Don Felder with his signature double-neck guitar
|Birth name||Donald William Felder|
September 21, 1947 |
Gainesville, Florida, US
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, record producer|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, slide guitar|
Gibson Les Paul
Gretsch White Falcon
Donald William "Don" Felder (born September 21, 1947) is an American musician and songwriter, best known for his work as a lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974 to 2001.
Early life and influences
Don Felder was born in Gainesville, Florida on September 21, 1947. From his paternal side he has German ancestry. He was first attracted to music after watching Elvis Presley live on The Ed Sullivan Show. He acquired his first guitar when he was about ten years old, which he has stated he exchanged with a friend at the five-and-dime for a handful of cherry bombs. A self-taught musician, he was heavily influenced by rock and roll. At the age of fifteen he started his first band, The Continentals, which also included Stephen Stills.
Around this time, he met Bernie Leadon, who later became one of the founding members of The Eagles. Leadon replaced Stills in The Continentals, which eventually changed its name to the Maundy Quintet. Felder and Leadon both attended Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Florida. In the 1966 Gainesville High School yearbook, the Maundy Quintet is pictured next to another Gainesville High student and his early band: Tom Petty and The Epics. Felder gave Petty guitar lessons at a local music shop for about 18 months, at which time Felder also learned how to play slide guitar from Duane Allman. The Maundy Quintet recorded and released a 45 rpm single on the Tampa-based Paris Tower label in 1967, which received airplay in north-central Florida.
After The Maundy Quintet broke up, Felder went to New York with a band called Flow, which released a self-titled improvisational rock fusion album in 1970. The 1970 Flow album has the distinction of being among the very first issued on the newly independent CTI Records label, founded by noted jazz producer Creed Taylor. While in New York, Felder improved his mastery of improvisation on the guitar and learned various styles.
After Flow broke up, Felder moved to Boston, where he got a job in a recording studio. There, through his friendship with Leadon, he met the rest of the Eagles in 1972 while they were on their first tour. In 1973, Felder moved to California where he was hired as guitar player for a tour by David Blue, replacing David Lindley who was touring with Crosby & Nash. He helped Blue put together a tour, during which they opened at a few Crosby and Nash shows in November 1973 and for Neil Young at the opening of the Roxy Theatre. Once again, Felder replaced Lindley, this time in Crosby & Nash's band when Lindley fell ill. He would also jam from time to time with The Eagles in their rehearsal space.
In early January 1974, Felder was called by The Eagles to add slide guitar to their song "Good Day in Hell". The following day he was invited to join the band. The band started moving away from their initial country rock style in the direction of rock. On the band's fourth album, One of These Nights, Felder sang lead vocal on the song "Visions", which he co-wrote with Don Henley, and arranged the title track's distinctive guitar solo and bass line. After founding member Bernie Leadon quit in 1975, Joe Walsh joined the band. Felder had jammed with fellow guitar player Walsh on occasion prior to Walsh's joining The Eagles, and together as dual guitar leads they would eventually become one of rock music's most memorable on-stage partnerships.
The first album The Eagles released after the lineup change was Hotel California, which became a major international bestseller. Felder wrote the music for the album's title track, "Hotel California", and had originally introduced it as an instrumental demo to Henley and band co-founder Glenn Frey who initially named it "Mexican Reggae". It would become the band's most successful recording. After the release of Hotel California and the tour that followed, The Eagles found themselves under tremendous pressure to repeat this success. Their next album, 1979's The Long Run, took almost three years to complete. The band broke up in 1980, ostensibly for good.
Sparked by the success of the tribute album Common Thread: The Songs of The Eagles, The Eagles (including Felder) regrouped 14 years later for a concert aired on MTV television, which resulted in a new album Hell Freezes Over in 1994. For the live MTV performance, the band's signature song "Hotel California" was rearranged into an acoustic version and Felder kicked off the set by performing it with a new, flamenco-style intro he composed the day before.
Felder performed with all current and former band members of The Eagles the hits "Take It Easy" and "Hotel California" at the band's 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York City. He continued as a member of The Eagles through the year 2000.
Following the 1980 breakup of The Eagles, Felder focused more on his family but also embarked on a solo career, concentrating on film composition and session work. He worked on The Bee Gees' 1981 album Living Eyes as a session guitarist. Through his association with Bee Gees' producer Albhy Galuten, Felder also made session appearances on albums by artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, and Andy Gibb. During this time, he also contributed guitar work to Stevie Nicks' first two solo albums.
Among his musical film credits in the 1980s are two songs on the soundtrack to the 1981 animated cult film Heavy Metal entitled "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" (with former bandmates Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit contributing backing vocals) and "All of You" – with Jefferson Starship's Mickey Thomas as backing vocalist, as well as the title track "Wild Life" from the 1985 motion picture adaptation of Neil Simon's "The Sluggers Wife." He also penned the song "She's Got A Part of Me" from the soundtrack to the 1985 romantic comedy Secret Admirer.
Felder's television credits include FTV, a musical comedy show which he hosted from 1985–1986, and Galaxy High, the 1986 CBS cartoon series for which he scored and performed all of the music, including the series' catchy theme song.
In 1983, Felder released his first solo album entitled Airborne. The album's single "Never Surrender," co-written with Kenny Loggins, was a minor hit, having also appeared on the soundtrack to the popular motion picture teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Nearly three decades later, on October 9, 2012, his second solo album Road to Forever was released, with "Fall from the Grace of Love" chosen as the lead single, a song that featured the harmony vocals of Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Throughout his career, Felder is best known for his iconic live performances using the Gibson Les Paul and Gibson EDS-1275 electric guitars. This prompted the Gibson Guitar Corporation to honor him in 2010 with two signature re-issues, the "Don Felder Hotel California 1959 Les Paul" and the "Don Felder Hotel California EDS-1275." Felder himself is an avid guitar collector, having amassed close to 300 models since childhood. He almost sold his 1953/1954 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top at Manny's Music Shop while living in New York in 1970, but the offer was too low. Felder estimates that the guitar was worth between $3,000 to $4,000 at the time, and Manny's offered him between $150 and $300. To this day he has never sold any guitar he has owned.
In 2000, Felder divorced his wife of 29 years, Susan Felder. They had met when he was a struggling musician in Gainesville, Florida. They had four children together, including Leah Jenner, who is also a musician and half of the indie pop group Brandon & Leah with her husband Brandon.
Felder became engaged to Canadian real estate broker Kathrin Nicholson in 2007. He claims that Nicholson was the driving force in helping him get over his split from The Eagles, his divorce, and to form a new band. Nicholson and Felder have a son together.
Felder penned the tell-all book Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles (1974–2001) in 2006. Released in early 2008 and quickly becoming a New York Times bestseller, the book allowed Felder to tell his life story, describe his often tumultuous relationships with Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and to relate his own version of his termination from the band in 2001. In an interview done on April 27, 2008 with Jim Farber of the New York Daily News, Felder is quoted as saying that he "wasn't out to hang people's heads for the whole community to see, that wasn't the point of the book. The point was to tell my story."
Termination and lawsuit
On February 6, 2001, Felder was fired from The Eagles. He responded by filing two lawsuits against "Eagles, Ltd., a California corporation; Don Henley, an individual; Glenn Frey, an individual; and Does 1–50", alleging wrongful termination, breach of implied-in-fact contract, and breach of fiduciary duty, reportedly seeking $50 million in damages.
In his latter complaint, Felder alleged that from the 1994 Hell Freezes Over tour onward, Henley and Frey had "insisted that they each receive a higher percentage of the band's profits," whereas the money had previously been split in five equal portions. Felder also accused them of coercing him into signing an agreement under which Henley and Frey would receive three times more of the Selected Works: 1972–1999 proceeds than would Felder. This box set, released in November 2000, has sold approximately 267,000 copies and earning over 16 million dollars.
Henley and Frey then counter-sued Felder for breach of contract, alleging that Felder had written and attempted to sell the rights to a "tell-all" book. Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles (1974–2001) was published in the United Kingdom on November 1, 2007. The American edition was released for publication by John Wiley & Sons on April 28, 2008, with Felder embarking on a full publicity campaign surrounding its release.
On January 23, 2002, the Los Angeles County Court consolidated the two complaints and on May 8, 2007, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
In a 2008 interview with Howard Stern, Felder affirmed that he remains friends with fellow former members of The Eagles, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. When asked if he still has any contact with current members of The Eagles, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Felder stated that the only replies he gets are from their respective attorneys.
The Eagles albums:
- On the Border (1974)
- One of These Nights (1975)
- Their Greatest Hits (1976)
- Hotel California (1976)
- The Long Run (1979)
- The Eagles Live (1980)
- The Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1982)
- Hell Freezes Over (1994)
- Selected Works: 1972–1999 (2000)
- The Very Best Of (2003)
- The Eagles (2005)
- Heavy Metal: Music From The Motion Picture (1981)
- Track 6: "Heavy Metal (Takin' A Ride)" (#43 on the Billboard Hot 100)
- Track 14: "All of You"
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Music From the Motion Picture (1982)
- Track 10: "Never Surrender" (written by Don Felder and Kenny Loggins)
- The Slugger's Wife Soundtrack (1985)
- Track 10: "Wild Life"
- Secret Admirer Soundtrack (1985)
- Track 4: "She's Got A Part of Me"
- Nice Dreams Soundtrack (1985)
- Track 4: "A Walk in the Garden"
The Eagles songs
Eagles songs co-written by Don Felder
- "Visions" from One of These Nights (Don Felder & Don Henley)
- "Too Many Hands" from One of These Nights (Felder & Randy Meisner)
- "Victim of Love" from Hotel California (Felder, Henley, Glenn Frey, and J. D. Souther)
- "Hotel California" from Hotel California (Felder, Henley, and Frey)
- "The Disco Strangler" from The Long Run (Felder, Henley and Frey)
- "Those Shoes" from The Long Run (Felder, Henley and Frey)
Eagles songs featuring Don Felder on lead vocal
- "Visions" from One of These Nights
- Felder & Holden 2008, pp. 18–19.
- "Gibson Guitars interview with Don Felder". Gibson.com. June 24, 2008. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Glenn Frey Quotes: Songs". Glennfreyonline.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Farber, Jim. "The Eagle Has Landed, Loudly. Don Felder Smiles about Supergroup Days, but He Has a Dark Story." Editorial. New York Daily News [New York City] April 27, 2008, 11th ed.: Web. February 22, 2015.
- Leeds, Jeff (December 8, 2002). "Reborn Eagles Lose Peaceful, Easy Feeling". Los Angeles Times. p. C-1.
- Atwood, Brett (February 12, 2001). "Eagles Sued by Don Felder Over Dismissal". Yahoo! Music.
- Hell may have frozen over, but the Eagles are still feuding The Times, October 28, 2007
- Felder & Holden 2008, p. 328.
- Don Felder official website
- Don Felder at Allmusic
- Don Felder at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview on WNYC Leonard Lopate Show July 17, 2008
- Press Release for Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001)
- Maclean’s Interview: Don Felder Nov 17, 2008