One of the most commercially successful rock bands of the 20th century is the Eagles. What’s astonishing is that the legacy of the band’s first decade continues to keep the band a regular success.
Aside from their list of hits, one of the things the band is known for is having a large number of members. Read on to discover more about who has played in this legendary rock band and what they're up to today.
Eagles Lineup Chronology
For those who are unaware, the Eagles probably would not have existed if it wasn’t for Linda Ronstadt. In 1971, she was pulling together a band to tour and promote her album, Silk Purse.
The members of this touring band would include Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who eventually decided they were going to form their own band. Alongside them came Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, both of whom were also holding down “hired gun” positions.
As a band, they performed their first concert in 1971 and went on to release their debut album a year later. This album is characterized by its blending of country rock and folk rock, packaged in a way that seemed to appeal to larger swaths of different audiences.
The self-titled debut gave the band a few different radio hits, all of which are still enjoying frequent airplay today. These hits include songs like Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and Take It Easy.
Take It Easy is especially famous for being co-written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne. Browne would become a frequent collaborator with the Eagles throughout their career.
The Eagles set themselves apart from the pack by the fact that every member provided vocals on the record. In fact, the members even took turns providing lead vocals, further diversifying and expanding its depth of songwriting possibilities.
Glenn Frey held down guitar and keyboard duties while Bernie Leadon played more lead guitar along with dobro, banjo, and mandolin. Meisner provided his role as a bass player, with Henley playing drums and percussion.
It was this potently magical foundation that carried the band into their 2nd album, Desperado, released in 1973. This album continued with the sounds heard on the first album but is notable for the fact that it’s the first album where Frey and Henley’s songwriting partnership comes out in full force.
Desperado wasn’t a massive hit right out of the gate, though its singles, Tequila Sunrise, and Outlaw Man did manage to chart. The album’s title track would eventually become one of the band’s most iconic songs in their catalog.
The Lineup Expands
By 1974, the Eagles had shifted their sound to more of a rock approach and added a new member to its lineup along the way. These decisions, evidenced on their 3rd album, On The Border, are partly what made the album their biggest success up to that point.
That’s not to say that On The Border doesn’t have its soft moments, however. Its hit songs, Already Gone, and Best Of My Love are definitely approved for soft rock playlists.
However, it’s the addition of Don Felder playing lead guitar on Already Gone that hints at the sounds to come. He would also provide slide guitar on Good Day In Hell, with the legendary pedal steel player Al Perkins making a contribution on Ol’ 55.
The band would continue their upward trajectory by releasing the album One Of These Nights in 1975. While it isn't normally considered their greatest album, it was nominated for a Grammy Award that year.
A large part of this was due to the fact that the record sold quite well. This was fueled by the singles Lyin’ Eyes, and the album’s self-titled song, One Of These Nights.
By the end of 1975, the Eagles had made the announcement that Bernie Leadon had departed from the band. Up until then, he had been growing more dissatisfied with different aspects of the group and its sound.
The Height Of Commercial Success Followed By The End Of An Era
At this point, the Eagles had released 4 different albums, all of which had at least 2 different hit singles. With the band in a transitionary period, they released a compilation of these hits titled, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
This compilation would go on to sell like literal hotcakes and would set a record for its time as the most commercially successful album of the 20th century. In the meantime, the band had added guitar phenom, Joe Walsh, to its lineup and was working on a new album.
By the end of 1976, the Eagles released the album Hotel California, which would eventually become the band’s crowning achievement. This album is notably more raw in some respect, which is no doubt Walsh’s edgy influence.
As is par for the course, the album spawned multiple hit singles including Life In The Fast Lane, and New Kid In Town. However, it's the album’s self-titled track, Hotel California, that really is the masterpiece to behold.
This specific song is the stuff of rock music legend and remains one of the most popular rock songs of all time. It’s the song’s layered guitar approach combined with unforgettable lyrics and melodic solo phrasing that make this song so powerful.
While Hotel California would be Joe Walsh’s first album with the band, it would be Randy Meisner’s last. However, the band as a whole had started to grow apart around this time.
Timothy B. Schmit would end up replacing Meisner on the bass, helping the band to release The Long Run in 1979. Though it may have paled in comparison to Hotel California, this album was pretty successful in its own right.
This album would spawn the hit singles Heartache Tonight, The Long Run, I Can’t Tell You Why, and In The City. Unfortunately, the next year, Eagles would call it quits, making The Long Run the last album for the foreseeable future.
Eagles For A Modern Era
In 1994, the Eagles ended their 14-year hiatus by releasing their live album, Hell Freezes Over, and playing some shows. At this time, the lineup was the same as it was during The Long Run, with a few hired musicians helping out, which included:
- Timothy Drury (guitar, keys, vocals)
- Al Garth (violin, saxophone)
- John Corey (guitar, keys, vocals)
- Scott Crago (drums
The following year, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Both Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner joined the band for the performance of its induction ceremony songs.
Throughout the late 1990s, the band was one of the best-selling musical acts based on ticket sales. Unfortunately, this would hit a bit of a bump when Don Felder got fired and sued the band, which was eventually settled out of court.
What’s interesting is that the band was making the majority of its money touring and on the sales of its past records. A few live albums had been released during this time, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the Eagles would release a new studio album.
This album is entitled, Long Road Out Of Eden, and is the last studio album the band would ever release. Surprisingly enough, the album would debut at the top of the Billboard chart and sold more copies than every other album released that year.
Long Road Out Of Eden essentially has The Long Road lineup, without Don Felder. Much of the band’s crew of hired touring musicians make an appearance on the album.
Long Road Out Of Eden would be the last official release until 2020, when the Eagles released the live album, Live From The Forum MMXVIII.
Are Eagles Still Touring Today?
The Eagles have continued to tour in various lineup formations throughout the 21st century. In fact, as of this writing in the fall of 2023, the band is currently finishing the final leg of its planned last tour ever.
After the tour ends in the middle of November, it appears that the band might be done for good. Aside from the likely occasional live release, it’s been stated that a new studio album likely isn't a possibility.
Overview Of Eagles Band Members
Now that you have a better understanding of the chronology of the band, let’s take a closer look at its members. We’ll start with the original members and work to the present day, providing short bios along the way.
Don Henley is known for his vocals on Hotel California among many of the band’s other hits. Along with being one of the band’s most prominent songwriters, he played the drums and, at times, rhythm guitar.
During the band’s hiatus, Henley went on to have a moderately successful solo career. He enjoyed a hit single with Stevie Nicks with the song, Leather and Lace in the early 1980s.
Throughout the majority of the 1980s, Henley kept busy releasing 3 solo albums and contributing to film soundtracks. However, by the early 1990s, Henley would find himself embroiled in a long legal battle with Geffen Records, which in turn prompted him to become an advocate for musicians’ rights.
Of all the original Eagles members, Don Henley is the only one currently playing in the band during its final tour.
Bernie Leadon was the band’s original lead guitarist and helped to bring out its country rock influence. Before playing in the Eagles, Bernie spent his teenage years playing bluegrass in San Diego, California.
This would eventually lead Bernie to join The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969 and is featured on 2 of the band’s albums. During that time, he played for Linda Ronstadt’s band, where he met the other 3 founding members of the Eagles.
Leadon’s sound provides that touch of soft country on songs like Take It Easy and Peaceful Easy Feeling. But he could also dial up the grit for a full-on rock track like Witchy Woman, too.
Bernie appears on the first 4 Eagles albums, making his departure in 1975 to be replaced by Joe Walsh. Since then, Leadon has continued to enjoy a very fruitful career as a session musician, contributing to albums by artists such as:
- Hank Williams, Jr.
- Emmylou Harris
- Stephen Stills
- David Crosby
- Travis Tritt
From 2013 to 2015, Bernie would join the band once again for touring purposes. A year later, he would join the touring members at the Grammy Awards for a one-off performance of Take It Easy.
Randy Meisner is known for being the original bass player in the Eagles. Before playing in the group, Meisner made his come up during the formative stages of the band, Poco, and its first album.
From there, Meisner served time in several groups before being linked up to play in Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. The rest is, as they say, history, as Meisner would play bass in the Eagles up until late 1977.
Throughout the 1980s, Meisner had a very active solo career and released a number of albums. He would even reunite with Poco at the end of the decade, among many other accomplishments.
Throughout the 2000s and beyond, Meisner would occasionally join the Eagles on stage for a one-off performance. He passed at the age of 77 in July, 2023.
Glenn Frey was one of the key members of the Eagles, primarily because, alongside Don Henley, Frey contributed most of the songs. As a team, Frey and Henley wrote some of the band’s greatest works.
Before The Eagles, Frey’s music career started by working alongside fellow Detroiter, Bob Segar. In fact, you can even hear a young Glenn Frey on Segar’s recording of Ramblin' Gamblin’ Man.
Again, thanks to Linda Ronstadt, Frey and Henley discovered a chemistry that changed their lives forever. Glenn would be a mainstay member of the Eagles until his death in 2016 at the age of 67.
Outside of the Eagles, Frey managed to have a very successful career as a solo artist. He even made a foray into acting, playing a small role in Jerry Maguire along with other films and TV shows into the early 2000s.
Current Eagles Band Members
As mentioned previously, Don Henley is the only remaining original member still playing in the Eagles. The following musicians are currently playing alongside Henley throughout the band’s final tour in 2023.
The band does employ a large number of musicians for its live shows. For the sake of this article, we will focus primarily on those who hold significant roles in the band’s sound.
Joe Walsh joined the Eagles in 1975 after the departure of Bernie Leadon. Before joining the Eagles, Walsh had already made a name for himself as one of rock music’s most iconic guitarists.
Some music historians credit Joe Walsh’s playing in the James Gang to be a main root of modern rock music. When he joined the Eagles, his raw edge seemed to be a surprisingly good fit.
Joe Walsh has been characterized as being the cliche rock guitarist through and through, enjoying a fast lifestyle while displaying full command over the guitar. While his life may have slowed with age, Walsh continues to take the stage and let his raw energy do the talking.
The late 1970s seem to have been one of Walsh’s golden periods, achieving pinnacle success in the Eagles as well as a solo artist. His 1978 song, Life’s Been Good continues to be a radio mainstay to this day.
Walsh’s guitar playing contributes to a definitive period in the band’s sound, allowing for extensive guitar layers and energetic delivery. His style is considered a hallmark of inspiration in the evolution of rock music.
Timothy B. Schmit
If you’ll recall, Randy Meisner left the Eagles after the release of Hotel California. It was Timothy B. Schmit who stepped in to fulfill the role of the band’s bass player.
Interestingly enough, Schmit and Meisner had already had somewhat of a history long before the changing of the guard in 1977. Back when Meisner auditioned for Poco, Schmit was also waiting to do his own audition.
Likewise, when Meisner left Poco after the release of their first album, Schmit stepped in, eventually playing on 9 different studio albums. It seems strange that Schmit has made a career playing in the footsteps of Meisner, but that’s just the way it works out sometimes.
Unfortunately, by the time Schmit had joined the band, things were rather short-lived thereafter. They released The Long Run and hung up the phone a year later, prompting Schmit’s solo career and work as a touring musician throughout the 1980s.
Since the Eagles ended their hiatus in the mid-1990s, it’s been Schmit who has played the bass. He is currently on the band’s final tour.
Vince Gill has been a touring member of the Eagles since 2017 following the death of Glenn Frey. Out of anyone the band could have picked, they made a fine choice as Gill is a proven country guitar phenom with a stellar voice.
Vince made a name for himself in the late 1970s with his playing on the Pure Prairie League album, Can’t Hold Back. From there, Gill ventured from country rock to bluegrass and everything in between, spending time on the Grand Ole Opry and having a successful solo career spanning multiple decades.
Throughout the 1990s, Vince Gill’s career was on fire, winning consecutive years’ worth of awards for Best Male Vocalist and Entertainer Of The Year. This is a trend that has only continued through the early 2000s and beyond.
With his current role in the Eagles, Gill is primarily doing the things that Glenn Frey would have traditionally played. This includes rhythm guitar, singing, and some lead guitar, too.
If the spirit of Glenn Frey is to live on, it might be evident in the fact that his son, Deacon Frey, is playing in the band. Following Glenn’s death, Deacon joined to help fill his father’s shoes alongside Vince Gill.
Not much is widely known about Deacon outside the fact that he’s only 30 years old in 2023 and has his own solo project. He is currently playing with the Eagles on the final farewell tour in 2023.
Up until now, we’ve covered the history of the Eagles and provided information on the band’s original and current members. There have been many musicians who have played with the Eagles throughout the years, with touring members joining the band for the first time in 1978.
Touring members continued to be a mainstay facet of Eagles lineups after the hiatus ended in the 1990s. To keep in line with the rest of the article, we will primarily focus on those who held significant roles in the band.
Don Felder is a guitarist who joined the Eagles lineup in 1974 after playing on some songs for their 3rd album. He would then expand his role, which became integral after Joe Walsh later joined the group.
Felder and Walsh seemed to have this dynamic energy between themselves with regard to how they layered their guitar parts. Their work on Hotel California is just one extremely obvious example where the dynamism is especially potent.
From 1974, Felder appeared on every Eagles release up through 1994 and continued to play with the band until 2001. Early that year, Felder was fired, prompting him to take legal action against the band.
Felder cited wrongful termination and made claims about royalty payment disagreements and things he found suspicious. Ultimately, he was countered with his own lawsuits to contend with, and the whole matter eventually settled outside of the court.
Since then, Felder seems to be in a state of perpetual legal battle with the band. He has published an autobiography that recounts his life in the band and tells his side of the story regarding the lawsuits.
I’ve Never Listened To Eagles Before, Where Should I Start?
Even if you think you’ve never heard the Eagles before, you have probably heard them at some point in your life. This band continues to dominate the radio airwaves and it’s not uncommon to hear them on a classic rock channel.
With that being said, there is a good chance that you might be curious about discovering the other music in the band’s catalog. Where does one begin with such an endeavor?
For many people, a popular place to start is with the compilation album, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Has all of the band’s biggest hits before they unleashed Hotel California on the world.
Depending on whether Hotel California is the equivalent of Stairway To Heaven to you, picking up this album might be a logical next move. You’ll have the majority of the band’s biggest hits without having to take the time to listen to every song.
Of course, if you’re like me, it’s worth your time to start back at 1972’s self-titled debut and work your way through the albums chronologically. You’ll get to experience the evolution of the band’s sound over the years and discover some hidden songs you won’t hear on the radio.
What you shouldn’t do is dismiss the band entirely just because a character in a movie said that the band isn’t good. At the very least, take the time to listen and form your own conclusive judgments.
Eagles Band Members, Final Thoughts
For many, the Eagles are the definitive personification of commercial rock music. Part of this is because they were one of the most commercially successful rock bands of all time.
They seemingly found a formula that allowed them to release massive hits with each album released throughout the band’s career. The fact that the band has been one of the largest-grossing touring acts of the 21st century proves that their music will live on for generations.