When Don Felder joined the Eagles in the mid-'70s, he entered into an agreement based on equal partnership between band members. Felder brought some serious muscle into the group's guitar department following the departure of original member Bernie Leadon. When James Gang legend Joe Walsh entered the picture, Felder became one-half of a four-handed, 12-stringed tour de force. He came up with the music for the Eagles' own "Stairway to Heaven," the title track to the mega-platinum "Hotel California," and sprinkled searing leads and rather brilliant guitar harmonies all over the band's albums and live performances.
It's not exactly news that the Eagles -- led by the twin songwriting force of Don Henley and Glenn Frey -- disintegrated into a pile of bitterness, dysfunction and cocaine following the tour behind the ironically titled "The Long Run." When the band got back together in the mid-'90s for the "Hell Freezes Over" album and tour, Felder's incisive playing brought both magic and legitimacy to the proceedings. Things seemed good at the Hotel California. Of course, they weren't. Henley and Frey dissolved the original equal partnership, and band members Felder, Walsh and Timothy B. Schmitt were offered a choice: Take it or leave it.
Walsh and Schmitt made the deal. Who can blame them? It meant millions of dollars, which surely makes being a hired hand easier to swallow. Felder, however, had trouble letting it go, and his refusal to roll over got him fired.
"Heaven and Hell," Felder's autobiography, was released last year, and offered an insider's take on the proceedings. Henley and Frey sued to stop its release, but ultimately they weren't able to do so. The remaining Eagles finally released a new album last year, and sold a gazillion or so copies of it. Felder was out in the cold.
Politics aside, Felder remains a vibrant guitarist and songwriter, and on a solely musical level, was the most virtuosic of the Eagles. He continues to tour and perform the songs he had a hand in making more than famous. Felder and his band will perform inside the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort at 9 p.m. tonight and Saturday. Both shows are sold out.
-- Jeff Miers