some insane stories. One great early one was how their first album cover came about. They were on a photoshoot at Joshua Tree National Park and saw an eagle in the sky.
They took it as a sign, and the rest of the band demanded that Glenn Fry had a look. Fry was relieving himself at the time and was also high. He tripped over his pants and ended up falling down some rocks as he tried to see the eagle. The band took the idea of the eagle over the desert and used it for cover.
With their increase in popularity, the band also increasingly led the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. They decided to organize a party after each gig in a hotel suite. They even dubbed it the “third encore” with a long list of invitees.
They worked out those guests in a curious way as every band member was given buttons that they could hand out to anyone they wanted to come. The only rule they had that “no weirdos,” but you can imagine the amount of partying they were doing.
Both the Eagles and Black Sabbath shared the same studio, and you’d probably assume that the Californian country-rockers would be quite tame compared to the legendary Black Sabbath. In reality, the opposite was true.
It seems like the Eagles partied hard wherever they were. This is proven by an anecdote from Back Sabbath’s bassist, Geezer Butler. He mentioned that his band had to scrape cocaine out of the mixing board, left behind by the Eagles, before starting.
The year was 1974, and the band wanted to take a break from touring and decided to fly off to the Bahamas. In a fairly stupid move, the band tried to take plenty of drugs with them, mainly consisting of both marijuana and Valium.
The customs officers quickly found the drugs, and the band were facing jail time. That was until their manager Irving Azoff saved the say. No one knows for sure what he said to the officers, but the man himself said he just guilt-tripped them into letting them go, drugs intact.
Leadon was brought into the Eagles as a country guitarist and part-time banjo picker. As the band moved from a country style to more straight rock, he didn’t like the direction they were going in and was also tired of the constant touring.
After they played at the Orange Bowl, Glenn Frey discussed these ideas with the band. Leadon disagreed, and it started to get heated. Frey told him to chill out, but instead, he poured his whole beer over his head. He eventually apologized . . . 40 years later.
Joe Walsh was well known for smashing up any place that the Eagles happened to stay. As a joke, manager Irving Azoff decided to get him a chainsaw for his birthday. Walsh didn’t see it as a joke and more as a useful tool.
Shortly after, the band had booked a Holiday Inn. Walsh and Azoff were meant to have connecting rooms, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. Instead, Walsh powered up his chainsaw and decided to make his door, so the two could have a connecting room.
We’ve already seen the crazy antics of Joe Walsh, but he also hung out often with another crazy guy, Jim Belushi. Walsh even admitted that Belushi could be more extreme than him and that sometimes hanging out with him was “terrifying.”
A great story between the two was when they were turned away from a restaurant because they were wearing blue jeans. Belushi came up with the genius idea of spray painting them. They managed to get in but would leave plenty of black paint on the restaurant chairs.
As you can imagine, the Eagles were commonly handed sizeable hotel bills. The biggest of those came on the same night that Belushi and Walsh decided to spray paint their jeans black. They both ended up going back to the Gold Coast Hotel.
They took great enjoyment from trashing their hotel room and did so with a ferocity rarely seen before. The result was a bill for $28,000 of damages. You can only picture the number of repairs required for the room to be left in such a state,
No doubt, touring can take emotional stress on a band. Add the partying into that, and emotions can run high. This was seen with Randy Meisner, who had become not only tired but also anxious about singing “Take It to the Limit.”
Meisner refused to sing it just before the band was to go back on stage for their encore. Frey was incensed at this, and the two were about to come to blows. The police rushed in to stop the fight, but it was Henley that diffused the situation.
We’ve already seen that the Eagles weren’t shy of taking cocaine. For some of the band, it went even further than that. Henley admitted that he used cocaine as a writing tool for greater creativity, especially in trying to recreate the success of Hotel California.
It helped inspire some of their recording sessions, but the drugs took their toll in the end. While it had its upsides, he later admitted that the drug brought out the worse in everyone in the end.
Joe Walsh always hung out with an interesting crowd, and at one time, he found himself in the front seat of a Corvette with a drug dealer. They were heading to a poker game, the type of escapade you’d expect from Walsh.
In this situation, however, the drug dealer was going a little too fast for his liking. Walsh wanted him to slow down, but the man just turned to him and said, “life in the fast lane!” Walsh thought that sounded like a great song title!
There are times when their partying and drug habits were undoubtedly getting out of hand. Never was this more apparent than when, during a party, a 16-year-old prostitute had an overdose at Henley’s house, and the cops were called.
The police found plenty of methaqualone, marihuana, and cocaine while they were there and confiscated it all. Henley blamed the drug dealing roadies who supplied the drugs, but he was deemed responsible and received a fine and a two-year probation.
It was long established that the relationship between Frey and Felder could be fraught at times. Never was this more evident than in 1980 when the two of them fought onstage when they were meant to be playing a fundraiser.
Felder disagreed with wanting to play fundraisers as he didn’t want to work for free. An argument happened backstage with Frey throwing a bottle at Felder, which missed. The war of words continued onstage before Felder escaped in a limo, gone forever.
During the Eagles’ break-up, Joe Walsh started dating a young stripper named Kristen Casey. Their ‘love at first sight’ moment was when Casey saw Walsh moonwalking while snorting cocaine from a plate.
The incredible amount of drug-taking from them both led to Casey damaging her nose. Instead of realizing that they were perhaps taking too much cocaine, the pair resorted to an alternative method of taking cocaine by blowing it up each other’s anus.
Don Henley is the most famous member of the Eagles and one of its founding members. While the band often shared vocal duties, he was the one who sang lead vocals on many of their greatest hits, with by far the most famous one being Hotel California.
After the band broke up in 1980, he went on to have a successful solo career with an impressive album called I Can’t Stand Still. He had the best career of any band member while also being active in political and environmental causes.
Many of the Eagles songs were inspired by jewelry designer Loree Rodkin who Henley had a relationship with in the ’70s. After that ended, he met Stevie Nicks, and the two talented musicians were together for two years.
Following that, Henley had a six-year relationship with Maren Jensen, but sadly it wasn’t to last. Eventually, Henley found true love in 1995 with former model Sharon Summerall. The two are still happily married to this day with three kids.
Joe Walsh wasn’t a founding member of the band but has been with them continuously (aside from the hiatus) since 1975. He was a guitarist and songwriter for the Eagles but had plenty of experience before becoming a member.
In 1965, he became a member of a university band called “The Measles.” He had dropout for one term from university because he was more interested in music than studying. He’d go on to play in two other bands called James Gang and also Barnstorm
He joined the band after Bernie Leadon departed and had plenty of roles in the band with vocals, guitar, and keyboards. The “Clown Prince of Rock” worked with many different bands after the Eagles broke up and were never off stage for long.
He’s been married an incredible five times while also having a relationship with Stevie Nicks but has been happily coupled with Marjorie Bach since 2008. Tragedy struck Joe’s life in 1974 when his three-year-old daughter died in a car accident which inspired him to write “Song for Emma.”
As with Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit wasn’t a founding member but has been with the band for a very long time. One of the more understated members, he lends his vocals for some tracks but is primarily the group’s bassist.
He began playing music at the age of 15 in 1968 for a group called Tim, Tom & Ron. In 1968, Schmit originally had a rejected audition to join Poco before joining the band when Randy Meisner quit, playing with them from 1969 to 1977.
History would repeat itself in 1977. Meisner quit the Eagles, and once again, it would be Schmit who’d be his replacement. He’d become a vital member of the band and most notably co-wrote and sung on the track “The Long Run.”
After the Eagles broke in 1980, he joined many other bands, including Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band and Toto. In 2012, Schmit was successfully treated for throat and neck cancer. He’s been married twice and has three children, with his oldest, Jeddrah, becoming a recording artist.
There was no better person to follow in Glenn Frey’s footsteps than his son, Deacon. He was the middle child of Glenn’s three children with an older sister named Taylor and a younger brother named Otis. Deacon started playing the guitar when he was only seven years old.
The young artist has been beautifully playing guitar ever since. He’s perfectly filled in for his father and even sings his signature song, “Take it Easy.” It showcases his brilliant vocal talents, along with being a brilliant guitarist.
Glenn Frey was another of the founding members, along with Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. While growing up, he started studying piano at the age of 5 but later on, he switched to guitar. During high school, he joined a band, Subterraneans, before eventually forming the Eagles.
Frey achieved solo success, and he co-wrote the worldwide hit “The Heat Is On” while also acting in some high-profile films such as Jerry Maguire. He was married twice but had all of his children with Cindy Millican. The two shared a loving relationship until his sad death.
Vince Gill is the fifth and final member of the current line-up. He enjoyed a great career before joining the band as an award-winning country musician. He is well-known for such hits as “What the Cowgirls Do” and “Whenever You Come Around.”
His father, J. Stanley Gill was a lawyer and encouraged his son to play both banjo and guitar early. His first entrance into music was playing bluegrass in the band Mountain Smoke. They had a strong local following without much notoriety.
Gill has played with many bands in his time, but most of his work was as a solo artist, releasing 20 albums in total. As with other band members, he’s also had plenty of acting work in such films as Maverick (1994) and Indecent Proposal (1993).
Gill married actress Janis Oliver, and they had a child together but eventually divorced. Since 2010 he’s married to Amy Grant. He joined the Eagles in 2017 after the death of Glenn Frey, helping out on co-lead guitar and rhythm guitar and vocal. He also still tours his solo work.
In total, there have been nine permanent members of the band, along with the current five, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Don Felder, and Randy Meisner. Added to the permanent members has also been a long list of touring musicians.
Bernie Leadon left the band very early, back in 1975. Disgruntlement with the band’s direction and being tired of touring took their toll. He currently works as a session musician and a producer. He also joined the Eagles on stage in 2016 in their tribute to Glenn Frey.
Don Felder was with the Eagles for a long time, from 1974 until 2001, but relationships were often strained. This led to the break-up of the band and the lawsuit that followed. He remains active and released his third solo album in 2019.
Randy Meisner is another who left the band quite early, back in 1977. He released some solo albums and was invited back by the band to perform in 2013 but declined due to health issues. He’s struggled with mental health issues in recent years and tragically lost his wife in 2016.
There’s no doubting the impact that the band has had on the world of music. They dominated the ‘70s rock scene with incredible record sales and a long list of awards. This led to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Their sound was quite unique with hard rock guitars but still using country-style harmonies. It gave a distinct mix of styles. There is no doubt that they would have inspired a wide range of musical artists who can only hope to replicate their success.
As it stands, it appears that the band is content with touring their wide range of brilliant songs. There has long been talking of an eighth album since they released Long Road Out of Eden in 2007, but it doesn’t appear they are close to releasing new music.
Instead, the band has been more focused on publishing live work and reissues of their old classics. Whether we hear music or not, fans will still love singing the old songs from one of the best rock bands that music has ever seen.