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Original Eagles member Bernie Leadon was perhaps the group's most underrated and valuable player from 1972 through 1975, as he alternated between vocals, guitar (acoustic, electric, and pedal steel), banjo, and mandolin, in addition to lending a hand with songwriting. Born on July 19, 1947 in Minneapolis, MN, Leadon appreciated rock & roll, but his true love lay in country music, as he began playing in a California bluegrass outfit in 1962, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. After relocating to Florida by the mid-'60s, Leadon joined the short-lived country-folk band Hearts and Flowers, appearing on their second and final recording, 1968's Of Horses, Kids and Forgotten Women, before forming a new group, Dillard & Clark. But once more, Leadon's tenure with the group would be fleeting, as he played on all of their 1968 debut, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, and only a few select tracks on their sophomore effort, 1969's Through the Morning, Through the Night. Up next for Leadon was a brief stretch with Linda Ronstadt's backing band, the Corvettes, before joining up with one of the first-ever country-rock outfits, the Flying Burrito Brothers, in the fall of 1969. Leadon remained a member of the Burritos for a few years -- appearing on such albums as 1970's Burrito Deluxe, 1971's self-titled release, and 1972's live set, Last of the Red Hot Burritos. Upon leaving the Burritos, Leadon signed on once more as a member of Linda Ronstadt's backing band, which included guitarist/singer Glenn Frey and drummer/singer Don Henley. Shortly thereafter, the trio decided to form their own group, the Eagles, which was rounded out with the addition of ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner. The band perfected and popularized the Flying Burrito Brothers' country-rock style, as both Frey and Henley proved to be superb songwriters. The Leadon-era of the group lasted for a total of four albums (which many longtime Eagles fans consider the group's best) -- 1972's self-titled debut, 1973's Desperado, 1974's On the Border, and 1975's One of These Nights -- on which Leadon penned such underrated gems as "My Man" and "Bitter Creek," among others. But the band's never-ending and grueling touring/recording schedule began to wear Leadon out, to the point where the guitarist decided to leave the group (as a self-described "act of survival"). The Eagles carried on with Joe Walsh replacing Leadon, and issued one of the biggest-selling releases in the history of pop music, Hotel California. It didn't take long, however, for Leadon to land back on his feet and resuscitate his music career. In 1977, the guitarist formed the Bernie Leadon/Michael Georgiades Band, who issued a lone album the same year, Natural Progressions, before splitting up. The '80s saw Leadon back Chris Hillman for a pair of releases, 1982's Morning Sky and 1984's Desert Rose, and form a Christian bluegrass group, Ever Call Ready, who issued a lone self-titled release in 1985. Two years later, Leadon replaced John McEuen in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- appearing on the recordings Hold On (1987), Workin' Band (1988), and Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2 (1989). Shortly after the dawn of the '90s, Leadon launched the novelty act Run C & W, which specialized in doing country versions of rap songs (and issued two releases, 1993's Into the Twangy-First Century and 1995's Row vs. Wade). In 2003, he released a solo CD, Mirror, available at www.bernieleadon.com. In addition to his numerous aforementioned projects, Leadon has also guested on many albums by other artists over years, including recordings by Gram Parsons, Alabama, Rita Coolidge, Andy Fairweather Low, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, David Crosby, and Stevie Nicks, among others.
Bernard Mathew "Bernie" Leadon, III (born July 19, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minnesota), is an American musician and songwriter, best known as a founding member of the Eagles. Prior to the Eagles, he was a member of two pioneering and highly influential country rock bands, Dillard & Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, dobro) coming from a bluegrass background. He introduced elements of this music to a mainstream audience during his tenure with the Eagles.
Leadon's music career since leaving the Eagles has been decidedly low-key, resulting in merely two solo albums with a gap of 27 years in between. Leadon is, however, a noted session musician who has appeared as a guest on many other artists' records.
Early career 
Leadon (pronounced "led-un") was born in Minneapolis, to Dr. Bernard Leadon, Jr. and Ann Teresa Sweetser Leadon, devout Catholic parents of ten children. His father was an aerospace engineer whose career moved the family around the U.S. The family enjoyed music, and at an early age, young Bernie developed a keen interest in folk and bluegrass music. He eventually mastered the 5-string banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar respectively.
As a young teen he moved with his family to San Diego, where he met fellow musicians Ed Douglas and Larry Murray of the local bluegrass outfit, The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. The Barkers would prove a breeding ground for future California country rock talent, including shy, 18-year-old mandolin player Chris Hillman (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, The Desert Rose Band), with whom Leadon would have a lifelong friendship. Augmented by banjo player (and future Flying Burrito Brother) Kenny Wertz, the Squirrel Barkers would eventually ask Leadon to join the group, upon Wertz's joining the Air Force in 1963.
His stint in the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers did not last long. In late 1964, his family once again relocated to Gainesville, Florida, when his father accepted a position as Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. Leadon attended Gainesville High School, where he met classmate and future Eagles guitarist Don Felder. Felder's band, the Continentals, had just lost guitarist and future Buffalo Springfield & CSNY superstar Stephen Stills. Upon Leadon's joining the group, rechristened Maundy Quintet, they gigged locally, even sharing the bill with future Gainesville legend Tom Petty and his early band the Epics (a band that also included Bernie's brother, musician Tom Leadon).
A call from ex-Squirrel Barker Larry Murray in 1967, to join his fledgling psychedelic country-folk group, Hearts & Flowers, was enticement enough for Leadon to move to California, where he quickly fell in with the burgeoning L.A. folk/country rock scene. Leadon recorded one album with the band: their sophomore effort, Of Horses, Kids, and Forgotten Women for Capitol Records. The record was a local hit but failed to make much of a dent on the national album charts. Discouraged, the group disbanded in 1968.
By late 1968, Leadon had befriended bluegrass/banjo legend Doug Dillard, late of the Dillards. While crashing at Dillard's pad, informal jam sessions with prolific songwriter and ex-Byrds member Gene Clark began to take shape, and morphed into what would become Dillard & Clark, a seminal country-rock band who would lay the groundwork for the country-rock sound, that would dominate the L.A. music scene for the next decade. In 1968, the group recorded their classic and highly influential LP, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark. The album featured Leadon's warm and distinctive backing vocals and impressive multi-instrumental work. The album's highlights include several compositions co-written with Clark, most notably the future Eagles staple (and somewhat of a signature song for Leadon) from their debut album, "Train Leaves Here This Morning".
Leadon left Dillard & Clark in 1969, eventually reconnecting with ex-Squirrel Barker (and ex-Byrd) Chris Hillman, who asked him to join his fledgling country-rock outfit, The Flying Burrito Brothers, a band that Hillman had formed a year earlier with fellow ex-Byrd, Gram Parsons. Leadon would record two albums with the group: Burrito Deluxe and the post-Parsons LP, The Flying Burrito Bros. After the latter album's release in 1971, Leadon had tired of the band's lack of commercial success and decided to leave the band to pursue an opportunity to play with three musicians he had gelled with while moonlighting in Linda Rondstadt's backing band that summer. He would strike paydirt with this next band, the Eagles, which would launch his career and the country-rock genre into the stratosphere.
Leadon was the last member to join the Eagles, a band initially formed by guitarist/singer Glenn Frey, drummer/singer Don Henley, and former Poco bassist/singer Randy Meisner. Leadon is often credited with helping shape the band's early country-rock sound, bringing his strong sense of harmony as well as his country, bluegrass and acoustic sensibilities to the group.
Upon the release of their debut album, Eagles, the group met with near instantaneous success, due largely to the strength of their hit singles, "Take It Easy", "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Witchy Woman" (co-written by Leadon and Henley), all of which highlighted Leadon's multi-instrumental talent on electric guitar, B-Bender, banjo, and harmony vocals. Their follow-up, Desperado, was another strong country-rock venture highlighted by the classics "Tequila Sunrise" and the title track, but was met by surprisingly lukewarm reviews and lackluster sales. As a result, the band attempted to distance itself from the "country rock" label for their third album On the Border. In doing so, Leadon encouraged the group to recruit his old friend, guitarist Don Felder, to the band. The result was the guitar-heavy top ten hit "Already Gone". The album also included "My Man", Leadon's touching tribute to his old bandmate and friend, Gram Parsons, who had died of a drug overdose the year prior at Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California.
With the wild success of On the Border and its follow-up smash, One of These Nights, tension within the band grew, as Leadon grew increasingly frustrated by the band's direction away from his beloved country and bluegrass and toward AOR stadium rock. He famously quit the band in 1975 by pouring a beer over Glenn Frey's head. He later cited a need to get healthy and break the vicious cycle of touring, recording and heavy drug use that was rampant within the band.
Upon his departure, Asylum Records released Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975), which highlighted the band's Leadon years and went on to become the Biggest-Selling Album of All-Time for sales in excess of 42 million units, awarded to the Band Members by the RIAA. He was replaced by former James Gang guitarist/singer, Joe Walsh.
Later career 
Upon leaving the Eagles, Leadon retreated from the limelight, only to resurface in 1977 with musician friend Michael Georgiades for his first solo album, Natural Progressions.
In 1985, he recorded an album of bluegrass and gospel favorites under the name Ever Call Ready, featuring Chris Hillman and Al Perkins, and also had a short stint with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the late 1980s. In 1993, he became a member of Run C&W, a novelty group singing Motown hits "bluegrass style", recording two albums for MCA Records. In 1998, Leadon reunited with the Eagles in New York City for the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All seven current and former Eagles members performed together on "Take It Easy," and "Hotel California". In 2004, he released his second solo effort in 27 years, Mirror.
He currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is a well-regarded and well-respected session musician and producer, considered by many as one of the early pioneers of the country-rock genre.