The Audition Don Henley Failed Due To His Inadequate Vocals

When a new band is formed or a member decides to leave, bands start looking for a new member. They usually approach fellow musicians or hold auditions for new members to join. To have a chance, an artist needs to record a tape and send it to them or join them for a live performance in the studio.

Many of these auditions give way to the formation of an iconic lineup, but they sometimes end up as a failure. For instance, Doug Aldrich had auditioned for KISS when he was just 18, while Rob Affuso joined Skid Row after an unsuccessful audition for Bon Jovi. In Don Henley’s case, he failed an audition because his vocals weren’t good.

Which Audition Was A Failed Attempt For Don Henley?

When Steely Dan was recording their 1977 hit ‘Peg,’ they considered approaching the Eagles’ Don Henley to be featured in the song to sing the background parts. The band’s producer Gary Katz and Donald Fagen then decided to bring Henley and Linda Ronstadt to record some vocals for ‘Peg.’

As Ronstadt wasn’t feeling well, Nicolette Larson replaced her. However, Fagen wasn’t pleased with the result, and he shortly afterward asked Walter Becker to go with Henley and get a sandwich. After they left, Fagen told Katz to fire Henley and Larson immediately.

Speaking to Ultimate Classic Rock in early 2022, Gary Katz recalled the following:

“In the chorus, the backgrounds are the lead. It wasn’t like a usual background part. 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.”

Katz said the following about the audition:

“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 would work and having them sit for two hours. When we knew it wouldn’t be OK, Fagen would tell me to end it. So they sang it again, and it was no good.”

Recalling when Fagen told him to fire Henley and Larson, Katz said:

“It left me with my finger up my a** having to fire Henley. Which I did – and have heard about for 35 years since, in various ways.”

So, it seems clear that Donald Fagen wasn’t pleased with Don Henley’s vocals. As a result, they immediately thought Henley wasn’t a good choice. After Henley was fired, Michael McDonald provided multi-tracked backup vocals in the choruses, and Paul Griffin improvised the background vocals in the final chorus and fade out.