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Guitar World
Matt Parker

“An integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band”: Eagles founding bassist, Randy Meisner, dies aged 77

Randy Meisner of The Eagles

Randy Meisner, best known as the original bassist of the Eagles, has died aged 77.

According to a statement from the Eagles, the bass player passed away in Los Angeles on July 26 after developing complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Meisner was born on March 8, 1946 and raised in Scottsbluff, Nebraska in a farming family. He began playing rock ‘n’ roll in high school, though – as he told Classic Rock (via EaglesOnlineCentral) in 2008 – that was not his biggest influence. 

“I loved R&B,” said Meisner. “The bass players on the Motown stuff were great. They really inspired me.”

With the advent of the ’60s folk revival, he relocated several times: first to Denver, where he played in a folk rock outfit called The Poor (who supported Jimi Henrdix in New York) and then later to LA.

During a performance with The Poor at LA’s iconic venue The Whisky A Go Go, Meisner met and befriended Buffalo Springfield. Following that band’s split, he was recruited by former Springfield members Richie Furay and Jim Messina to form the country rock group, Poco.

The bassist’s tenure with the band was short-lived – he later told Rolling Stone (via Rock's Back Pages – paywalled) that he was “dissatisfied with the way our sound was coming out on record” – and he left after a year.

As a session player, he performed in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and even played on James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James album (on Country Road and Blossom), before he briefly gave up on LA, returning to Nebraska to take a job at a John Deere tractor dealership. 

Fortunately, Nelson called him back to LA and on his return in 1971, Miesner wound-up in Linda Ronstadt’s session lineup, where he met Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon. Within months, the four of them had formed The Eagles and released their self-titled debut the following year. 

Meisner would play with the band until 1977, recording five albums with the band, including Hotel California and One of These Nights.

“I can’t read music,” Meisner told Classic Rock. “Once I learn a part it’s there. My bass playing came real naturally. In the Eagles’ rehearsals that’s how a lot of the songs would come together. Everyone would bring their own little thing of how they played, and that’s what made the sound of the band.”

Meisner’s vocal talents should also be noted, as it was the bassist who sung the lead on the band’s first million-selling hit, Take It to the Limit.

However, he preferred to be side of stage and on June 28, 1977 at the band’s Knoxville, TN show, Meisner reportedly decided to skip the song due to illness – a decision which resulted in an altercation with Frey. It proved to be a turning point in his relationship with the rest of the band.

"That was the end,” Meisner reflected in a 2008 Rolling Stone interview. “I really felt like I was a member of the group, not a part of it.” By September 1977, he had left the Eagles.

Meisner would go on to to perform as a solo artist and in several other groups and would later reunite with both Poco and the Eagles, most notably joining the latter for their induction to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998. 

The bassist suffered from ill health in recent decades and Meisner dealt with a personal tragedy in 2016, after his wife Lana Rae Meisner accidentally shot herself and died.

A statement from the Eagles describes Meisner as being “at the forefront of the musical revolution that began in Los Angeles, in the late 1960s” and “an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band.”

(Image credit: Gus Stewart / Getty)
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