Formed in Los Angeles in 1971, this highly successful unit was formed by musicians drawn from singer Linda Ronstadt 's backing group. Of the quartet, Bernie Leadon (born July 19, 1947, Minneapolis, Minn; guitar, vocals) boasted the most prodigious
pedigree, having embraced traditional country music with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, before gaining significant rock experience as a member of Hearts and Flowers, Dillard and Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Randy Meisner (born March 8, 1947, Scottsbluff, Neb.; bass, vocals) was formerly of Poco and Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band; Glenn Frey (born Nov. 6, 1948, Detroit, Mich.; guitar, vocals) had recorded as half of Longbranch Pennywhistle. Don Henley (born July 22, 1947, Gilmer, Texas; drums, vocals) had led Texas-based Shiloh, a band that included future Warner Bros. Nashville president Jim Ed Norman on keyboards and Richard Bowden (later of the musical comedy duo Pinkard & Bowden) on guitar. Such pedigrees ensured interest in the new venture, which was immediately signed to David Geffen's nascent Asylum Records label.
The Eagles, recorded in London with producer Glyn Johns, contained "Take It Easy," co-written by Frey and Jackson Browne, and "Witchy Woman." Both reached the Top 20 and established the quartet's meticulous harmonies and relaxed, but purposeful, country-rock sound. Critical reaction to Desperado, an ambitious concept album based on a Western theme, firmly established the band as leaders in their field and contained several of their most enduring compositions, including the pleadingly emotional title track. The follow-up, On the Border, reasserted the unit's commerciality. "Best of My Love" became their first No. 1 single while new member Don Felder (born Sept. 21, 1947, Topanga, Calif.; guitar, vocals), drafted from David Blue's backing group in March 1974, considerably bolstered the Eagles' sound. The reshaped quintet attained superstar status with the album One of These Nights, and the title track also topped the charts. This platinum-selling album included "Lyin' Eyes" and the anthemic "Take It to the Limit." The album also established the Eagles as an international act; each of these tracks had reached the UK Top 30, but the newfound pressure proved too great for Leadon who left the lineup in December 1975. He subsequently pursued a low-key career with the Leadon-Georgiades band.
Leadon's replacement was Joe Walsh (born Nov. 20, 1947, Wichita, Kan.), former lead guitarist with the James Gang and a successful solo artist in his own right. His somewhat surprising induction was tempered by the knowledge that he shared the same manager as his new colleagues. The choice was ratified by the powerful Hotel California which topped the album charts for eight weeks and spawned two No.1 singles in the title track and "New Kid in Town." A seasonal recording, "Please Come Home for Christmas," was the quintet's sole recorded offering for 1978 and internal ructions the following year resulted in Meisner's departure. His replacement, Timothy B. Schmit (born Oct. 30, 1947, Sacramento, Calif.), was another former member of Poco, but by this point, the Eagles' impetus was waning. The Long Run was generally regarded as disappointing, despite containing a fifth No. 1 in "Heartache Tonight," and a temporary hiatus taken at the end of the decade became a fully fledged break in 1982 when long-standing disagreements could not be resolved. Henley, Frey and Felder began solo careers with contrasting results, while Walsh resumed the path he had followed prior to joining the band.
The final lineup of the band eventually re-formed in the mid-'90s, after months of speculation. The resulting album, Hell Freezes Over, proved they were still one of the world's most popular acts, even though it was a hastily assembled live collection. Their 1994-1995 tour of the U.S. was (apart from the Rolling Stones parallel tour) the largest-grossing on record. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is the biggest-selling album of all time, with 28 million units sold in the U.S. alone.
The Eagles' influence on mainstream country music was magnified when country musicians paid tribute to the band with the 1993 album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles. Travis Tritt convinced the members from the 1980 lineup to join him in the video for "Take it Easy." Others appearing on the tribute album include Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Clint Black and Trisha Yearwood.
The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. A 4-CD box set, Selected Works 1972-1999, was issued in 2000. Felder left the band in February 2001 and filed suit against his former cohorts for wrongful termination. Felder's replacement on the road was Steuart Smith, a guitarist who had worked extensively with Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell. A 2-disc retrospective, The Very Best of the Eagles, was released in 2003.