NEW YORK (AP) — Don Felder had still not given up on speaking again to Glenn Frey.
The former Eagles guitarist, estranged from Frey and the other band members since he was forced out in 2001, told The Associated Press that he felt “unbelievable sorrow” when he learned of Frey’s death.
“He was kind of like the James Dean of the band, the coolest guy. He was the leader and everybody looked up to him,” Felder said Tuesday of Frey, who died Monday at age 67 after battling a variety of health problems. The two had clashed often, most memorably during a 1980 concert that led to the Eagles’ initial breakup, but Felder said he remembered Frey most for the music they made together and for the “laughter and the parties.”
“I had always hoped somewhere along the line, he and I would have dinner together, talking about old times and letting it go with a handshake and a hug.”
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As Felder recalled Tuesday, and wrote in his memoir “Heaven and Hell,” Frey was the Eagle who called and invited him to join the band back in 1974. Originally a quartet featuring Frey and Don Henley, the band was turning from the country-bluegrass roots of its first two records and looking for a hard rock sound. Felder, an old friend of founding Eagle Bernie Leadon, played a session with the group and soon became a full-time member.
“The band wasn’t about private jets and limos and the Ritz Carlton in those days,” he said. “We were playing state fairs and colleges, driving rent a cars and flying coach.”
Felder played on such million-selling albums as “One of These Nights,” ”Hotel California” and “The Long Run.” His greatest moment with the group was composing the musical for the title track to “Hotel California” and watching Henley’s face light up when he listened to the demo. “Hotel California” became a signature song for the group, capped off by dueling solos between Felder and Joe Walsh.
But from the start there was tension, brought on unintentionally by Felder. Leadon had a background in country and bluegrass and became unhappy with the Eagles’ new direction. By 1975, he had left and was replaced by another rock guitarist, Walsh.
Founding bassist Randy Meisner clashed with Frey during a show in 1977 and soon quit, succeeded by Timothy B. Schmit. Felder had his own conflicts, in part from his desire to write and sing more, and in 1980 almost came to blows with Frey after a concert in Long Beach, California.
The band reunited in 1994, but Felder would clash with Frey and Henley about money and he was fired in 2001. Legal action followed, settled out of court, but Frey and the other Eagles cut off ties to Felder. He said Tuesday that he had not been in contact for years with Frey, Henley, Walsh or Schmit despite efforts to reach them.
After finding out Frey was dead, he did receive a call from Meisner, who has had his own health battles in recent years.
“He was in tears,” Felder said.