Bernie Leadon

young Bernie Leadon
young Bernie Leadon

(1971–1975)

Bernard Mathew “Bernie” Leadon, III born July 19, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an American musician and songwriter, best known as a founding member of the Eagles. Prior to the Eagles, he was a member of two pioneering and highly influential country rock bands, Dillard & Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, dobro) coming from a bluegrass background. He introduced elements of this music to a mainstream audience during his tenure with the Eagles.
Leadon’s music career since leaving the Eagles has been decidedly low-key, resulting in merely two solo albums with a gap of 27 years in between. Leadon is, however, a noted session musician who has appeared as a guest on many other artists’ records.

Mid Bernie Leadon
Mid Bernie Leadon

Leadon was the last member to join the Eagles, a band initially formed by guitarist/singer Glenn Frey, drummer/singer Don Henley, and former Poco bassist/singer Randy Meisner. Leadon is often credited with helping shape the band’s early country-rock sound, bringing his strong sense of harmony as well as his country, bluegrass and acoustic sensibilities to the group.

Upon the release of their debut album, Eagles, the group met with near instantaneous success, due largely to the strength of their hit singles, “Take It Easy”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Witchy Woman” (co-written by Leadon and Henley), all of which highlighted Leadon’s multi-instrumental talent on electric guitar, B-Bender, banjo, and harmony vocals. Their follow-up, Desperado, was another strong country-rock venture highlighted by the classics
“Tequila Sunrise” and the title track, but was met by surprisingly lukewarm reviews and lackluster sales. As a result, the band attempted to distance itself from the “country rock” label for their third album On the Border. In doing so, Leadon encouraged the group to recruit his old friend, guitarist Don Felder, to the band. The result was the guitar-heavy top ten hit “Already Gone”. The album also included “My Man”, Leadon’s touching tribute to his old bandmate and friend, Gram Parsons, who had died of a drug overdose the year prior at Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California.
Now Bernie Leadon
Now Bernie Leadon
With the wild success of On the Border and its follow-up smash, One of These Nights, tension within the band grew, as Leadon grew increasingly frustrated by the band’s direction away from his beloved country and bluegrass and toward AOR stadium rock. He famously quit the band in 1975 by pouring a beer over Glenn Frey’s head.He later cited a need to get healthy and break the vicious cycle of touring, recording and heavy drug use that was rampant within the band.
Upon his departure, Asylum Records released Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975), whi
ch highlighted the band’s Leadon years and went on to become the biggest-selling greatest hits album of all time, selling over 42 million units. He was replaced by former James Gang guitarist/singer, Joe Walsh.