Joe Walsh

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Joe Walsh - Photo: Ross Halfin
Photo: Ross Halfin

American guitarist, singer, and songwriter Joe Walsh was born Joseph Woodward Fidler on November 20, 1947 in Wichita, Kansas. His father, Lt. Robert Newton Fidler, was a pilot for the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star in the United States Air Force and died in a plane crash in Okinawa on July 22, 1949. Walsh’s mother, Helen, was a classically trained pianist of Scottish and German ancestry.

Walsh was adopted by his stepfather at the age of five and given his stepfather’s surname. Walsh and his family lived in Columbus, Ohio, for a number of years during his youth. When he was twelve, his family moved to New York City. Later, Walsh moved to Montclair, New Jersey and attended Montclair High School, where he played oboe in the school band.

Walsh acquired his first guitar at the age of 10, and upon learning the Ventures’ ‘Walk Don’t Run’, decided that he wanted to pursue a career as a guitarist. Inspired by the success of The Beatles, he replaced Bruce Hoffman as the bass player in the locally popular group the Nomads in Madison, New Jersey, beginning his career as a rock musician.

After high school, Walsh briefly attended Kent State University. Walsh was present during the Kent State massacre in 1970. He spent time in various bands playing around the Cleveland, Ohio, area, including the garage bar band The Measles.

In late 1967, James Gang guitarist Glenn Schwartz, (who turned out to be AWOL from the army and was breaking up with his wife), decided to leave the band to move to California, Walsh, a friend of Schwartz’s, asked to be given a tryout as his replacement. Walsh was accepted.

The James Gang had several minor hits (including ‘Funk #49’) and became an early album-oriented rock staple for the next two years. It was during 1969 that Walsh sold his Les Paul Guitar to Jimmy Page.

In 1970, Walsh gave a 1959 Gretsch 6120 to the Who’s lead guitarist Pete Townshend. He used the Gretsch in the studio to record tracks on albums such as Who’s Next and Quadrophenia

In December 1971, after Walsh left the James Gang, Steve Marriott, frontman guitarist of Humble Pie, and previously a member of Small Faces invited Joe to move to England and join his band, which Peter Frampton had left, but Walsh declined. Instead, he moved to Colorado and formed Barnstorm, with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale, and bassist Kenny Passarelli.

Walsh and Barnstorm released their debut album, the eponymous Barnstorm, in October 1972. The follow-up, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, released in June 1973, was marketed under Walsh’s name and was their commercial breakthrough. It peaked at No. 6 on the US Billboard chart. The first and leading single, ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, received heavy airplay and reached No. 23 on the US Top 40 chart.

In late 1974, Walsh played slide guitar on Vitale’s debut solo album Roller Coaster Weekend. Walsh was taught the slide technique by Duane Allman, who played on Eric Clapton‘s Layla of Derek and the Dominos.

In December 1974, Walsh released his first solo album that was not considered a Barnstorm project, So What, which contained more introspective material such as ‘Help Me Through the Night’ and “Song for Emma”, a tribute to Walsh’s daughter who had been killed in a car accident that April. Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner of the Eagles contributed backing vocals on some tracks.

In 1975, Walsh was invited to join the Eagles as founding member Bernie Leadon’s replacement. There was some initial concern as to Walsh’s ability to fit in with the band, as he was considered far too “wild” for the Eagles, especially by their drummer and vocalist, Don Henley. Released on December 8, 1976, Hotel California was the band’s fifth studio album and the first to feature Walsh.

The second single from the album was the eponymous title track, which topped the charts in May 1977 and became one of the Eagles’ signature songs. It features Henley on lead vocals, with a guitar duet performed by Felder and Walsh. Its long guitar coda was voted the best guitar solo of all time by readers of Guitarist and the song was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978.

The Eagles went into the recording studio in 1977 to begin work on their next album, The Long Run. The album took two years to complete. The Long Run was released on September 24, 1979. Considered a disappointment by some music critics for failing to live up to Hotel California, it proved a huge commercial hit nonetheless; the album topped the charts and sold 7 million copies.

Following the breakup of the Eagles in July 1980, Walsh continued to release solo albums throughout the 1980s, (Walsh has released twelve solo studio albums to date).

After the Eagles disbanded, Walsh entered a period in which his drug and alcohol consumption reached dangerous levels. He even entered a relationship with Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks where, as she recalled, they did “way too much drugs” before ultimately breaking up.

His fourth studio album But Seriously, Folks… released in mid-1978, includes the satirical song ‘Life’s Been Good’. The original 8:04 album version of this track was edited down to 4:35 for single release and became Walsh’s biggest solo hit, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Walsh was a member of the short-lived supergroup The Best with Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), John Entwistle (The Who), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Simon Phillips (Judas Priest, The Who, Toto, etc.) and session musician Rick Livingstone. The band played a series of dates in Japan in September 1990, and they specialised in covers of tracks from the bands that made each instrumentalist famous.

Walsh had often joked about running for office, announcing a mock presidential campaign in 1980 and a vice presidential campaign in 1992. Walsh ran for President of the United States in 1980, promising to make ‘Life’s Been Good’ the new national anthem if he won.

The guitarist admits to struggling with alcohol and drug addictions for most of his early career and has been in recovery since 1993.

In 1994, after a 14-year hiatus and several solo albums, The Eagles released Hell Freezes Over, which reached number 1 on the Billboard charts and sparked one of the most successful tours in music history.

In 1998 The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first year they were nominated. Walsh performed at the 2012 Grammy’s with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl and at the 2012 MusiCares event honouring Paul McCartney.

Walsh has been married five times. He married Marjorie Bach (sister of Barbara Bach and sister-in-law of Ringo Starr) in Los Angeles on December 13, 2008.

Important Dates In The Life Of Joe Walsh:

On this day in music
9 Mar 2020
American record producer Keith Olsen died age 74. He worked with many artists including Rick Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead, Whitesnake, Pat Benatar, Heart, Santana, Foreigner, Scorpions, Magnum, Journey, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joe Walsh and Eric Burdon & the Animals.
6 Jun 2019
American singer and songwriter Dr John known for music combining blues, pop, jazz, boogie woogie and rock and roll died at the age of 77 after suffering a heart attack. Born Malcolm John Rebennack his career started in the late 1950s, when he became prominent as a pianist and singer on the New Orleans music scene. He also worked with the Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and Joe Walsh.
6 Nov 2014
American musician Rick Rosas died aged 65. He was one of the most sought-after studio session musicians in Los Angeles. Throughout his career, he played with Neil Young, Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ron Wood and many others. In 2014, Rosas joined Neil Young and Crazy Horse on their European tour, following Billy Talbot's inability to tour due to a stroke - making Rosas the only bassist to have played with three of Young's major band-based projects, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Crazy Horse.
18 Mar 2014
American musician, percussionist, actor and voice actor Joe Lala died from complications of lung cancer at the age of 66. As a drummer and percussionist, he worked with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manassas, The Bee Gees, Whitney Houston, Joe Walsh, Andy Gibb and many others. He played the trademark congas that drove the Bee Gees' 1976 US chart-topper 'You Should Be Dancing', subsequently included on the multi-million selling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
7 Jul 2010
Paul McCartney joined Ringo Starr onstage at a concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall to help celebrate the former Beatle drummer's 70th birthday. With Ringo's All Starr Band joined by Yoko Ono, Joe Walsh, Angus Young and Steven Van Zandt, Paul belted out "Birthday" and Ringo delivered With a Little Help from My Friends.
7 Jun 2010
Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh was granted a restraining order against an elderly neighbour who allegedly threatened to kill him. The man was also ordered to pay more than $1,500 in legal fees.
27 Nov 2005
Multimillionaire defence contractor David H. Brooks booked New York’s Rainbow Rooms and his daughter Elizabeth’s favourite acts for her ‘bat mitzvah’ coming-of-age celebration. The stars who appeared included 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Stevie Nicks. 50 Cent who was paid $500,000 to appear performed only four songs but he did manage to work in the lyric, "Go shorty, it's your bat miztvah, we gonna party like it's your bat mitzvah". The party cost an estimated $10 million, including the price of corporate jets to ferry the performers to and from the venue.
24 Sep 2004
The Strat Pack: Live in Concert was held at Wembley Arena in London marking the 50th Anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster guitar. The concert featured Ronnie Wood, Joe Walsh, Gary Moore, Brian May, David Gilmour, Albert Lee, Andy Fairweather-Low, Hank Marvin and many more.
9 May 2003
The Eagles trimmed to a four-man lineup (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit) after parting ways with Don Felder, started their Farewell I tour in Richmond, Virginia, the title a mocking reference to the many "farewell" tours that aren't really. They played 168 dates on the tour over three years.
7 Sep 2002
The Frankie Miller tribute concert was held at Barrowlands in Glasgow, Scotland with all profits going to the Drake Music Project. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth, Gallagher & Lyle, Hamish Stuart, former Thin Lizzy, guitarist Brian Robertson, ex-Genesis singer Ray Wilson and Joe Walsh all appeared. Miller attended the show but was still recovering from a 1994 brain haemorrhage and so was unable to join in.
15 Dec 2001
Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh was given an honorary Doctorate of Music from Kent State University in Ohio.
20 May 1995
Don Henley from the Eagles married model Sharon Summerall. Guests included Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, David Crosby, Randy Newman, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, Sting and Sheryl Crow.
26 Aug 1994
Scottish singer Frankie Miller suffered a massive brain haemorrhage in New York, while writing material for a new band he and Joe Walsh from the Eagles had formed. Miller spent five months in a coma. He then entered rehabilitation, re-learning how to walk and talk.
25 Apr 1994
The Eagles played the first of two shows where they recorded their 'Hell Freezes Over' album. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmit first got back together the previous December for the making of a Travis Tritt video of their song, 'Take It Easy' The name of the album was taken from an earlier quote by Glen Frey, who responded to the question "When will the Eagles get back together?"
5 May 1990
The John Lennon tribute concert was held at the Pier Head Arena in Merseyside, featuring Lenny Kravitz, Al Green, Joe Cocker, The Christians, Kylie Minogue, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Deacon Blue, Lou Reed, Joe Walsh and Wet Wet Wet.
23 Jul 1989
Ringo Starr kicked off his first tour since the break-up of the Beatles with a show in Dallas. His backup band included guitarist Joe Walsh, organist Billy Preston and Bruce Springsteen's saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
28 May 1983
The four day US Festival '83' took place in California, featuring The Clash, U2, David Bowie, The Pretenders, Van Halen, Stray Cats, Men At Work, Judas Priest, Stevie Nicks, Willie Nelson. INXS, Joe Walsh, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne. Over 750,000 fans attended the festival.
24 Dec 1976
The Eagles sixth album, Hotel California spent the first of eight non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. The band's first LP with Joe Walsh and last with bassist Randy Meisner which has now sold over 34 million copies worldwide. Some of the album was recorded at Criteria Studios, Miami. While the band were recording Black Sabbath were recording Technical Ecstasy in an adjacent studio and The Eagles were forced to stop recording on numerous occasions because Black Sabbath were too loud and the sound was coming through the wall.
8 Dec 1976
The Eagles released their fifth studio album Hotel California, their first album with guitarist Joe Walsh, who had replaced founding member Bernie Leadon. The album topped the US chart for eight weeks (non-consecutively) and at the 20th Grammy Awards, the Eagles won a Grammy Award for 'Hotel California', which won Record of the Year. Worldwide sales now stand at over 32 million.
20 Dec 1974
Former James Gang and Barnstorm guitarist Joe Walsh officially replaced Bernie Leadon in the Eagles after producer Bill Szymczyk had recommended Walsh to The Eagles.
19 Jul 1974
The Ozark Music Festival was held over three days on the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri. One of the largest music festivals ever held, some estimates have put the crowd count at 350,000 people. Acts who appeared included, Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Blue Öyster Cult, the Eagles, America, Marshall Tucker Band, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Boz Scaggs, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd,Electric Flag, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith and Spirit.
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