Country rock founding father who brought his soul to The Eagles.
Country rock has lost another of its founders with the death of Randy Meisner on 26th July 2023, in Los Angeles from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It has been said that if you look at the careers of Chris Hillman and Randy Meisner, you have an almost complete history of country rock as it developed in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. For his part, Randy Meisner’s bass and harmony vocals, with occasional songwriting, was there for the debut Poco album, he was part of Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, and as a session player he worked with Linda Ronstadt, Waylon Jennings and James Taylor among many others, and he was a founding member of The Eagles, leaving just after the release of ‘Hotel California’. There was a steely determination and personal honesty to his music which not only was an influence on his fellow artists but also lead to him leaving Poco after their debut album and the Eagles at the point of their biggest success because of personal and musical disagreements with fellow bandmates.
Randall Herman Meisner was born into a farming family of German descent in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on 8th March 1946. He took up bass after hearing Motown records and after playing in local bands he found himself in Los Angeles in 1966. His time with Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon band raised his profile and added to his experience. While Randy Meisner was the junior partner in The Eagles he was key to their overall sound, and his songs were featured on each of the albums while he was a member of the band. He may have been regarded as a junior partner, but he did write and sing the classic ‘Take It To The Limit’. The level of success The Eagles achieved, together with the internal band arguments proved too much for Randy Meisner, leading to him leaving the band in 1977. There is no doubt The Eagles’ music changed when first Bernie Leadon, and then Randy Meisner left the band, as the country rock quotient was dialled down.
Randy Meisner released three solo albums with 1980’s ‘One More Song’ being the best. While it was his best album it only achieved modest success, which was probably down to changing listener tastes more than anything else. He was also in the country rock band ‘Black Tie’ with Billy Swan and Jimmy Griffin from Bread, which morphed into Meisner, Swan & Rich when Charlie Rich Jr replaced Griffin. In 1989 he joined the original members of Poco who reconvened to record ‘Legacy’, which achieved more commercial success than their debut, ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’, had. Meisner also worked with various combinations of legacy musicians and made occasional guest appearances with his old bandmates over the years. Randy Meisner suffered increasing health issues in the 21st Century which limited his ability to tour. His health and mental state were causing concern for family and friends when he had to deal with the tragic death of his second wife who died in 2016 after accidentally shooting herself.
With The Eagles Randy Meisner tasted fame and commercial rewards of rock star proportions, but that level of success and adoration didn’t sit well with him personally. While the Eagles went on to greater commercial success after he had left, it was clear that their music had lost some of the humanity that Randy Meisner brought to their catalogue. It was this humanity that Randy Meisner brought to his other projects and the nascent country rock albums he helped record in the late ‘60s and early 70s. While the music of The Eagles has proven to be divisive with some listeners, it is clear their legacy would be lessened without Randy Meisner’s contributions to their catalogue, and it is doubtful that country rock would have had the full flowering it had when it was one of the most exciting genre’s of music. While he never achieved anything like the success he had had as a member of The Eagles, Randy Meisner remained true to his own musical beliefs that had helped kickstart country rock, and he did write a truly classic song in ‘Take It To The Limit’.