Rocking Facts You Didn’t Know About The Eagles

Jackson Sawa | October 17, 2019 5:51 pm

Founded in Los Angeles in 1971, the original members of Eagles consisted of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. During the 1970s, they evolved to become one of the most successful bands of their time with five No.1 singles and six No.1 albums, along with numerous Grammy and American Music Awards. Having sold over 200 million records worldwide, they are one of the best-selling bands of all time. While most people know their hit songs, not everyone actually knows what was going on behind the scenes. Take a look at these lesser-known facts about the band!

They Reunited Thanks To Travis Tritt

When the band broke up in 1980, each of the members went their separate ways as their relationships had fallen apart, with each of them swearing they would never get back together. It was so messy that Fey refused to speak to anyone and Don Henley stated that they would only reunite “when hell freezes over.”

The Eagles playing at the Target Center in 1995
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

However, in 1994, the group was invited by country singer Travis Tritt to be in the music video for his cover of the group’s “Take it easy,” which resulted in the band reuniting. The next album they released was titled “Hell Freezes Over.”

Issues With The Beverly Hills Hotel

The front cover for the album Hotel California features the Beverly Hills Hotel and was taken by David Alexander. However, to get the shot, Alexander had to take the photo 60 feet above Hollywood Boulevard with the help of a cherry picker.

The Beverly Hills Hotel on the front of the album cover
Asylum
Asylum

From that position and in the fading light of the evening, the Beverly Hills Hotel looked almost unrecognizable. Yet, when the hotel caught wind that their building was on the front of the Eagles album without their permission, they threatened to take legal action.

Deacon Frey Filled His Father’s Shoes

Unfortunately, after Glenn Frey passed away in January 2016, the band wasn’t sure if they would perform again. The idea of replacing Frey just seemed wrong as he was an original founder and had fronted the group for so many years.

Deacon Frey performing at Wembley Stadium
Simone Joyner/Getty Images
Simone Joyner/Getty Images

However, Frey’s son Deacon stepped up to the plate and filled his father’s shoes, playing in front of a crowd of 55,000 in July 2017. He has continued to play with the band since. Although nobody can replace Glenn Frey, people have been impressed with his son’s skills and the similarity in their voices and demeanor.

The Band Didn’t Want To Release Greatest Hits

Initially, the band was completely against the idea of releasing their album Greatest Hits, something that was proposed to them by their record label. They didn’t like the idea of releasing something before Hotel California just to make some extra money, but the record label insisted.

Band posing for a group photo
RB/Redferns
RB/Redferns

In the end, Greatest Hits turned out to be the most successful album of their career and the highest-selling album of the 20th century in the United States. It held the position of the biggest seller of all time until it was taken over by Michael Jackson’s Thriller after his death in 2009.

They Weren’t A True California Band

Even though the Eagles were classified as a West Coast group with one of their most popular albums being titled Hotel California, they weren’t actually from California. Only one of the members, Tony B. Schmidt was from the state who was an Oakland native.

The band posing for a picture in 1974/1975
Gems/Redferns
Gems/Redferns

Out of the founders, Glen Frey was from Michigan, Don Henley was from Texas, Bernie Leadon was from Minnesota, and Randall Meisner was from Nebraska. Yet, the group managed to built and uphold their California image throughout the band’s extensive career.

“Life In The Fast Lane” Was Inspired By A 90-Mile An Hour Conversation With A Drug Dealer

The Eagles certainly lived the rock and roll lifestyle, with their experiences being the inspiration and subjects for many of their songs. This was the case for “Life in the Fast Lane,” which was inspired by a conversation between Glenn Frey and his drug dealer flying down the highway.

Glenn Frey at Comiskey park in Chicago
Paul Natkin/Getty Images
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Frey recalled in the documentary The History of the Eagles, ” was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a dealer on the way to a poker game […] The next thing I know we’re doing 90. Holding! Big Time! I say, ‘Hey, man!’ He grins and goes, ‘Life in the fast lane!’ I thought, ‘Now there’s a song title.'” The rest is history.

They Raised The Bar For Arena Ticket Sales

The band reunited in 1994 after a 14-year hiatus and it was clear that they still had a strong fan base that was willing to pay a pretty penny to see them play. As a result, during their “Hell Freezes Over” tour that same year, they became the first group to ever sell arena tickets for over $100.

The Eagles at McAlpine Stadium with crowd
Huddersfield Examiner Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Huddersfield Examiner Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Noticing that people were willing to pay that amount of money to see a band, other groups such as the Rolling Stones began to raise their prices as well.

Don Henley Brought His Own Mattress On The Hotel California Tour

When on the road, especially with intense touring schedules, it’s not unusual for performers to go to great lengths to make themselves as comfortable as possible. According to Joe Berry, the band’s head electrician, Don Henley “Insisted on having a king-size bed and mattress available at all times, which the crew had to drag around everywhere.”

Don Henley on the drums
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The tour seamstresses even designed a cover for it so it could be packed and unloaded with ease. Henley explained, “Hotel mattresses are awful […] So I brought my own mattresses and had it trucked around with the equipment.” Unfortunately, the mattress was never used.

Glenn Frey Obeyed His Mother, Kind Of

Back when he was a young man, Glenn Frey, who was originally supposed to be the band’s bass player but became the vocalist and guitarist, was caught by his mother smoking marijuana with his friend.

Glenn Frey with acoustic guitar
Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images
Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images

Upon being discovered, she then forbade him from ever joining a rock band, for fear that it would only perpetuate that kind of behavior. Well, Frey obeyed his mother and two years later became a founding member of the Eagles. Technically, he never joined a rock band.

They Had A Failed Lawsuit

In 2001, the band sued the American Eagle Foundation for using the domain name, eagles.org, as well as the phone number (800)2-EAGLES. They also sued the organization’s American Eagle Records compact disk and video distribution label claiming that it caused confusion for the public.

The Eagles playing an outdoor concert
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

However, the organization fought back claiming that the eagle has been a symbol of the nation for hundreds of years and that tens of thousands of companies have the word “eagles” in their name. In the end, the lawsuit was dropped after the band failed to appear in court multiple times.

Linda Ronstadt Indirectly Helped Form The Band

Back in 1971, Linda Ronstadt and her then-manager John Boylan recruited Glenn Frey and Don Henley to play in her band. The two had met in 1970 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and became friends through their mutual record label, Amos Records. While on tour, Frey and Henley made the decision to form their own band and approached Ronstadt about their decision.

Frey and Ronstadt performing
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

She agreed and even suggested that they recruit Bernie Leadon into their new group. She even arranged for Leadon to play for her so Frey and Henley could approach him about their idea, acquiring Randy Meisner in the process.

Randy Meisner Abruptly Left The Band

Randy Meisner, a founding member of Eagles and usual bassist and backup vocalist of the band had a hard time towards the end of his career with Eagles. He recalls that he felt he had been isolated from the band and “That was the end… I really felt like I was a member of the group, not a part of it.”

Randy Meisner during an interview in London
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

On top of that, after 11 months of nonstop touring for Hotel California, he suddenly left after the 1977 tour. He had been suffering from severe stomach ulcers from the stress and the band had become hostile.

Joe Walsh Gave The Band A New Sound

One of These Nights was the last album that featured founding member Bernie Leadon. At that point, he had become uninterested in the direction that the group’s music was heading and was frequently butting heads with Frey. On December 20, 1975, it was announced that Leadon had left the group.

Joe Walsh playing a double neck guitar
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

He was then replaced by guitarist Joe Walsh who had a background in hard rock playing in The James Gang who had released four albums, with two of them going gold. He helped add an edgier sound to the Eagles, helping write famous tracks such as “Hotel California” and “The Long Run.”

Frey Had An Acting Career

On top of his time with Eagles and as a solo artist, Frey also dabbled in acting. He was a guest star on the show Miami Vice in the first-season episode “Smuggler’s Blues,” as well as a starring role in the Wiseguy series episodes “Dead Dog Arc.”

Frey in Jerry McGuire
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

In addition, he was the star of the show South of Sunset, although it was canceled after just one episode. His first appearance in a film was starring in Let’s Get Harry and he even had a small role in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry McGuire.

The Original Title For “Hotel California” Was “Mexican Reggae”

Although “Hotel California” has become associated with the darker side of Los Angeles, the creation of the song took place at a beach house in Malibu that Don Felder had rented. He recalled, “I remember sitting in the living room on a spectacular July day with the doors wide open […] . I had this acoustic 12-string and started tinkling around with it, and those ‘Hotel California’ chords just kind of oozed out.”

Don Felder playing the keyboard
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

He wasn’t sure if it would fit with the band’s sound because he thought it sounded kind of reggae, especially after adding some Latin-style percussion. Therefore, “Mexican Reggae” was the song’s working title until the lyrics were finished.

Inspiration For The Name

Performing in 1971, the group still didn’t have an official name and played under Teen King and the Emergencies for the first time in Aspen. Supposedly, the name the “Eagles” was conceived during a peyote and tequila filled group out in the Mojave Desert.

Group sitting in chairs
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Another account suggests that the group came up with the name when Glenn Fry shouted, “Eagles!” when he saw them flying above. In actor/musicians Steve Martin’s autobiography, he recalls suggesting that they call the band “the Eagles,” but Glenn Frey was adamant that the group was just “Eagles.”

Don Felder Sued The Band

Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder were the three official owners of the group, which at the time existed as a corporate entity known as Eagles, Ltd.

Don Felder playing at the ASCAP Foundation
Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

However, Felder claimed that the three other members specifically left him out of the decision-making process for “asking too many questions,” and was fired in 2001. This resulted in Felder suing Henley and Frey although they settled out of court for an amount that is still not disclosed.

Glenn Frey’s Health Complications

By 2000, Frey was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, affecting various joints in his body. To control the disease, he was prescribed medication which resulted in colitis and pneumonia. In 2015, Eagles announced that they were postponing an appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors while Frey had surgery for intestinal problems.

Frye playing during the After Hours Tour
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

However, he never had the surgery due to complications from pneumonia and was placed in a medically-induced coma. He died on January 18, 2016, at the age of 67 from complications from arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. In January 2018, his wife filed a suit against the hospital as his gastroenterologist for Frey’s wrongful death.

A Producer Wanted To Turn “Hotel California” Into A Movie

Renowned producer, Julia Phillips, was the first female producer to win an Academy Award for the Paul Newman and Robert Redford film The Sting. She also produced Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and by the end of the 70s, she was interested to see what she could do with “Hotel California.”

Band playing onstage in 1975
RB/Redferns
RB/Redferns

However, it became difficult to work with the band as she describes in her book, You’ll Never Eat Lunch Here Again, and the deal fell through. The band wasn’t bummed, however, as they didn’t trust the film business in the first place.

There’s A New Hotel California Tour In The Works

In October 2019, the Eagles announced their plans to set off on a nationwide tour in 2020 in which they will play the entire track list of Hotel California from start to finish. The tour will begin in Atlanta in February 2020 and will be traveling to cities such as New York, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Band playing live in London, England
Harry Herd/Redferns
Harry Herd/Redferns

The group will consist of Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmidt, and the late Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon. Joining them is country musician Vince Gill as well as a live orchestra and choir.