The Eagles formed in Los Angeles as four musicians from varied backgrounds and locales when Linda Ronstadt's then-manager, John Boylan, extracted Frey, Leadon, and Meisner from their affiliations. Drummer Don Henley had migrated west from Texas with his band, Shiloh. Guitarist Glenn Frey was a rocker from Detroit who headed to Los Angeles, where he befriended fellow musicians Jackson Browne and John David Souther. Bernie Leadon, who plays a variety of stringed instruments, boasted a bluegrass background and belonged to the Flying Burrito Brothers. Bassist and high-harmony singer Randy Meisner played with such country- and folk-rock mainstays as Rick Nelson, James Taylor and Poco. After touring together in 1971 as members of Linda Ronstadt's band, they went off on their own and were honing the repertoire of songs that would appear on their debut album, Eagles. This album was filled with pure, sometimes innocent country rock. Their second album, Desperado, was themed on Old West outlaws and introduced the group's penchant for conceptual songwriting.
To record their third album, On the Border, the group selected producer Glyn Johns, who previously worked with Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. The band wanted to rock, but Johns tended to extract the lush side of the band's double-edged music. After completing two thirds of the album with Johns, the band turned to Bill Szymczyk to produce the rest of the album. Szymczyk brought in Don Felder to add slide guitar to a song called "Good Day in Hell", and the band was blown away. Two days later Felder became the fifth Eagle. On the Border yielded a #1 Billboard single in the song "Best of My Love", which hit the top of the charts on March 1, 1975.
Their next album, One of These Nights, had an aggressive, sinewy rock stance. Between the album and the subsequent tour, Bernie Leadon left the group, disillusioned about the direction the band's music was taking. The group replaced Leadon with Joe Walsh, a veteran of such groups as the James Gang and Barnstorm and a solo artist in his own right. The addition of Walsh made the group's aim perfectly clear: they wanted to rock. The title track from One of These Nights hit #1 on the Billboard chart August 2, 1975. By this time, the people in the band started clashing with each other and there were intra-band fights.
The group's next album, Hotel California in 1976, was about the pursuit of the American dream -- 1970s style. Using California as a metaphor for the nation, the Eagles wrote about innocence ("New Kid in Town", a #1 hit in Billboard on February 26, 1977) and temptations ("Life In The Fast Lane" and the classic title track, a #1 hit in Billboard on May 7, 1977) of that pursuit. During the final leg of the ensuing tour, however, Randy Meisner decided he had had enough hotel rooms in his seven years as an Eagle and left the band for the relative quiet of Nebraska to recuperate and instigate a solo career. The Eagles replaced Meisner with the man who had succeeded him in Poco, Timothy B. Schmit.
In February 1978, the Eagles went into the studio to produce their final studio album, The Long Run. The album took two years to make, but yielded the group's fifth and last #1 single in Billboard, "Heartache Tonight" (November 10, 1979). The tour to promote the album intensified personality differences between band members. Following The Long Run tour, in 1980, the band broke up, and all of the members had solo careers of varying degrees of success.
In 1993, thirteen of country's hottest acts recorded the tribute album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, and Travis Tritt insisted on having the Long Run-era Eagles in his video for "Take It Easy." The album's triple-platinum success helped trigger an Eagles reunion a year later. Glenn Frey announced at the start of a 1994 concert for MTV's cameras that the Eagles' 14-year-old "vacation" had ended. "We see this not as a reunion but a resumption," Frey explained. The personnel was the five Long Run era members, supplemented by additional players on stage. The ensuing tour spawned a live album entitled Hell Freezes Over (named for Henley's statement that the group would get back together only when hell froze over), and a single, "Get Over It."
Controversy followed on September 12, 1996 when the band dedicated "Peaceful Easy Feeling" to Saddam Hussein at a United States Democratic Party fundraiser held in Los Angeles.
On January 12, 1998, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Jimmy Buffett as their presenter. During the induction ceremony, all seven former members played together on stage. Several subsequent reunion tours would follow, notable for their record-setting ticket prices.
On November 11, 1999, the Recording Association of America names the Eagles to its list of Artists of the Century, putting them in the elite company of the Beatles, Garth Brooks, Elton John, Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand. It is also announced that Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 had sold 26 million copies, making it the top-selling album of the 20th century.
In February 2001, Don Felder was fired from the group; Felder and the Eagles filed lawsuits against each other. Also in 2001, the Eagles were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.