Borrowing a phrase from the song and album that are for many, the quintessential Eagles experience, there's been plenty of room at the Hotel California for the Southern California country rock that the band made famous in the 70s. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album is RIAA-certified as one of the top selling albums of all time (25 million units in the U.S. alone), and in 2001, with total combined album sales reaching 83.5 million, they are the third biggest selling band of all time, behind the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
The irony of the Eagles being so identified with Southern California is that none of the band's four original members is a native.
The band is formed in 1971 by Texan Don Henley and Detroit's Glenn Frey during a short stint backing Linda Ronstadt on tour, both founder members having met up in 1970 at Los Angeles' Troubadour club. The quartet is later rounded out by Nebraskan Randy Meisner on bass and Minnesotan Bernie Leadon on guitar.
All four players had achieved moderate success playing with other bands; Leadon with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Meisner with Poco, Frey with Seger and Bo Diddley, and Henley and his band Shiloh being brought to LA by Kenny Rogers. Frey and Henley, both signed to Amos Records (Frey in duo Longbranch Pennywhistle with Texan J.D. Souther), and in a downward spiral careerwise, find themselves elbow to elbow at the Troubadour bar, shortly after which they are hired by Ms. Ronstadt as sidemen for a short tour. Enter Linda's producer, John Boylan, and soon thereafter Leadon and Meisner hire on.
With the assistance of Frey neighbor, songwriter Jackson Browne, the fledgling band are signed by manager David Geffen and sent to Aspen, Colorado to tighten up the act. Geffen takes over the helm of Asylum Records in 1972 and relinquishes management to Geffen-Roberts Management accountant, Irving Azoff. Now called Eagles, the group's self-titled debut album produces two Top 10 hits, "Take It Easy" (penned by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey) and "Witchy Woman." Their second album, the highly acclaimed Desperado, is a concept album about the Doolin-Dalton gang, drawing parallels between the life of outlaws and rock musicians. Although its title track is never released as a single, it is still one of the group's most popular songs (and also covered successfully by Ronstadt).
In 1974, Floridian guitarist Don Felder is brought in by Bernie Leadon to contribute slide guitar to their next album, On The Border. Felder is then added to the band and business partnership as a fifth Eagle. During the recording of their fourth album, One of These Nights, and in mid-tour, Leadon quits and is replaced by Azoff client and band friend Joe Walsh, who immediately joins the band on the road. The addition of the rowdy, freewheeling guitar monster Walsh, now moves the band in a harder rock direction. In 1975 Asylum releases Greatest Hits 1971-1975, which ships platinum, and single "Lyin' Eyes" wins a Grammy that same year. In December 1976, Hotel California, their fifth and most successful album to date, also ships platinum.
At the end of a tour in 1977, Randy Meisner quits the band and is ironically replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, the bass player from Randy's former band, Poco.
By 1979, the band is struggling with serious internal problems, which have always dogged them. Although continuing their commercial and critical success. Hotel California, the single, receives the 1977 Grammy for Record of the Year and the album sells over 30 million units.
The Eagles release The Long Run in 1979, a solid success featuring the chart-topping single "Heartache Tonight" and the adult contemporary classic "I Can't Tell You Why," sung and written by Schmit. However, the group breaks up officially after their 1980 tour and subsequent live album. To further underscore the rampant animosity between Frey and Henley, Henley states that the Eagles will get back together when "hell freezes over." The final concert in Long Beach is further marked by acrimony between Don Felder and Glenn Frey.
Each member spends the 80's pursuing solo careers, with Frey scoring soundtrack hits "The Heat Is On" and "You Belong To The City," and Henley releasing three critically-acclaimed albums and winning a Grammy for the song "The End of the Innocence."
In 1994, after being casually reassembled in 1993 by country artist Travis Tritt, for a video Tritt made of his cover version of "Take It Easy" for Common Thread, a country tribute to the Eagles, the band makes history when they finally reassemble to tape an MTV concert special. This concert is later released as a live album and DVD entitled Hell Freezes Over. The Eagles attract a whole new generation of fans with this return to the commercial spotlight.
The album sells multi-platinum, produces a Top 40 hit, "Get Over It," along with an Adult Contemporary hit, "Love Will Keep Us Alive." In 1998, the Eagles are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Leadon and Meisner joined them for a live performance at the event.
The Eagles: Selected Works 1972-1999, a four-CD box set retrospective is released in 2000 on Elektra Records. Long-time guitarist Don Felder is "fired" by Frey and Henley and immediately files a lawsuit for wrongful termination, which moves slowly through the courts and finally settles in May 2006.
In 2003 the band tours extensively, and releases The Very Best of The Eagles, a 2-CD collection, also featuring solo work by both Frey and Henley. "Hole In The World," their first single since 1994, is also released and becomes the No. 7 single in 2003.
The band tours Australia and Asia in 2005 and produced a successful DVD - Farewell One. A short European tour is planned for the summer of 2006, and a mythic album of new material is continues moving on and off the backburner.
On October 30, 2007, Long Road Out Of Eden, a double album that pundits believe will be their last, is released on Eagles' own imprint, through an exclusive distribution deal with retail giant, Wal*Mart. Within five days of release, the album streaks to No. 1 worldwide, selling 700,000 copies through Wal*Mart alone. The first single from the album, How Long, is a song written back in 1971 by Frey's former bandmate J.D. Souther.