MRRL Hall of Fame
- Category: Inductees
- Created: Tuesday, 04 October 2011 09:17
- Written by Gary Johnson
Because he gained immense fame and fortune in sunny California as a founding member of the Eagles, many people are unaware that Glenn Frey is a native Michigander and that he started his career here in his home state.
Glenn was born in Detroit on November 6, 1948. He grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and started taking piano lessons by the age of five at the insistence of his mother, Nellie. Although Glenn found the lessons dreary, they would lay the groundwork for his eventual career in music.
Frey attended Dondero High School, and it was during his sophomore year that the Beatles arrived on the American music scene. Inspired by the Fab Four's concert in 1964 at Detroit’s old Olympia Stadium on Grand River, Glenn stopped taking piano and picked up the guitar. As soon as he had mastered a few chords, Frey put together his first band. The group, which was comprised of Glenn and four of his classmates, went through a couple of name changes before he finally settled on the Subterraneans, named after the novel by his favorite author, Jack Kerouac.
One of Glenn’s main hangouts during his high school days was the Hideout teen club in Harper Woods, Michigan. Besides being a center for the local music scene, it was also an ideal spot for meeting and picking up girls, especially if you were a good-looking guy who just happened to play guitar and sing in a band. Frey would also make his first important music contacts at the Hideout.
Soon after graduating in 1966, Glenn joined the popular Birmingham, Michigan, folk-rock band called the Four Of Us. Loosely patterned after the Byrds, the Four Of Us had already cut two singles on Dave Leone’s Hideout record label when Glenn joined the band, and they were considered big local stars. One thing that set the Four Of Us apart from their local competition was its stress on vocal harmony. According to band leader Gary Burrows, “Jeff Alborell, Glenn Frey, and I practiced harmony parts every day. That was something our band had that a lotta bands weren’t doing”. It was also a skill that Glenn would put to very good use in his future groups.
It was during this time that Glenn became friends with Bob Seger, who emerged as the Hideout label’s biggest star after his first single, “East Side Story”, became a hit in Detroit. Seger had a good ear for talent and recognized it in Glenn. Bob let Frey sit in on some of his early sessions and had Glenn play maracas and acoustic guitar on two of Seger’s early recordings.
In 1967, Glenn put together the Mushrooms with Gary Burrows’ bother Jeff on keyboards, Bill Barnes and Doug Gunch on guitars, and Larry Mintz on drums. The band scored a major coup by having Bob Seger write both sides of their first single, “Such A Lovely Child” and “Burned” and produce the session as well. Although the record was not a hit, Glenn and the Mushrooms went on Robin Seymour’s Swingin’ Time television show twice to promote it. The Mushrooms also appeared on the Hy Lit Show which was filmed in Cleveland. It was Glenn’s first taste of the big time.
By the end of 1967, Frey had put together another band called the Heavy Metal Kids comprised of Mushroom holdover Jeff Burrows, along with bassist Jeff Alborell from the Four Of Us, Paul Kelcouse on lead guitar, and drummer Lance Dickerson from the band Billy C. & The Sunshine.
During 1968, Bob Seger renamed his band the Bob Seger System and signed with Capitol Records. Glenn was invited to sit in on one of Seger’s early Capitol sessions and ended up singing backup on “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, which became Bob Seger’s first national hit, reaching # 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1969.
By the time “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” was climbing the charts, however, Glenn had already left Michigan for California. Supposedly, Frey was inspired by the fact that one of his many girlfriends, Joanie Sliwyn, had decided to go to the West Coast with her sister Alexandria to become singers. Glenn has also stated that he and two of his bandmates from the Heavy Metal Kids were anxious to travel to California because of a Life magazine expose of California’s youth culture and its embrace of the concept of free love and use of psychotropic drugs such as marijuana and L.S.D.
Once in California, Glenn met a fellow Detroit native named John David (J.D.) Souther who was dating Joanie Sliwyn’s sister. Frey and Souther became fast friends and formed a band called the Longbranch Pennywhistle. They signed a recording contract with Amos Records and released a self-title album in 1969. Despite the fact that “Longbranch Pennywhistle” featured stellar musicians such as guitarists James Burton and Ry Cooder, the record was a complete flop. The songwriting partnership that Frey and Souther had established, however, would turn out to be highly successful during the next decade.
Glenn’s next big step on the ladder to success was meeting singer Linda Ronstadt at L.A.’s hip music club, the Troubador, in 1971. Ronstadt, who was on the brink of stardom, invited Frey to play guitar in her touring band. Around the same time, Glenn befriended drummer Don Henley, whose group Shiloh was in the process of breaking up, and brought him in to drum in Linda’s band. When bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon were also recruited for the tour, the line-up that would become the Eagles played together for the first time.
After completing the tour with Linda Ronstadt, Frey and the rest of the band signed with Asylum Records. They released their first album, “The Eagles”, in 1972. Their debut was a hit, and it produced three charting singles. Two of them, “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” featured Glenn as the lead singer
The Eagles would become the most successful group to combine rock and country music. The blending of the two styles became known as country rock. The Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band, and Poco had all pioneered country rock in the late 1960’s.
The Eagles’ music, however, used a little more more rock guitar than these earlier groups, and Frey and Henley were able to write songs with catchy melodies and engaging lyrics that appealed to a wider audience. The Eagles were also blessed with an abundance of talented singers, all of whom could handle both the leads as well as the close harmonies that would become a group trademark. All of these elements combined to make the Eagles one of the most popular and biggest-selling bands of the 1970’s.
The group's second release was a concept album called “Desperado”. The album’s songs blended into a plot about outlaws in the Old West, loosely comparing them to a contemporary rock band. Frey and Don Henley wrote “Tequila Sunrise”, a minor hit single, as well the album’s title song. “Desperado”, although never released as a single, has become one of the Eagles’ most famous and popular songs in the years since its release.
In 1974, the Eagles added guitarist Don Felder and issued their third album “On The Border”. It contained the hit single “Already Gone”, featuring Glenn on lead vocal. The album’s biggest hit was “Best Of My Love”, a ballad written by Frey, Henley, and J.D. Souther. It became the band’s first # 1 hit single early in 1975.
The Eagles established themselves as one of the top groups in America with the release of “One Of These Nights” in 1975. The album spent five weeks at # 1, and it produced three Top Ten singles; “Lyin’ Eyes”, which featured Glenn on lead vocal, along with “Take It To The Limit”, and “One Of These Nights”. Glenn Frey and Don Henley were listed as songwriters on all three hits, and “One Of These Nights” became the band’s second # 1 single.
Bernie Leadon left the group after the album was completed to form his own band. Joe Walsh, who had established himself as a rock guitarist with the James Gang and on solo recordings, replaced him.
The Eagles’ next album, “Hotel California”, became their biggest hit to date, selling over fifteen million copies worldwide. Despite all of their success, the band got little respect from the rock press. They were often criticized as being examples of commercial Southern California rock. The Eagles’ continued to top the charts as two singles from the album, “New Kid In Town” (featuring Frey on lead vocal) and “Hotel California”, both reached # 1 in 1977. In addition, the group released the album “The Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”, and it also reached # 1.
Randy Meisner left the Eagles in 1977 and was replaced by Timothy Schmidt. The group, however, was in turmoil at this point and they struggled to complete their next album project. The band was rife with disagreements and even the songwriting partnership of Frey and Henley was not working. It took over two years and one million dollars to produce “The Long Run”, which would be their last album of all-new material for twenty-eight years. Despite all the in-fighting, once again the Eagles produced a # 1 album hit. “The Long Run” featured three more Top Ten singles including the # 1 hit “Heartache Tonight” with Frey on lead vocal. The song was co-written by Glenn’s old friend and mentor Bob Seger.
The Eagles broke up amidst bad feelings in the fall of 1980 following the release of the album. Asked when the group would reunite, Don Henley replied tartly, “When hell freezes over”!
During the 1980’s, all of the members of the Eagles produced solo projects. Don Henley had several hit albums and singles. Henley won Grammys for his 1984 single “The Boys Of Summer”, and for his 1989 album “The End Of The Innocence”.
Although Glenn did not win any Grammys, he had a successful solo career after the break-up of the Eagles. Frey released four albums of original songs from 1982 to 1993 and charted 12 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100. Glenn’s first solo album, “No Fun Aloud” was released in 1982 on Electra Records. The album contained two hit singles that Glenn co-wrote with Jack Tempchin; “I Found Somebody” and “The One You Love”. Tempchin had become friends with Frey back in the early 70’s at the Troubador, and over the years he had provided Glenn and the Eagles with the hit songs; “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone”.
Two years later, Glenn released his second solo effort, “The Allnighter”. Two of the album’s Frey-Tempchin compositions, “Sexy Girl” and “The Allnighter”, were chart hits in 1984. Glenn then had a # 2 hit single in early 1985 with “The Heat Is On”, taken from the soundtrack of the movie Beverly Hills Cop.
Later that year, the writers of the hit TV series Miami Vice wanted to use “Smuggler’s Blues”, a song Frey and Tempchin wrote for “The Allnighter” album, in an episode of the program. Glenn was then enlisted to portray a pilot for drug smugglers in one of the shows. This resulted in “Smuggler’s Blues” becoming a # 12 hit in 1985 after the episode aired. Frey and Tempchin also co-wrote the song “You Belong To The City” for the fall of 1985’s season-opening episode of Miami Vice. The song would become Glenn’s biggest solo hit, spending two weeks at # 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Glenn’s exposure on Miami Vice resulted in an extended appearance on the TV series Wiseguy and a role in the action film Let’s Get Harry. But by 1988, Glenn had lost interest in acting and again concentrated on music. He released his third solo outing, “Soul Searching”, later that year. The Frey-Tempchin composition “True Love”, released as the first single from the album, would be Glenn’s last significant hit before reuniting with the Eagles.
In 1994, after years of denying the rumors, Glenn and the Eagles reunited and hit the road for the highly successful, and aptly named, Hell Freezes Over Tour. They released a reunion album of the same name that combined live performances of their old hits along with four new songs. Three of the new songs from “Hell Freezes Over” charted as singles, and the album sold over four million copies. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. By 2000, “The Eagles/Greatest Hits 1971 – 1975” had become the all-time biggest selling album in history.
In 2003, the Eagles released the hit single “Hole In The World” that was written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley. The song was included on a new 2-CD greatest hits compilation titled "The Very Best Of The Eagles" that encompassed the band's entire career. Two years later they released a new 2-DVD set, Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne that featured the new Glenn Frey composition "No More Cloudy Days".
The band's rumored new studio album, however, did not come out until 2008. The 2-CD “Long Road Out Of Eden” returned Frey and the Eagles to the top of the charts and the resulting tour re-established the band as one of the biggest concert attractions in the world.
In 2009, Glenn Frey was voted into Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
A career spanning documentary called History Of The Eagles was released in 2013 and kicked off another tour that featured original member Bernie Leadon. The Eagles had been set to receive the 2015 Kennedy Honors but their award presentation was postponed until 2016 with the hope that Frey's health issues would improve and that he would be able to attend.
Sadly, Glenn Frey passed away at the age of 67 on January 18, 2016, from complications from rheumatoid arthriitus, acute ulcerative colitus, and pneumonia. The goodbye note that Frey wrote to his family and band concluded with the lyrics to "It's Your World Now", a song he co-wrote with Jack Tempchin:
It's your world now
Use well your time
Be part of something good
Leave something good behind
The curtain falls
I take my bow
That's how it's meant to be
It's your world now
MRRL Hall of Fame: https://michiganrockandrolllegends.com/index.php/mrrl-hall-of-fame
Video: Watch the video of Glenn's big hit "You Belong To The City" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TToLgW7zuc
Dr. J. Recommends:
“The Very Best Of The Eagles” 2 CD Warner Music Group.
All of the Eagles’ albums are worth having in your collection, but this 33-song collection pulls together all the hits and significant album cuts from 1972 through 2003.
“No Fun Aloud” CD Elekra/Asylum Records. I have always liked Glenn’s first solo outing. Besides the two hits mentioned above, the album contains a Frey-Seger composition called “That Girl” and a song that Glenn and Jack Tempchin originally wrote as the theme for Monday Night Football called “Don’t Give Up”.
"Classic Glenn Frey - The Allnighter" CD MCA Records. This is a great companion to Glenn's debut since it concentrates on his hits on MCA. This has all his biggest singles; "You Belong To The City", "The Heat Is On", and "Smuggler's Blues".