For longtime fan Vince Gill, having the opportunity to be one of the Eagles band members was nothing more than a fantasy. But after joining the group for a performance at their Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in 2016 and then being asked out on the road to do tour dates, the country star’s dreams came true.
“In my mind, I always thought I’d have made a good Eagle,” Gill joked to the Los Angeles Times. “But in a million years, I never would have seen this coming. It’s pretty surreal.… To get to be a part of this amazing legacy of songs, that’s the greatest part of all this for me.” The icing on the cake: Don Henley insisted to Rolling Stone that “it was a no-brainer for us to get Vince.… He fit like a glove.”
Sadly, the opportunity came at a cost, however, as the original Eagles band members had lost one of their founders, Glenn Frey, in early 2016. At the time, Gill says, Henley felt the band’s days were over. “With time,” Gill told Rolling Stone, “maybe they understood the impact of the legacy of these songs and thought, ‘It would be good for people to continue to hear [them].” But the only reason I’m getting this chance is because of the sadness that happened to Glenn. It is pretty bittersweet.”
Still, Eagles fans are grateful to have the band play on, and Frey’s son, Deacon, has also stepped in at times to fill the void left by his father. As the late great Jimmy Buffett noted when he inducted the Eagles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, “I was converted instantly into an Eagles fan when I heard ‘Take It Easy’ on the radio. I not only knew the words to the choruses, but I knew the words to the verses as well because it was my summer anthem. With their writing ability, they had put their thumb on the pulse of popular music, where it has remained.… If you were an Eagles fan in the beginning, in all likelihood you still are one.”
With such iconic hits as “Desperado,” “Hotel California,” “The Best of My Love,” “One of These Nights,” and “Take It to the Limit,” just to name a few, it’s not surprising that the Eagles band members scored the first Platinum Album ever certified by the Recording Industry Association of America, for 1976’s Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975.
The Eagles band members provided “the soundtrack to my youth,” Jamie Lee Curtis once noted, and the band scored a host of other famous fans through the years, including Bruce Springsteen, Steve Martin, Trisha Yearwood, Bette Midler, Questlove, Carole King, and more.
Below, we catch up with the Eagles band members, then and now, as they continue on their international Long Goodbye tour.
The Eagles drummer and frequent singer, now 76, started playing in various bands during his teen years in Texas, eventually heading out west to California in 1970. After meeting Glenn Frey in LA, the pair wound up forming part of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band for her 1971 tour. They clicked so well that, together with Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, they formed their own group, the Eagles, that same year.
When the band split in 1980, Henley went on to a successful solo career, scoring a hit with his then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks on “Leather and Lace.” His single “Dirty Laundry,” off his solo album I Can’t Stand Still, cleaned up on the charts, and his follow-up singles included “The Boys of Summer” (a video staple on MTV during its heyday) and “The End of the Innocence,” both of which earned him Grammys for Rock Male Vocalist honors, as well as “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” “The Heart of the Matter,” and “The Last Worthless Evening.” He’s also partnered a couple times with Trisha Yearwood on the country queen’s “Walkaway Joe” and “Inside Out.”
In 1990, he founded The Walden Woods Project, which, according to its website, “uses the land it has protected in Walden Woods to foster an ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.” He and wife Sharon Summerall, whom he wed in 1995, share three children, including son Will, who sometimes plays guitar with the Eagles. “It isn’t so much about us as it is the songs. That’s what people come to hear,” Henley has said of hitting the road at this stage of his and the other Eagles band members’ careers.
The Detroit-born musician and songwriter teamed up with Don Henley to form the Eagles in the early 70s, after the duo helped back up Linda Ronstadt on tour. Together, he and his bandmates rode a wave of success with their popular southern California style of country rock. “We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry,” Henley once wrote of his friend and collaborator, “and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians…we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. But, Glenn was the one who started it all.”
A huge fan of the Beatles, Frey also played briefly in Bob Seger’s band before he headed to LA, where he met Henley. When the band quit playing together in the 80s, Frey launched his own successful solo career, ultimately releasing five solo albums that produced hits such as “The Heat Is On” (featured in 1984’s box-office smash Beverly Hills Cop), “You Belong to the City,” and “Smuggler’s Blues.” The rock star even pivoted to acting, landing roles on TV’s Miami Vice, Wiseguy, South of Sunset, Nash Bridges, and Arli$$, as well as in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire.
Sadly, Frey passed away in 2016 at the age of 67 after battling rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. He left behind his wife, Cindy, and three children. “Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide,” his family and bandmates said in a statement.
Randy Meisner: Eagles Band Members
The Nebraska-born bassist had played in both the group Poco and Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band before teaming up with his future Eagles band members when they backed Linda Ronstadt in 1971. He was best known for his high harmonies and for co-writing and singing lead on the group’s 1975 hit “Take It to the Limit.” He left the band shortly after their Hotel California album, telling People, “I was just tired of the touring. It’s a crazy life that you live at twice the normal speed. When it got to the point of sanity or money…I thought I’d rather have sanity.”
He still had a lot of respect for what they accomplished together. “Our live show was perfect. It was just like the record. And [Don] Henley was a real stickler about that. In the beginning, Henley and I were real perfectionists,” he told Harvey Kubernik for his book Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon.
Meisner did reunite with his former bandmates for their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998, and he also enjoyed some success as a solo artist. His singles “Hearts On Fire” and “Deep Inside My Heart,” a duet with Kim Carnes, were both minor hits, and he also collaborated with artists such as James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.
In July 2023, Meisner lost his ongoing battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, passing away at age 77. “Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band. His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, ‘Take It to the Limit,’” the band said in a released statement. Meisner left behind three kids he had with his first wife, Jennifer Lee Barton; his second wife, Lana Rae, died from an accidental gunshot in 2016.
Prior to co-founding the Eagles, Bernie Leadon, whom Don Henley has called “one of the greatest country guitar players,” spent time in a number of other bands, including Hearts and Flowers, Dillon & Clark, and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Though born in Minneapolis, Leadon’s roots were firmly planted in bluegrass, and he was a skilled player of the mandolin, banjo, steel guitar, guitar, and dobro. His country influence on the band’s early records was clear, and it was their shift away from it in the mid 70s that led the guitarist to part ways with his bandmates, ultimately being replaced by Joe Walsh.
“For Bernie, any kind of success was the equivalent of selling out,” Don Henley recalled in 2013’s History of the Eagles documentary about Leadon’s reported unhappiness with the band’s shift toward rock, prompting him in part to pour a beer over Glenn Frey’s head during an argument shortly before he left the band.
Leadon, now 76, went on to quietly pursue his own music, releasing a 1985 bluegrass and gospel album with Al Perkins and Chris Hillman under the name Ever Call Ready. In addition to other solo pursuits and playing for artists such as Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Alabama, and Hank Williams, Jr., he reunited with the Eagles for their 1998 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as well as for their 2013-2015 History of the Eagles tour. He also paid tribute to the late Glenn Frey at the 2016 Grammys, alongside the surviving Eagles lineup and Jackson Browne.
Don Felder: Eagles Band Members
Don “Fingers” Felder joined the Eagles shortly after he played on a few tracks for them in 1974. The lead guitarist helped nudge them away from country and more toward rock, taking over on mandolin, steel guitar, and banjo when Bernie Leadon left the group.
Though growing tensions in the group caused them to split in 1980, Felder remains a fan of the work he and his fellow Eagles band members produced. “I’m honored and blessed enough to have contributed to and been a part of a very talented mixture of voices, writing, guitar parts, and production,” he’s said. “It was a magical, unique combination that happened in a certain place and time. I’m very proud of that. Every time I hear the work we did on the radio, I go, ‘Oh! We were really good!’”
In addition to being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Eagles in 1998, Felder, a self-taught guitarist from Florida, was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2016. Since his second acrimonious split with the Eagles in 2001, he’s released a string of solo projects, including the song “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride),” which was part of a 1981 animated film of the same name.
He’s chronicled his career’s bumpy history with the band (including some early 2000s lawsuits that were settled out of court) in his 2008 book Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001). He’s toured with his own Don Felder Band since 2005, and in 2019 he released American Rock ’N’ Roll, his third solo effort, which features guest artists such as Slash, Peter Frampton, Mick Fleetwood, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir and others.
Despite his rocky past with some of his former Eagles band members, Felder says he felt “unbelievable sorrow” upon hearing about Frey’s 2016 death, adding to the Associated Press that “I had always hoped somewhere along the line, he and I would have dinner together, talking about old times and letting it go with a handshake and a hug.”
Born to a musical mother, Joe Walsh moved with his family from Kansas to Chicago, Ohio, New York, and New Jersey during his youth. By 1968, he was playing with the James Gang band in Cleveland, and in 1972, he was part of a Colorado-based group named Barnstorm (“Rocky Mountain Way”).
His later solo efforts led him to meet Don Henley and Glenn Frey in LA in the early 70s, which resulted in him joining the Eagles in 1975, just in time for him to play guitar on 1976’s “Hotel California.” He stayed with the band until their 1980 split while also working on various solo side projects (such as 1978’s “Life’s Been Good” off the album But Seriously Folks…) during that time.
Walsh has talked about suffering from stage fright as well as drug and alcohol dependencies throughout the years. The proposition of a reunion with Don Henley and Glenn Frey — 1994’s Hell Freezes Over — actually helped him get clean. “Right then is when I was hitting bottom, and I didn’t know how to stop. I was a mess,” he told People. “I said, ‘Well, I can get sober for that.’ That’s a darn good reason. And so it was a godsend. I was so relieved, because I thought I was going to drown in a bathtub in some hotel alone somewhere like all my buddies had.”
The musician, now 76, is married to Marjorie Bach, which in a fun musical twist makes him in-laws with Ringo Starr, who’s wed to Marjorie’s sister, Barbara. Walsh has continued to work on his own music through the years, and his last full studio album was 2012’s Analog Man.
Currently, he’s back on the road with the Eagles for their Long Goodbye tour. “When the Eagles play, people come and sit next to each other and everybody gets along. And for two-and-a-half hours, we play, and they know the words better than us.… There’s so much love coming at us from the audience that we play our ass off and everybody goes home happier,” he noted to People, adding, “I just close my eyes and Glenn’s there” during their shows these days.
Timothy B. Schmit: Eagles Band Members
This talented bassist from California has the unique distinction of having replaced Randy Meisner in not one, but two bands: Poco and, of course, the Eagles. Born in Oakland and raised in Sacramento, he’s also the only member of the band — known for their California country sound — who was actually raised in the Golden State.
Having joined the band in 1977 (and providing lead vocals on 1979’s “I Can’t Tell You Why,” which he co-wrote), Schmit was there to witness a lot of the group’s rougher patches leading up to their 1980 split. “I was the guy just trying to make things OK. I did what I can to keep the peace,” he shared with WBUR public radio, adding, “I think probably the friction was part of the creativity. I’m sure it was.”
He’s released seven solo efforts since, starting in 1984 and most recently in 2022, with Day By Day. Along the way, he’s successfully battled some health issues. “I had a bout with throat cancer.… It chipped away at my voice a bit. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to talk, let alone sing,” he’s noted, though he’s happy to report he’s successfully adjusted to the changes his treatments had on his voice.
Having toured with Toto, Jimmy Buffett, and Ringo Starr throughout the years, Schmit is now back with the Eagles, playing on their Long Goodbye tour. “There’s so much excitement and so much emotion. I see people dancing, I see people go into another world. I see people crying. It’s pretty amazing. And I am really thankful I still get to be a part of that,” he told Americana Highways of the thrill he still gets from their shows.
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