1947 – Don Felder of the Eagles is born in Topanga, Calif.
Donald William Felder (born September 21, 1947 in Gainesville, Florida) is an American rock musician who was a member of the Eagles from 1974–1980 and from 1994–2001. Felder was the primary guitar soloist and co-writer of the Eagles’ hit song “Hotel California”. He also released ‘Heavy Metal’ for the movie of the same name that has become a cult classic.
Early life and influences
Don Felder was first attracted to music after watching Elvis Presley live on the Ed Sullivan show. He got his first guitar when he was around 10, which he is believed to have exchanged with a friend for a handful of cherry bombs. He was heavily influenced by rock and roll and when he was 15, started his first band, The Continentals, which also had Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame. Around this time he also met Bernie Leadon, later one of the founding members of the Eagles. He and Bernie both attended the same high school, Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Florida. Bernie replaced Stills and the band became the Maundy Quintet. An interesting note: in the 1966 Gainesville High School Yearbook the Maundy Quintet is pictured next to another Gainesville High student and his band that was destined for fame — Tom Petty and his early band the Epics. Felder has said that he gave Tom Petty guitar lessons for a year and a half at a local music shop.
After the band broke up, Felder went to New York with a band called Flow, which released only a single jazz album. While in New York, Felder improved his mastery of the guitar and learned various styles.
After Flow broke up, Felder moved to Boston, where he got a job in a recording studio. There he met the rest of the Eagles in 1971, while they were on their first tour. In 1972, Felder moved to California where he was hired as guitar player for an album by David Blue. He helped Blue put together a tour, in which they opened for Crosby and Nash for around nine months.
In 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, with the belief among some people that it came after a similar offer made to Joe Walsh was rejected. Walsh, in turn, joined the band a year later, after Bernie Leadon quit. Felder and Walsh were already friends, and together they added a harder edge to the Eagles’ musical sound. The band started moving away from their earlier country rock style, towards 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 was the only Eagles song that Felder ever sang lead vocal on.
The first album to be released by the Eagles after their makeover 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 Frey who dismissed it as “Mexican Reggae”, though 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, after which the band broke up in 1980.
Following the break up of the Eagles, Felder focused more on his family but also embarked on a solo career. He worked on The Bee Gees’ 1981 album Living Eyes as a session guitarist. In 1983, he released a rock and roll album titled Airborne which to date remains his only solo LP, although he contributed the songs “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” (with former Eagles Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit contributing backing vocals) and “All of You” to the 1981 film Heavy Metal, as well as the title track from the movie The Wild Life. In 1985–86 he hosted a musical comedy show entitled FTV. In 1986 he wrote and performed all the music and the theme song to the animated series Galaxy High.
Felder appeared in the 1980 film Caddyshack, particularly the synchronized-swimming scene in the golf-club pool.
In 1994, the Eagles (including Felder) regrouped for a concert aired on MTV, which resulted in the new album Hell Freezes Over. Felder continued as a member of the Eagles through their 1999–2000 New Year’s concerts.
In 1999, Felder divorced his wife of 29 years, Susan Felder. The couple met when he was a struggling musician in Gainesville, Florida, and had four children together. He was engaged to 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 and form a new band.
Felder penned the tell-all book Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974 – 2001) in 2006. The book was released in early 2008. The book allows Felder to set forth his position regarding the personalities of Glenn Frey and Don Henley, as well as telling his version of the truth behind his termination from the band in 2001.
Termination and lawsuit
On February 6, 2001, Don Felder was fired from the Eagles. Felder 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 as much of the Selected Works: 1972-1999 proceeds as would Felder. This box set, released in November 2000, has sold approximately 267,000 copies at about $60 apiece.
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. The book, Heaven and Hell 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 dismissed after being settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
* On the Border (1974)
* One of These Nights (1975)
* Hotel California (1976)
* The Long Run (1979)
* Eagles Live (1980)
* Hell Freezes Over (1994)
* Airborne (1983)
Eagles songs co-written by Don Felder
* “Visions” from One of These Nights (co-written with Don Henley)
* “Too Many Hands” from One of These Nights (co-written with Randy Meisner)
* “Victim of Love” from Hotel California (co-written with Henley, Glenn Frey, and J.D. Souther)
* “Hotel California” from Hotel California (co-written with Henley/Frey)
* “The Disco Strangler” from The Long Run (co-written with Henley/Frey)
* “Those Shoes” from The Long Run (co-written with Henley/Frey)
Eagles song featuring Don Felder on lead vocal
* “Visions” from One of These Nights
Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (July 2008)
* The third minute of Mojo Nixon’s 1990 song “Don Henley Must Die” contains an exaggerated rendition of the “Hotel California” guitar solo, which was originally performed by Felder. This segment is followed by Nixon’s voiceover to the guitarist “Quit playing that crap! You’re out of the band!” Felder, however, would not be fired until eleven years after the song’s release.
* One of Felder’s songs “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” was featured in the South Park episode “Major Boobage” as the background music when Kenny has a psychedelic trip. This is an homage to the 1981 film “Heavy Metal” in which Felder’s songs originally appeared in a similar context.
* Felder and guitarist Stephen Stills were good friends growing up in Gainesville, Florida. According to Felder’s 2008 book Heaven and Hell: My Life with The Eagles (1974 – 2001), he and Stills performed a few gigs before Stills left for Los Angeles, California. Felder claims he didn’t hear anything from Stills until he flipped on the radio and heard Stills’ voice singing the Buffalo Springfield smash For What It’s Worth. The two have reconnected and collaborated numerous times since the late-1960s.
* Felder was good friends with guitar legend Duane Allman. It was Allman who taught Felder how to play slide guitar, a trait that would impress Eagle Glenn Frey and help make him a member of the Eagles.
* Childhood friend Bernie Leadon, founding member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles, encouraged him to come out and live with him in Los Angeles, California for many years. After years of resistance, Felder finally agreed. The move to the west coast would prove as a smart decision, as two years later Felder would find himself jamming with Leadon and his band the Eagles. The Eagles, at that time, were still relatively unknown but after Felder joined in 1974, they became superstars.