The three artists that made Glenn Frey want to be a musician

Glenn Frey

A musical movement never occurs by coincidence. Those success stories are what make millions of people want to make their own versions of it. They transform what could have been a mindless jam session into an entire musical force of nature. Even if it just comes down to a bunch of people dicking around in their garage trying to find some decent riff to jam on. Glenn Frey thought things had started when the British invasion was still going on. However, he could take all the credit for changing the California sound with the Eagles.

However, by the time Frey arrived in California, the state was still largely green. Though the hippie ideal hadn’t entirely vanished, artists were trying to go beyond the conventional songs that had to deal with government movements. They aimed to move along to the simple pleasures in life.

To Frey, the thought of someone living in California in this manner would have been akin to asking if he wanted to visit the moon. After all, he had come from the streets of Detroit. It could have been a virtual utopia to see that kid arrive in Los Angeles. The weather was warm, and everyone was carrying an acoustic guitar.

Frey told PBS that “the pioneers were the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Byrds.” Even though there were many other great bands of the era. We all wanted to move to California because of those bands from the late 1960s, so we just kind of went with it.

You can hear elements of all three of those bands when you listen to Eagles songs. Although The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn shares a lot of similarities with Buffalo Springfield’s melodic sensibilities. The Eagles largely built their sound on Buffalo Springfield’s rock foundation.

You have to keep in mind that the group was usually halfway between country and rock. McGuinn’s chiming 12-string on The Byrds’ biggest hits served as a sort of blueprint for Frey’s creative direction. You only need to spend two seconds listening to The Beach Boys’ harmonies to understand what they accomplished for rock and roll.

While there are many similarities between their singing and Appalachian-style harmony. Songs like “New Kid in Town” and “Seven Bridges Road” clearly bear the influence of Brian Wilson. But Gram Parsons is most likely the man whose influence was greater than anyone else’s.

Parsons may have played with The Byrds in a later incarnation, but his solo work is likely a more genuine example of the Eagles‘ country-rock synthesis. Bernie Leadon brought his fair share of country chops, having played with Parsons in the Flyin’ Burrito Brothers. He was skilled in the guitar, banjo, and pretty much anything with strings.

That is not to say that any of these groups were superior to the Eagles in their delivery of rustic rock & roll. Henley and Glenn Frey embodied the best aspects of each of those bands. They became the quintessential representation of what California is meant to be.

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