When a group lasts as long as the Eagles, evolution becomes a necessity. While growing and stretching in artistic ways helps keep the creative spark alive, it also creates challenges in the live setting.
For the Eagles, being able to bring decades worth of dynamic and influential songs to the stage required added musicians. While not official members, these rockers remain in the background, adding layers and depth to the group’s iconic catalog of tunes.
But their contributions are not limited to the live setting. These touring members have added to the group off-stage as well, thanks to their involvement in recordings and various solo efforts.
Unsurprisingly, the Eagles have been very particular about who they’ve allowed into their inner circle. Here’s a look at the touring members who’ve helped make the band one of rock’s most engaging acts.
Corey’s first experience within the Eagles’ orbit came in 1978 when he contributed vocals, guitar and keyboards to the self-titled debut album of former member Randy Meisner. Nine years later, he get involved in another solo effort, delivering guitar, keys and bass on Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, while also receiving songwriting credits on the tracks “The Last Worthless Evening” and “Gimme What You Got.” The rocker would join Henley’s band, touring in support of the hugely successful 1989 LP.
When the Eagles reunited in 1994 for their first tour in 14 years, Henley brought Corey into the fold. Thus, the multi-instrumentalist appeared on the ensuing ‘94 live album Hell Freezes Over. He also contributed to Henley’s 2000 solo effort, Inside Job. Aside from the Eagles, Corey has worked with such vaunted artists as the Who, Rod Stewart, the Knack and Eddie Money.
When the Eagles agreed to reunite in ‘94, they knew they’d need some additional musicians to fill out the touring lineup. The band auditioned 10 drummers, with Henley keenly watching over the process. One of those who auditioned was Scott Crago.
“To fit into a band that’s that big, I don’t think they needed somebody else to come in and compete as being a fifth Eagle, a sixth Eagle,” Crago later recalled in an interview with drumstick company Vic Firth. “They brought me in knowing that I could just come in and do the job and not take away from who Don Henley is, and who Glenn [Frey] and Joe [Walsh] and those guys were.”
Still, his arrival wasn’t without incident. Crago’s first rehearsal with the band was on the song “New York Minute.” When Henley stopped the song midway through and suggested the drummer “listen to this song one more time,” Crago assumed he’d immediately lost the gig. “I turned white,” the rocker recalled to Modern Drummer, adding that he had an “immediate stomach ache.” “It felt like a failure.” Still, the drummer went and listened to the song “about 600 times” to ensure he’d never mess it up again. Since then, he’s been a steady member of the Eagles’ larger faction, appearing on the Hell Freezes Over live LP, the 2003 single “Hole in the World” and the 2007 album Long Road Out of Eden. He also co-wrote the song “Everything Is Different Now,” featured on Inside Job.
Guitarist Steuart Smith initially appeared on Henley’s Inside Job. Impressed by the musician’s impressive acumen, Henley set up a jam session alongside Frey in the hopes of bringing Smith into the Eagles touring band. After running through a handful of songs, Henley thanked Smith and said that he and Frey would need to discuss further steps. “I looked at Glenn and I said, ‘What do you think?,’” Henley recalled. “And he went, ‘Bingo.’ He said, ‘That’s the guy.'”
Smith is credited on five songs 2007’s Long Road Out of Eden, while also sharing producing duties for the LP. The musician’s contributions to the Eagles have not been lost on the group’s core members or their fans.
“Steuart’s quite a musician, and he’s added a lot of much-needed creative spark to the band,” Henley told The Washington Post in 2003. “He’s incredible, one of the best I’ve ever seen and one of the few people who could have stepped into this position and handled it as gracefully as he has. The thing that is most gratifying to me is that the crowds seem to love him: They applaud him vigorously every night and when he’s introduced, they chant his name.”
One only needs to look at the credits for Glenn Frey’s 2012 LP After Hours to understand Michael Thompson’s Swiss Army knife-like musical ability. The musician recorded eight different instruments on the release, while also serving as one of the album’s producers. In a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Frey credited Thompson with helping the singer discover new ways to interpret his classic hits. The musician has enjoyed a similar role with the Eagles, working as the band’s jack-of-all-trades since 2001, including multiple contributions to Long Road Out of Eden.
As one of the most in-demand session musicians in Hollywood, Thompson’s long and impressive resume includes work with many of the biggest names in music. including Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Hall & Oates, Bob Seger, Stewart Copeland, the Bee Gees, Steve Perry, Phil Collins. He’s also released three studio LPs with the Michael Thompson Band.
Keyboardist Will Hollis joined the Eagles touring band in 2001. Over that same timespan the musician also supported Frey and Henley during their respective solo tours. In addition to nearly two decades of live performances, the keyboardist also contributed to the Eagles’ 2007 LP Long Road Out of Eden. Outside of the band, Hollis has worked with artists such as Rod Stewart and Tonic. He also served as the musical director for Dancing With the Stars the Tour in 2007 and 2008, and America’s Got Talent Live in 2011.