Recruited from local musicians in the newly-emerging Los Angeles country-rock club scene, the Eagles first performed with Linda Ronstadt in 1971 as her touring band. Later that year, with Ronstadt's encouragement the Eagles went on their own to sign with David Geffen's newly established "Asylum" label - joining such artists as Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell.
The original quartet formed in California; however, the individual members of the Eagles migrated west from other bands and other places in the US: Bernie Leadon had his Bluegrass Country roots in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he played a variety of stringed instruments with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. He honed his rock experience as a member of bands such as Hearts and Flowers, Dillard & Clark (with former Byrds singer Gene Clark), and The Flying Burrito Brothers (again with Byrds alumni). In fact, the Eagles reportedly chose their name as a nod to Leadon's prior association with the Byrds. Bassist Randy Meisner moved from Scottsbluff, Nebraska to Los Angeles in 1964 as a member of the Soul Survivors (later renamed the Poor). In 1968, Meisner helped form Poco, but left before the band released its first album to join Rick Nelson's backup group The Stone Canyon Band. Rock Guitarist Glen Frey, from Detroit, Michigan, performed as a member of Bob Seger's backup band until the summer of 1968, when Frey moved to Los Angeles and partnered with J.D. Souther to form Longbranch Pennywhistle. Texas-born drummer Don Henley moved from Gilmer to Los Angeles in 1970 with his band Shiloh, which released one self-titled album before breaking up.
In spring of 1972, the Eagles produced their self-titled debut album for Asylum Records. Following the release of two Top 10 hits - "Take It Easy" co-written by Frey with an assist from friend Jackson Browne, and "Witchy Woman" - the album quickly went from Top 20 to gold.
The Eagles spent the remainder of 1972 and early 1973 touring as an opening act before returning to the studio to record their second album. Desperado, considered a concept album about Old West outlaws, was released in April 1973. This recording showcased the 'storyteller' writing style of Henley and Frey, who co-wrote 8 of the 11 songs on the album, including perennial favorites "Tequila Sunrise" and "Desperado". Suddenly, the direction of the group was shifting away from Leadon and Meisner, with the leadership and songwriting now being dominated by Henley and Frey. The Eagles were becoming firmly established as leaders in their field.
For their follow-up album, On The Border, Henley and Frey wanted the band to start moving away from country and closer to hard rock. With the addition of California slide-guitarist Don Felder, the Eagles quartet was reshaped to a quintet. Their first gold single, "Best Of My Love" jumped to number one on the charts and garnered several Grammy nominations for the group.
With Felder now a full-fledged member, the quintet achieved superstardom in 1975 with One Of These Nights, and the title track from this release, which also topped the US charts before going platinum. The album included such Eagles' standards as "Lyin' Eyes" and "Take It To The Limit." Each of these tracks also hit the UK Top 30. Unfortunately, by 1975 the strain of touring and recording had the members constantly fighting; the pressure of flaring tempers, inflated egos and political tensions proved too much for Leadon and he quit. He reportedly poured a beer over Frey's head while announcing his resignation. After replacing Leadon with guitarist and solo artist Joe Walsh, the Eagles quickly regrouped; however, it took the band 18 months to return to the studio to record their next album. In between, the Eagles agreed to release a compilation, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) in February 1976. It immediately topped the charts, went platinum and rivaled Michael Jackson's Thriller for title of the best selling US album.
When Hotel California was finally released in December 1976, the album went platinum in one week, hit number one on the charts in 1977, and went on to sell over 10 million copies. The powerful single "Hotel California," which featured the artistry of the group's newest member, Walsh and "New Kid In Town" both hit number one. "Hotel California" ultimately won the 1977 Grammy for Record of the Year. At the conclusion of a world tour in September 1977, Meisner left the band and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, another former member of Poco.
The group returned to the studio to record their next album. The Long Run took two years to complete. During breaks, the Eagles produced a seasonal recording, "Please Come Home For Christmas" and "Funky New Year." Although this single was the band's only 1978 release, it was the first Christmas record in 20 years to make it to the Top 20. When The Long Run finally emerged in November 1979, the single "Heartache Tonight" became the group's last number one hit on Billboard.
The rift between the members continued to escalate and when long-standing disagreements could not be resolved, the temporary hiatus that the group took at the end of the decade turned into the group's final breakup in 1982. Individual members went solo with varying degrees of success, although Walsh maintained his solo career before, during and after the Eagles.
Fourteen years later, a country tribute album Common Threads: The Song of the Eagles was released in 1993, which sparked renewed interest in the band. Travis Tritt talked the group - consisting of Frey, Henley, Walsh, Felder and Schmit - into appearing in his video for "Take It Easy." After months of speculation, and much to their fans' delight, it came as no surprise when the Eagles eventually reunited in the mid-90s. In 1994, at their first live concert Frey quipped, "For the record, we never broke up; we just took a 14-year vacation." While on tour, the group produced the live album 'Hell Freezes Over' (supposedly named for Henley's prediction of when the band would get back together). The album hit number one on the charts as soon as it was released.
The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, with all previous members performing. Leadon and Meisner, however, did not join any of the subsequent reunion tours. In 1999, When The Recording Association of America named the Eagles to its list of Artists of the Century - the band was elevated to the ranks of superstars such as the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Garth Brooks and Barbra Streisand.
The group - consisting of Frey, Henley, Walsh and Schmit - continued to tour and release special editions of their performances. Finally, in October 2007 the Eagles released their first album of new material since 1979, entitled "Long Road Out Of Eden." This album, the bands' seventh studio release, made its debut at number one both in the US and abroad; subsequently it was certified seven times platinum.
Although Long Road Out Of Eden was probably their last album, the Eagles continue to perform, release singles and tour. To date, they have won five Grammys. Henley summed up the Eagles' career for Rolling Stone by saying, "I don't think we had any delusions that we were creating history or changing culture or anything... We just wanted to do the work and be good at it and be respected by our fellow songwriters."