Steely Dan Producer Remembers Firing Don Henley From The Studio After An Audition


Longtime Steely Dan producer Gary Katz recently recalled the time the Eagles singer Don Henley auditioned for the vocals of the band’s 1977 hit entitled ‘Peg.’ According to Katz, he had to fire Henley after his audition didn’t exactly go well which caused him a little trouble in the future.

‘Peg’ is a song by Steely Dan, first featured on the band’s sixth studio album named ‘Aja’ in November 1977. The track was released as a single and reached No. 11 on the US Billboard chart in the following year. Eventually, the song became one of the band’s longest-running chart hits.

Furthermore, the song is considered one of the greatest works of Steely Dan and influenced several other tracks, such as the 1989 De La Soul song ‘Eye Know.’ It was also covered by Nerina Pallot in 2007 and in 2014 by Donny Osmond.

While the song’s vocals were performed by the frontman Donald Fagen in the final product, producer Gary Katz revealed during a recent interview with Ultimate Classic Rock that another musician could’ve sung the track. Apparently, he and Fagen discussed how they both liked Henley’s singing and decided to give him a call to try out something new.

After Fagen played him the entire song, Don Henley sang his parts which were quite disappointing if you ask Katz. The second time around was no different as both Katz and Fagen realized that Henley’s vocals weren’t working well with the song.

As a result, Gary Katz was left with the mission to fire Don Henley from the studio, which he did. Naturally, his action wasn’t well-received by Henley, and during the last time they saw each other, the Eagles icon asked him, ‘Are you going to fire me again today, Katz?’ with an intimidating face.

Katz’s statement follows:

“In the chorus, the backgrounds are sort of the lead. It wasn’t like a usual background part. Me and Donald Fagen discussed how we both liked Henley’s singing. ‘Why don’t we call Henley and Linda Ronstadt? Maybe that would be cool and something different.’ So, I called Irving, Linda wasn’t feeling well, so Nicolette Larson came.

Fagen went out as he would with anyone and sat at the piano. He said, ‘This is how the part goes.’ We played the track on the speakers, and Fagen used the piano to teach each one of them their parts. He came in, and they tried it, and it might as well have been me and you.

They tried a second time and got the same disappointing result. There wasn’t patience as much as an instant reaction to the realities of the moment. We didn’t jerk people off by letting them think it was going to work and having them sit for two hours. When we knew it wasn’t going to be OK, Fagen would tell me to end it. So they sang it again, and it was no good.”

About being told to fire Don Henley, Katz said:

“The instruction left me with my finger up my ass having to fire Henley. Which I did and have heard about for 35 years since, in various ways. The last time I saw Henley, he sidled up to me, and he said, ‘Are you going to fire me again today, Katz?‘ But he didn’t smile when he said that.

It was a difficult day at the office because, like Fagen and Becker, I was part of that inner-circle crowd. We were all in the same little area. We lived in the same place and had the same manager. It was always Eagles and Steely Dan for a long time in L.A.”

You can listen to ‘Peg’ down below.