The Eagles were one of the most successful bands of the 1970s. From the mid-70s up until sometime in the early nineties they were nearly inescapable. Personally, I didn’t know anyone younger than my grandparents who didn’t own at least one Eagles album. Their greatest hits compilations were a constant in countless record collections. Their country-fried rock sound is as timeless as it is good. That band wouldn’t have been possible without Randy Meisner. His bass playing, vocal harmonies, and songwriting were the backbone of the Eagles’ sound.
Randy Meisner turns 75 today. To celebrate the occasion, we’re looking back at some of the biggest moments of his long musical career.
Randy Meisner’s Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Randy Meisner didn’t come into the world ready to jump into one of the biggest rock bands of all time. He was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska in 1946 to poor sharecroppers, according to his website. His life changed at the age of ten. He saw Elvis on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and knew what he wanted to do with his life. Soon after that, he got a guitar and learned how to play. Later, Meisner dropped out of high school to work toward a career in the music business.
Randy Meisner married at 17 and worked as a professional musician to put food on the table. However, there wasn’t much money to be made in the Midwest. So, he started looking for a reason to the West Coast. He knew that the Los Angeles area was where a rocker could make some serious money. He just needed to get his foot in the door.
That reason came when he joined The Soul Survivors. The group pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles. They landed a record deal there. However, that wasn’t enough to keep the band together. One by one, the band members quit and moved back to the Midwest. In the end, Meisner was the only remaining original member of The Soul Survivors. Before long, Meisner left that band to join a band called Poco.
He didn’t last long with that band. However, it was during his time with Poco that Randy Meisner made some important connections.
The Call That Changed Meisner’s Life
By 1970, Randy Meisner had moved back to Nebraska. He was working at a John Deere Dealership and occasionally traveling back to LA to do some session work as a bassist. At the time, he was spending most of his days in Nebraska hoping to save his faltering marriage. Then, he got the phone call that changed his life forever.
John Boylan called Randy Meisner and asked if he would be interested in playing in Linda Rondstadt’s backing band. Rondstadt was a huge name at the time. So, Meisner couldn’t turn down the opportunity. At the very least, he knew that it would be a great paycheck. So, he packed up and headed back to the coast. He met up with the rest of the band – Glen Frey, Don Henley, and Bernie Leadon and they played their first gig with Rondstadt in July of 1971 at Disneyland. A few months later, The Eagles signed to Asylum Records and were off to record their debut album. The rest, as they say, is history.
Randy Meisner Soars to Success with Eagles
In 1972, Randy Meisner traveled to London with the rest of the band to cut their debut self-titled album. It was an instant hit. All three of the singles from that album hit the top-40. “Take It Easy,” hit number 12, “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” made it to the number-22 spot, and “Witchy Woman,” landed at number nine on the chart. The album was later certified platinum.
The band’s next album “Desperado” didn’t do as well as their debut. The old-west-themed songs on the album just didn’t have the same punch as their earlier work. Neither the album nor its singles broke the top 40. However, it was certified gold in 1974 and double platinum in 2001. The most significant thing about the album is its title track. While it wasn’t released as a single, it became one of the group’s signature songs.
Their third album, “On the Border,” brought the band their first number-one single. The song, “Best of My Love” was the last of three singles from the album. However, it almost didn’t make the cut. After working on the album for a while, they decided to scrap it and work toward a heavier and more rock-oriented sound. “Best of My Love” was one of only two songs from the original sessions to make the final album.
Randy Meisner would only be with the Eagles for two more albums. They were, however, some of their biggest hits. Their 1975 album “One of these Nights” was the band’s first number-one album. The title track from the album was their second chart-topping single. Randy Meisner penned and sang lead vocals on “Take It to the Limit,” which reached number 4 on the Billboard chart. The album went quadruple platinum in America and the single, “Lyin’ Eyes” won the band a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Randy Meisner’s Last Album with the Eagles
Randy Meisner left the Eagles on a high note. Their 1976 album “Hotel California,” was their biggest success to date. The album spawned two chart-topping singles. Both the title track and “New Kid In Town” reached number-one on the Billboard chart. The album was also number one.
The band won two Grammy Awards for “Hotel California” and “New Kid In Town.” The singles won Record of the Year and Best Arrangement for Vocals respectively. The title track from the album remains one of the most talked-about songs in rock and roll history. Theories about its meaning range from recreational drug use to religious awakening. On top of that, it’s a great tune.
After touring to support that album, Randy Meisner decided to leave the band. Like other musicians that left the Eagles, Meisner found himself clashing too often with Glen Frey. While on tour, Randy came down with the flu. This made it impossible for him to sing “Take It to the Limit,” properly. So, he refused to sing it on stage until he was back to top form. This angered Frey and he confronted Meisner about it. They got into a fistfight after the show in Knoxville, Tennesee and it was then that Meisner decided that he was done with Frey and the Eagles.
Meisner’s Life After the Eagles
After leaving the band, Randy Meisner found himself adrift. He releases a few solo albums and even had a top-20 hit with the 1980 single “Hearts on Fire.” He kept himself busy with session work. Meisner even formed a handful of bands and played reunions with some of his earlier bands.
Today, he is retired and remarried. He is a great-grandfather who enjoys collecting antiques and spending time in his Studio City, California home with his family.
Even though he left the Eagles in 1977 and has been snubbed at every turn when they played reunions, no one can deny that his bass playing and signature vocal harmonies helped to take the band to the heights they reached.