Randy Meisner (the Eagles) was born on March 8, 1946, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska to a farming family. He got his first acoustic guitar when he was around 12 or 13 and, shortly after, formed a high school band. “We did pretty good, but we didn’t win anything,” according to Meisner.
“We couldn’t find any work because there were a million bands out here,” he said.
Meisner moved to California in 1964/65 and played with the likes of Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and Poco, before co-founding the Eagles in 1971 alongside Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon.
They went on to define the country-tinged, laid-back West Coast pop-rock sound that ruled the US radio waves in the early 1970s, before later moving in a hard rock direction, essentially because of James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh being added to the line-up when Bernie Leadon left.
Once dubbed “the sweetest man in the music business” by former bandmate Don Felder, bass player Meisner stepped out of the shadows on the mournful, lovelorn waltz-time ballad Take It to the Limit – a song later covered by the likes of Etta James, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. He was with the band when they recorded the albums “Eagles,” “Desperado,” “On the Border,” “One of These Nights” and “Hotel California.”
“Hotel California,” with its mysterious, allegorical lyrics, became the band’s best-known recordings. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977 and won a Grammy Award for record of the year in 1978.
But Mr. Meisner was uncomfortable with fame.
“I was always kind of shy,” he said in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, noting that his bandmates had wanted him to stand center stage to sing “Take It to the Limit,” but that he preferred to be “out of the spotlight.” Then, one night in Knoxville, he said, he caught the flu. “We did two or three encores, and Glenn Frey wanted another one,” he said, referring to his bandmate, the singer-songwriter who died in 2016.
“I told them I couldn’t do it, and we got into a spat,” Mr. Meisner told the magazine. “That was the end.”
He left the band in September 1977 but was inducted with the Eagles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. An essay by Parke Puterbaugh, published by the Hall of Fame for the event, described the band as “wide-eyed innocents with a country-rock pedigree” who later became “purveyors of grandiose, dark-themed albums chronicling a world of excess and seduction that had begun spinning seriously out of control.”
He was excluded from their reunion tour in 1994 but did appear once again beside the band in 1998 for their New York City induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He turned down an offer to re-join properly for a world tour in 2013, due to ill health. And his later life was clouded with mental health, addiction and domestic issues, exacerbated by his wife Lana’s death in an accidental shooting in 2016.
As a solo artist, Meisner had hits with songs like Hearts on Fire and Deep Inside My Heart and also played on records by other performers including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and another Eagles star, Joe Walsh.
He never quite eclipsed his achievements with the Eagles – the band that released two of the most popular albums of all-time during his tenure, Hotel California and Their Greatest Hits – but then few have.
“The purpose of the whole Eagles thing to me was that combination and the chemistry that made all the harmonies just sound perfect,” Meisner once said in an interview.
“The funny thing is after we made those albums I never listened to them and it is only when someone comes over or I am at somebody’s house and it gets played in the background that is when I’ll tell myself, ‘damn, these records are good.'”
Randy Meisner, passed away on July 26, 2023 in Los Angeles at age 77, due to complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band. His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, ‘Take It to the Limit,’” said the Eagles.