The Woman Who Hired Don Henley And Glenn Frey To Tour With Her
The Eagles were formed in 1971 by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner and quickly gained success through their hit singles ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Witchy Woman.’ Five years after their formation, the band released their all-time hit song ‘Hotel California,’ which has become one of the most well-known rock tracks.
Glenn Frey and Don Henley were already in the music world, even before the band’s formation. The duo used to work with one of the most successful singers of all time, Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt was a prominent figure of the ’70s, and she was either loved or not known. Being present in many genres including rock, country, and light opera, she received many awards.
Ronstadt was awarded 11 Grammys, 3 AMAs, a Tony, a Golden Globe, and one Emmy, among many others. She gained international success as most of her albums were certified gold, platinum, and multiplatinum. However, she had retired from her music career when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Relationship Between The Eagles And Linda Ronstadt
Glenn Frey and Don Henley initially worked for Ronstadt as her backing band for a tour in the US back in 1971. She hired the duo because she and her manager wanted to form a country backup band for her shows, and Frey and Henley were definitely a good choice.
During the tour, Frey went to Linda and talked to her about how he and Henley wanted to create their own band out of scratch. Even though the singer wished to keep the duo, she supported them a hundred percent and even helped them with her connections. Frey talked about her during an interview back in 1992 and expressed the awe and gratitude they felt for Ronstadt.
Normally, an icon this big would be frustrated if one of her band members came to her with such a wish, but instead, she reached a hand. This made Frey think of her as an educator who is not only present in the music world as a performer and entertainer but also as a teacher, an educator. He went on to credit her as the person who helped put the Eagles together.
Here are Frey’s words about Ronstadt in 1992:
“Linda Ronstadt, the First Lady of country rock. She probably more than any one person is responsible for the Eagles getting together. Don Henley and I got hired by her in May of 1971 to go on a very brief tour of the Southeast. Him as her drummer, me as her rhythm guitar player.
We got up there on the road, and Linda and her manager at the time, John Boylan had this idea that they wanted to put together a super country-rock group to back up Linda, and they definitely wanted me and Henley in the band. Then, they started talking about members of the Burrito Brothers, Poco.”
“Don and I went to Linda and said, ‘We wanna have our own band.’ I think where other people would have been miffed by that, Linda completely understood and said, ‘Oh, I think that’s great.’ She helped us get Bernie Leadon to come to visit and sit in at Disneyland. She helped us get Randy Meisner to come up to a show in Los Altos at a little club and sit in with us. Henley and I were able to pitch both of them about our idea of starting another band. Linda really helped put the Eagles together.
Also, I would say that Linda always felt a responsibility I think to educate as well as entertain. She always put in a Chuck Berry song for people that might not have heard of that or ‘Blue Bayou’ by Roy Orbison or spotlight songwriter Carla Bonhoff and do two of her songs.
She did the Nelson Riddle stuff, she helped Warren Zevon by doing some of his tunes. She’s done her Mexican music which is beautiful. She did Pirates of Penzance. I really admire her bravery and her credit. She’s got good credentials, and I think she’s got a lot of courage as an artist. She does the music she wants to do. I think it would have been so easy for her after ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ to have just continued to crank out that style of music, but she’s always been an explorer.“
Thanks to Ronstadt’s efforts to connect Frey and Henley to Bernie Leadon, the world was soon introduced to the Eagles. The band had a long and successful career and still continues to tour even in 2021. Whereas Ronstadt retired from the music world in 2011 because of a condition called progressive supranuclear palsy. She felt that her voice was declining in the early 2000s, and in the end she decided that retirement was the best choice for her health.
You can watch Glenn Frey’s interview talking about Ronstadt below.