The Hippo


Jun 17, 2019








Don Felder. Courtesy photo.

Soundtrack of Summer with Styx, Foreigner and Don Felder

When: Sunday, July 6, at 7 p.m.
Where: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford
Tickets: $29-$59 at

Flying solo
Former Eagle Don Felder performs with Soundtrack of Summer tour

By Michael Witthaus

 It’s tempting to read Don Felder’s memoir Heaven and Hell for the tell-all tales of his days as an Eagle — the band’s messy breakup, reunion and even messier aftermath. What it’s really about, though, is a dirt-poor Florida kid’s romance with music, and his road to hits like “Hotel California” and “Victim of Love.”

“When I was 10 years old, I became obsessed with it,” Felder said in a recent phone interview. “I literally spent every spare minute when I wasn’t in school or working to play music for the sheer love and joy of it.” 
His father encouraged him despite 18-hour workdays, recording borrowed records on a reel-to-reel tape deck picked up at a swap meet so the budding guitarist could practice.
As a teenager, Felder went to a Chet Atkins concert with his dad and experienced a life-changing moment. Atkins played both “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on a single guitar, “simultaneously, in key and in stereo, which amazed me,” said Felder. “Stereo was a phenomenon then, like the iPad today — brand new.”
Years later, the experience inspired Felder as his band prepared to perform the then-new Hotel California album live on stage.  
“I had recorded so many parts … I had to figure out how to play them all,” he said. “So I got a double-neck guitar and wired it like Chet Atkins’ pickups. I threw a switch one way to play the six-string parts and another for the 12-string parts. Even today I have to use the guitar.”
It wasn’t the only early moment employed by Felder further down the road. He was living in Boston after his first record deal ended, having turned down teaching guitar to Berklee freshmen for studio work. 
“I was playing guitar, arranging, being a recording engineer, tape operator,” he said, “anything I could do to learn how to make records and get my chops together.”
After his day job, Felder took the T to Cambridge to play a nylon string guitar for the dinner crowd at the Harvard Square Holiday Inn. The high point was an occasional $5 tip for marking someone’s anniversary with a request — often quickly learned on break from a fake book. 
“Anything to make a buck … then I’d go play with this cover band until one in the morning,” he said. 
It was grueling, and sometimes demeaning, but ultimately useful, said Felder. 
“When we did the Hell Freezes Over version of ‘Hotel California,’ I thought, how do I arrange that song in a way that’s unique and Spanish flavored?  I picked up this nylon-stringed guitar that I had in my house and started playing it on that, and said, ‘Ah-hah!’ So it came back.”
Felder is currently with the Soundtrack of Summer tour, co-headlined by Styx and Foreigner. It stops at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook on July 6. Felder and Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw met at an Alice Cooper charity event 10 years ago. 
“Styx were playing and I sat in. We did three Eagles songs and we had a blast — great time, great band.” 
Shaw co-wrote a pair of songs with Felder for his 2012 solo album, Road to Forever. Also contributing to the album were Crosby, Stills & Nash, who harmonize on the opening track, “Fall From the Grace of Love.” Stills and Felder briefly played together as teenagers but lost touch. Later, fate amusingly reconnected the two. 
“When I got to L.A. [in 1970], one of the first gigs I had was playing in Crosby-Nash, doing Stephen’s parts — guitar, harmony,” Felder remembered. “We went to Denver for a show. Stephen lived there, and was going to sit in. I’ll never forget him walking on stage and looking at me. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’m being you!’” 
As seen in the July 3, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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