Bernie Leadon: The Only Good Eagle

I love a good quitting story. And Bernie Leadon, the man who formed and quit the Eagles, probably has the best one ever.

I started looking into Leadon after learning he was a member of Gram Parson’s band The Flying Burrito Brothers. Parsons, like the Dude, fucking hated the Eagles, man. His “cosmic American” mix of rock and country never sold well and the Eagles enjoyed immediate and immense commercial success with a similar mix of ingredients country rock mix. Also, he probably thought they were soulless and lame.

I love the Burrito Brothers. I’d be delighted if Leadon  wrote gems hidden on the first four Eagles albums. But with one notable exception, the Leadon songs are as forgettable as Frey’s and Henley’s. The best known is “Witchy Woman,” a song that always makes me feel tired and a little dead inside.

But Leadon didn’t have to make great music with the Eagles. He made great music with the Burrito Brothers, a band that will be cultishly adored by rock nerds for the rest of time. And he left the Eagles like a fucking hero.

Glen Frey and Don Henley, the men who implored America to take it easy, were neurotic control freak coke-heads. The Eagles were supposed to be Leadon’s band but Frey and Henley edged him out. The band increasingly strayed from its country rock roots and Leadon wasn’t into doing arena rock, so one night after a show, he quit.

Well, he didn’t exactly quit. He poured an entire bottle of Budweiser over Glen Frey’s head without saying a word and calmly walked out. I like to think they maintained eye contact the whole time. In his autobiography, former Eagles guitarist Don Felder said Frey was quiet until Leadon was safely out of the room. That’s some cowardice right there. I hope somebody revoked his “Desperado” license.

With Leadon out of the picture, the Eagles and their management panicked and put out a greatest hits album that would go on to sell 42 million copies. That album includes “Witchy Woman.” Let’s assume Leavon gets a penny per album, which is a crazy low estimate. That’s $420,000 for an album he didn’t have to lift a finger to make. Leadon didn’t make another album until 1985.

And, as I mentioned earlier, there is a notable exception to the mostly undistinguished songs Leadon wrote with the Eagles. And, man, is it notable. Leadon wrote “The Journey of the Sorcerer,” which would later become the theme for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and is the only worthwhile song in the Eagle’s catalog.

Also,  Leadon had a relationship with Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis.Ron and Nancy Reagan almost disowned their daughter over it. I don’t know if Leadon ever poured any beer over the Gipper’s head, but I’d like to think he would have if the situation called for it.

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21 thoughts on “Bernie Leadon: The Only Good Eagle

  1. well now,arent you the father of all things that ever dropped out of a horses ass…………..LOL……………….while i grant you Frey and Henley were defo coke head control freaks…………I must take issue with your statement that
    their songs are forgettable…………….

    HORSESHIT………….

    I give you the following co-written classics

    Desperado, Tequila Sunrise. One of these nights. Lyin Eyes.After the thrill is gone..The Long Run. Heartache Tonight.,…and if we credit Don Felder with the opening classic guitar riffs as we should then of course then also
    HOTEL CALIFORNIA……

    if these are forgettable songs i hope you didnt pay too much for the Labotomy you clearly had BEFORE SCRIBING SUCH ERRANT NONSENSE

    1. Oh……BTW………….Eagles Greatest Hits ’71 – 75′ officially the biggest selling album of the 20th century……….. ????…………not bad for a bunch of forgettable songs eh…………

  2. Whats your point?OK you hate the Eagles just say so instead of dissing their music which will stand for much than you ever will.I’m sorry but you come off as a tool here,maybe you’re on drugs

    1. Glad to find a fellow Eagles appreciater to put this Loon straight on the bald facts………Classic songs that will last as long as music is played on planet earth…………..Mister Bulger is clearly one of the following…………….
      .TONE DEAF……..or…….CLINICALLY INSANE…………………
      LOL……

      1. Well said Ron maybe he’s trying to get a job writing for a magazine ie the Rolling stone who have history with the Eagles

  3. Leadon is cool if only for pouring a beer on Frey’s head and then being asked to tour with the Eagles this summer. It doesn’t get better than that.
    Leadon moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1964 and wrote and produced two songs with The Maundy Quintet, a band that included Felder. “2’s Better Than Three” and “I’m Not Alone” still sound fantastic today, find them on YouTube and decide for yourself. Leadon was a fanatic banjo player/acoustic guitarist who would routinely drive to Nashville over the weekend from Florida to play with Scruggs and other top players. He’s the real deal, and that beer pour is just the best story yet…

    1. I agree and they lost that high pitch in their harmonies when he quit,although Tim was a great replacement and excellent bass player

  4. I just miss Meisner’s voice’ ‘edge’ that Schmitt’s voice is missing. Schmitt
    s bass playing is spot on however.

  5. Leadon also played on the Dillard & Clark album, which I find to be not only better than anything the Eagles made but also one of my favorite albums of all time

  6. The Eagles are a comercial success story of roots music that already existed at that time and contiues to be played in small venues.throughout this country. There are many working artist out there that will never get a dime for playing this music. They play it for the love of music not the money.
    When Berni Leaden left the Eagles, the Eagles were a financial enterprise.
    Frey and Henley could not let the golden goose die, they hired Joe Walsh. The true motivation was and contiues to be what? The money, the money and how to market the Eagles for what? The money. There are many musicians out here that can write better, play better, but never get their
    break. The Eagles and the various incarnations of that band should count themselves very fortunate for gaining such economic success. That success far out weighs their true talent. Musicians such as Wayne Henderson, Doc Watson, Arthur Smith, Earl Scruggs, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, JJ Cale could out write, out perform on one of their bad days any of the incarnations of the business enterprise know as the Eagles. Go on out boys and girls and buy another Eagles T shirt and help out Joe Walsh out.

    1. Come On Man , Eagles honed their sound to achieve unparalleled success for the genre, how then does that make ” Frenley ” & Co less than talented ? ; far be it from me to allow the truth to get in the way of your bias but the 5 of their 6 Grammys were achieved post Leadon ? and as for The Money , hell what is the point of making music without making money , and to close my case ‘your honour’ , The People decide with their Pocketbooks ? so yes , Talented Musicians with 40+ years Success make LoadsofMoney ? …Hold the Front Page , ,Who Knew .?.

    1. Joe Walsh does complicate my “only good Eagle” thesis. He’s a cool guy, Funk #49 is a killer riff and he’s from Montclair, NJ. So thumbs up to Joe Walsh. Those other Eagles can still get bent, though.

  7. I think you may be too hard on the Eagles’ catalog more generally, but I wish it had continued as a Leadon/Meisner-led band instead of a Henley-Frey band. Also, doesn’t “Bitter Creek” qualify as a reasonably good Eagles song?

    1. Thanks for the reasonable comment and the song recommendation. I listened to “Bitter Creek.” I like the acoustic guitar sound (maybe an open tuning?), the reference to peyote and the outro guitar solo. It had an OK mood but lacked a hook or anything to lift it over “OK” and into good. If you have another recommendation, I’ll try it! Thanks -AB

  8. So it’s now “cool” to hate the Eagles. Because why? The Coen Brothers have a scene in one of their flicks that denounces them?

    I am no Eagles fanboy and personally hate their personal amoral politics (Don Felder quit the band after having to perform a welfare handout event for WEALTHY socialist (D) Alan Cranston).

    But I also can not stand Matt Damon’s personal amoral politics, but I enjoy (mostly) his movies. But the Eagles did what Damon is not capable of: separating their personal politics from their art. Admirable, if you ask me.

    Sure, the Eagles are closer to the Carpenters than to the Doors. So? We’re talking sheer TALENT here, and when it comes to that, my money will always be on the Carpenters and the Eagles than on a band whose lead singer feels the need to masturbate on stage before a live audience.

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