Randy Meisner

Randy Meisner

Randy Meisner, bassist and co-founder of the Eagles, died July 26. He was 77 and suffered complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on March 8, 1946, he started taking guitar lessons after seeing Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” then as a high-schooler moved to bass and began playing in local bands, inspired by R&B and Motown bassists.

From the early to mid ’60s, Meisner played in a series of groups that toured nationally and signed a recording deal with a small regional label in Texas. In ’66, he moved to California with a band that recorded a handful of singles, none of which charted.

In May of ’68, Meisner formed Poco with Buffalo Springfield’s Richie Furay and Jim Messina. He left the group after the release of its debut album, briefly played with Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, then became a member of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band with Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey. In ’71, they parted with Ronstadt and signed to Asylum Records as the Eagles. Meisner spent six years with the band as it recorded five albums, concluding with the classic-rock stalwart Hotel California.

In the Eagles, Meisner sang a handful of songs – “Tryin’” (from the 1972 debut), “Certain Kind of Fool” (Desperado), “Midnight Flyer” (On the Border), and “Take it to the Limit” which he wrote with finishing help from Henley and Frey for 1975’s One of These Nights. Being decidedly uncomfortable in the spotlight, Meisner was reluctant to have the group perform his songs live. But, after “Take it to the Limit” hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became a fan favorite during the 1977 Hotel California tour. With a dislike of flying/traveling and weary of its personality dynamics, Meisner quit the band that August.

Though often overshadowed by the larger personalities/egos Henley and Frey, Meisner was an extraordinary vocal and bass talent. With a better ear for tonal variation than many bassists, he played an array of instruments ranging from standards such as Fender’s Precision, Jazz, and Telecaster basses, a Rick 4001, and Music Man Stingray to more-obscure models such as a Peavey Foundation and a Hagstrom II with a red plastic top. Its woody tone provided the low end on much of the Eagles’ early material, including the gliss-laden “One of These Nights.”

Meisner’s post-Eagles career included several solo albums, a Poco reunion, a stint in the group Black Tie (with Billy Swan and Bread’s Jimmy Griffin), and the Roberts-Meisner band with Rick Roberts of Flying Burrito Brothers and Firefall fame.

Despite the assurance Meisner brought to his music, he led a sometimes troubled and tragic life. After what he described as being “shunned” for decades by fellow Eagles, they asked him to join a reunion tour in 2013, but poor health kept him from participating. His final performance with the band took place 15 years earlier, at its 1998 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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