View Full Version : Bernie Leadon, the "Common Denominator" of Country Rock?

04-20-2011, 04:03 AM
The equation(s):

Bernie + Gene Clark

Bernie + Gram Parsons

Bernie + Chris Hillman

Bernie + Glenn Frey

the solution(s):


Honestly, does Bernie get short shrift when it comes to his contributions to the Eagles legacy or what? :sad:

04-20-2011, 11:35 AM
I think Bernie is a great musician and guitarist. I might have my preferences towards the more "rock" years of the late 70s of the Eagles and a certain pair of guitarists but I always give credit where it's due - and Bernie was a great player in the band and a great band member.

I'm more of a rock guy and so I prefer Hotel California but On The Border is my 2nd favorite Eagles album. I love The Long Run too. I really do like On The Border though.... The first couple of albums were wishy-washy with me. I liked some of the tracks but not front to back. On The Border I can listen to front to back.

04-20-2011, 12:09 PM
From what I've read about Bernie Leadon, he was firmly rooted in Folk and Bluegrass and his playing style certainly indicates that background. My opinion was and is that he is The Best at what he believes in and seems devoted to.

In the early years, that was what the Eagles were about and Bernie was definitely a defining force in what the Eagles came onto the scene as. But though it sounds cliche, Bernie was more about the music than the super-stardom that Glenn and Don were committed to achieving. Most Bluegrass artist that I've know are like that....somewhat necessary I guess because Bluegrass and Mountain Folk were never major genres for commercial appeal.

I think there must have been an enormous amount of pressure focused on Bernie as "the band" started yearning towards a more commercially appealing (and FAME MAKING) Rock & Roll sound. They had accomplished what they wanted to do with "Country Rock" and Bernie's role just wasn't as critical to the new sound they were after.

Seems I read somewhere that Bernie left the Eagles and was much happier after making that exodus! I believe he left right after "One Of These Nights" so he missed out on "Hotel California" and "The Long Run" (and later LROE). Still, while none of the albums except for their "Greatest Hits" came close to Hotel California in sales, I'm sure Bernie came out smelling like a rich rose! After all, "Greatest Hits 71-75" out sold just about everything that was ever charted! And Bernie was on ALL OF THAT.

So, to a point, I agree with what you are saying....Bernie was definitely a major factor in the Eagles.

Ive always been a dreamer
04-20-2011, 01:27 PM
First of all, I very much appreciate Bernieís musical talent and the contributions he made to this band in their early days. He is undeniably a very gifted musician and I enjoy the songs that he recorded for the band.

But GTLO, you ask for honesty so Iím gonna tell you what I really think. :wink: I believe that the level of recognition that Bernie gets is generally very proportionate to his contributions to the band. When put in historical perspective, he was a member of a band that is about to enter its 40th year of existence for a total of about 5 years. Okay Ė true the band has only been active for about 26 of those 40 years, but at best, Bernie was only a member for about 1/5 of the time the band existed. But, as Mike said, the bottom line is that Bernieís musical style didnít fit the direction that the remainder of the band wanted to take. To me, that became abundantly clear on the OOTN album. Although, I like his contributions on the album, it seemed to me that stylistically Bernie was ďlike a fish out of waterĒ. I choose not to lay blame on anyone for this Ė but, call me ignorant or not, Bernie just simply wasnít a good fit for the band at this point, IMHO.

When we look back at it now, in retrospect, there are many things that could have happened differently that may have changed the course of history. But the truth of the matter is, that the public generally remembers the hit songs, and Bernie did not have any hit songs with the band. We can speculate the reasons for this, but who knows why some songs strike a chord with the public and others donít.

In any event, I believe things turned out in the best interest of all concerned. From all Iíve read about Bernie, while he may have wanted success, I donít believe he wanted the super-stardom that the band had achieved by the time OOTN was released. I guess that lifestyle is suited more for bolder personalities like Don, Glenn, and Joe. As Iíve often said, I doubt if Bernie has many regrets about leaving the band Ė he is probably well set financially and happy with his life and that is what is most important.

04-20-2011, 03:00 PM
Kinda got to look at it another way Dreamer. The Eagles have had 7 Studio Albums counting LROE.

I think we can gauge the group as 50% Country Rock and 50% Rock with three albums more or less accredited to each genre and one in the middle that swung both ways. Their work on their music was and is very closely tied in time with the release of albums.

I'd give Leadon 4 out of the seven which suggests to me that he was there more than half of the recording life of the Eagles. Meisner (with 5 out of 7) outlasted him. Felder, like Walsh was there for three albums. Finally, Schmit hangs in there with two albums to his credit.

Of course, that is with the exclusion of Henley and Frey who were deciding the direction of the band and have been there from the beginning.

It might be argued that ALL the years have to be considered...the years when Hell Froze Over and the Millennium period, and the Farewell Tours....but I'm not really buying that myself. Nothing really new came out of that period. At best, they were reworking old material and giving their fans from the 70's what they wanted. I guess they did introduce "Seven Bridges Road" which wasn't their song. And they did "Please Come Home For Christmas" which was new. And then they released "Hole In The World" and "No More Cloudy Days" and maybe "One Day At A Time" though I don't remember if Joe actually released that as a single.

If you look at Grateful Dead (some people really did look at them <LOL>)...they were a group that you had to look at from beginning to end and consider all the years. But the Dead were different. Much of their work never showed up on albums yet, was very popular in concerts. They were ironically a "Live Band" and did their best work on stage...not in studios.

The Eagles weren't like that. Their music was centered in the Studio and the concerts were to promote those single and album sales. They wouldn't even perform a song on stage if they couldn't do it live as note perfect as it was done in the studio! That's changed a bit with the economy and now I'd imagine that they are making more off the concerts than off the record sales. But that's been a recent development.

Bernie was with them for over half their life. But undeniably, the Eagles changed genre's officially when Bernie left. I'm not thinking that Bernie would have wanted to be a part of what the Eagles became. That wasn't his direction at all. He missed his Country and Bluegrass and Folk music. In leaving the Eagles, he was able to reclaim that part of him that wasn't being fulfilled with Don and Glenn.

And, Don and Glenn went on without Bernie to their vast acculumation of fame and fortune as Rockers....and pretty much burned out after two albums. Thank GOD that they recovered, patched up differences or learned to live with them and came on back to the scene strong...though I personally don't think they are nearly as strong today as they were back in the mid-Seventies. How could they be. My goodness, they are 30 years older now and all have families! I KNOW what a Sixty Year Old deals with and to imagine myself doing what those guys are doing today is simply phenomenal! But as phenomenal as it is, their physical endurance isn't what is was 30 years ago even though today they are all sober and I don't think their creativity is where it was 30 or 40 years ago either.

The motivation IS there though not the same motivation they had 30 or 40 years ago. Now, partly it is now Political or Charity oriented and partly because of a thrill and need to perform for people. They are first and foremost performers and I don't think that as such, they could be truly happy if they were to give it up completely.

04-20-2011, 06:04 PM
Nice comments by all. I'm in agreement that although Bernie may have only been in the band for 5 years, he was a major contributor on 4 of their 6 studio records recorded during their 70's heyday, and performed on the majority of their hit singles. He was also a very strong harmony singer and arranger and those harmonies are what defined the group. imo, you don't get any better than the Henley, Frey, Meisner & Leadon vocal blend.

04-20-2011, 07:31 PM
I fear this a fruitless argument. I've maintained since well, since Hotel California came out in '76 that the Eagles are really two bands.

Pre-Walsh, Bernie was the defining sound instrumentally for sure. Glenn was not a superstar Guitarist though he was good. Nor was Henley another Keith Moon or Ringo Starr. Meisner was a great bassist but it isn't the Bass that usually defines the sound of a band. That leaves Bernie. And Bernie was up to the task. He was superb on the guitar, banjo, steel and mandolin. Without question (at least I've heard no one question his ability as an instrumentalist), Bernie set the mark for the instrumental parts and as has been said, he was also a good vocalist, especially on the harmony parts.

I won't go so far as to say Bernie Defined the Eagles. But they wouldn't have been known by the sound in the early years that we know them from had Bernie not been there any more than they would have been the Eagles we know without Frey and Henley and Meisner. I don't know if they could have found anyone else who was on the same page musically that the rest were on when Eagles were formed. Someone who was flexible enough to break out of hardcore bluegrass and folk and kick it up to broach the gap between Bluegrass/Country/Rock. And they had to have someone strong on strings!

The guys were "driven" back then..."driven" to make Country Rock Popular. In those beginning days, it was all for one and one for all with all Four Members in the Band holding equal shares in Eagles LTD. From what I've read, there wasn't a lot of ego interfering in their early relationship.

I don't know of a way to gauge which they were most successful at: Rock or Country Rock. If you measure success in terms of records sold...well, I'm not even sure you could get a clear "winner"...especially if you included their first "Greatest Hits". Obviously, people liked those Country Rock Classics enough to want to get the Best of them. I think Hotel California evened the score or came pretty close to it. Enough so that I think that "The Long Run" was bought by many thinking it would be better than Hotel California. Many were disappointed and thought that TLR sold what it did on the coattails of Hotel California. There may be something to that because the guys all said they were burnt out while recording it and were so much at odds with each other that they even found it difficult to even be in the studio together.

As for Country Rock today, I'm thinking that there is a lot of Country Rock feel to LROE. The guys said that they did that intentionally if my memory serves me correctly. But I'm no expert on LROE. Never has been my favorite work of theirs.

But the merits of each individual album is too subjective to speculate on. Certainly so is it too much for me to make any proclamations about. I know that I myself didn't like TLR nearly as much as HC.

But the point is that comparing post-Bernie Eagles to pre-Walsh Eagles would be like comparing Merle Haggard to AC/DC. Different genre. Different all right, though they did bring a lot of crossover fans along for the switch...myself included. Their Early Days certainly didn't hurt them any!

Ive always been a dreamer
04-21-2011, 12:39 AM
Well Mike Ė I donít think your argument is fruitless. But as you said, there are several incarnations of this band over the course of the bandís 40-year history and, I donít think you can say that any one incarnation or era is more important to the bandís enduring legacy than another, IMO. And that is why I would argue that all of the years that the band has existed should be considered when trying to assess any memberís contributions to the entity known as ďEaglesĒ. It is not only the body of work, but also itís lasting impact that builds a legacy. While it is true that most of their catalog was released in the Ď70ís, much of the bandís legacy is based on their immense success and durability since the í94 resumption, including the release of The Long Road Out of Eden. Any failures since the resumption would put a huge black mark on their legacy.

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm taking Frey and Henley out of the equation since I believe most people would concede that they are the two main forces behind the band. If you focus on the remaining five members, they each have made important contributions to the band in different ways and at different times. You can make a list of each memberís accomplishments, but to measure the proportionate credit that should go to each of them, I think you have to compare them against one another. To give one member more credit than he deserves would diminish the accomplishments of another. Just as an example, Bernie played on 4 Eagles albums, has 6 lead vocals with the band, and has writing credits on 11 songs. Joe played on 3 Eagles albums (5 if you count Eagles Live and HFO), has only 4 lead vocals with the band, and writing credits on 5 songs. But this certainly isnít the only criteria I would use to judge their importance to the band. What about Joeís longevity, contributions to the live shows, and rock influence Ė that should count for something, just as Bernieís country influence should count. Personally, it works better for me if I just try to keep it simple and say that Bernie, Randy, Felder, Joe, and Timothy have all contributed about equally, albeit differently, to the bandís legacy. :wink: Of course, I know not everyone feels the same way.

04-21-2011, 08:10 AM
You've gotta ask yourself (that's always fun when I do that because I KNOW I'm going to get an answer!):

And before I start, I think that with my years on the forum here, you all know how highly I value Joe Walsh AND Don Felder! I'm NOT putting them or their contributions down. I am talking about Bernie Leadon here.

Would the Eagles have been as "big" today, yea would they have been successful at all, had they tried to break into the Music World as a Rock n Roll Band without having the Name Recognition that was spawned by their success of having brought Country Rock Music to the Rockers of the World?

No one can answer that question. We could only speculate. You could argue that during their Country Rock Days, they were displaying enough Rock in their presentations that people were wondering if they would ever come out with a pure Rock song (they answered that Definitively!) That was part of their appeal.. Rock and Country converging.

Maybe you have to look at the two genres...one of which didn't really exist for the masses... and observe the task that Frey and Henley were charged with: Finding a lead guitarist who could straddle the fence and be so "instrumental" (pun intended) in creating or rather "perfecting" that Country Rock Sound. It would have been much easier I think to have found a Rock Guitarist. Glenn plays a pretty mean guitar and with the work load forced onto him, might have fulfilled that role as a Rock Guitarist himself!

But Bernie was a no-brainer! A Natural for the role they were needing and his mastery of the instruments of the sound they needed made him the ideal fourth and crucial member of the band.

You might could make the same argument for Felder when he was brought on-board, but at the time, Bernie was still there doing the things he had done so well for the past 4 years (along with Frey of course) and had laid down the signature guitar riffs that defined the Eagles for all their Country Rock years. Felder added the crunch and later picked up the entire load after Bernie left leaving Joe (eventually) freedom to do his thing as he took the subordinate rhythm role with Felder doing most of Bernie's parts in the Country Rock segments of their concerts.

But were there others who could have fit into that role created when the Eagles turned Rock? I mean, was it easier to find a Rock Guitarist than one capable of playing in the Bluegrass style of Bernie? Even after Bernie had set the bar with all the songs of the first albums and had influenced the fourth?

Maybe. The thing is though that they didn't have to try. Felder and Walsh were available and they had already decided that was the direction in which they wanted to go.

So this becomes impossible to objectively weigh. Bernie was there though when they were defining Country Rock and as such a presence, he did in fact define the sound instrumentally that an unknown band (at the time) had to have to do what they wanted to do....and while they didn't create Country Rock, they polished it and made it marketable. And that is one thing that IS objectively deduced! Just look at their success in the early to mid 70's.

Now maybe it is just my own prejudice showing through, but when I hear the Eagles do most anything, I can't help but remember the Early Years when they were Country Rock even if there isn't even a hint of Bluegrass in the song. It's just association.

Because of their history, I myself think that Bernie did contribute more than he is generally credited for in the success of the Eagles. Or maybe he is given his much deserved "due". There are still a LOT of folks out there who much prefer the Pre-Walsh line-up of the Eagles and the sound they had at that time!

And as for Don and Glenn...they certainly are not trying in the least to negate their "beginnings". Every concert has a smattering of those early songs.

Ive always been a dreamer
04-21-2011, 12:36 PM
Hey Mike - ITA with your post. You described Bernie's contributions to the band very eloquently.

I think we are actually mostly on the same page here, however, my posts were responding more to GTLO's statement that he thinks Bernie doesn't get the amount of credit that is due him. I'm just saying that I believe most Eagles fans do recognize Bernie's important input to the band as evidenced in your post.

I guess in the big scheme of things, when you mention the Eagles, the average Joe on the street only knows Henley and Frey, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Joe. So I guess to that extent, we could say that Bernie, Randy, Felder, and Timothy all come out on the short-end. But, I think that it's natural that the main players are the most recognizable in just about any band.

04-21-2011, 01:20 PM
Agreed. Reading this just got me thinking about what the Eagles are now and what they were in yesteryear.

Bands, just as individuals, are the accumulation of everything that has ever happened to them.

In the case of the Eagles, most every decision they've made has worked for them. Everything from Conception of the band to Legends they've become.

04-21-2011, 04:20 PM
The equation(s):

Bernie + Gene Clark

Bernie + Gram Parsons

Bernie + Chris Hillman

Bernie + Glenn Frey

the solution(s):


Honestly, does Bernie get short shrift when it comes to his contributions to the Eagles legacy or what? :sad:

Right. And How about Leadon & Georgiades? A huge Work fav of mine... Cool.

04-21-2011, 05:34 PM
Right. And How about Leadon & Georgiades? A huge Work fav of mine... Cool.

Leadon + Georgiades = yacht rock at its finest!