TNB Night Owl – The Eagles You Don’t Know

Golden eagle in flight, photo by Tom Koerner of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Few people realize that The Eagles recorded a few instrumentals back in the early sixties. Of course, instrumental music was popular in that time. Duane Eddy and Link Wray were trail-blazing guitar instrumentalists. The Ventures and The Chantays were big names in instrumental rock, and both are now closely associated with surf music. The Shadows and The Tornados were in the vanguard of the British Invasion before anyone in America had even heard of the Beatles.

Ah, but back to The Eagles. Let’s see, in 1963 Glenn Frey would have been about fifteen years old, and Don Henley about sixteen. That’s pretty young. That can’t be right, can it? Not too far off age-wise, but nope, wrong Eagles. The Eagles of instrumental music were all about eighteen or nineteen years old, and they were from Bristol, UK. With several albums released, they were popular enough in their home country to tour Britian with several big American acts of the day including Johnny Tillotson and Del Shannon, who thought so highly of them that he wanted to hire them to be his backing band.

Meanwhile, another musician going by the name of Mr. Acker Bilk had a smash hit called “Stranger on the Shore”, which in May, 1962, became the first single by a British performer to reach number one on the American Billboard Hot 100 pop chart (it had only begun keeping track of hits in August, 1958). Now, this was not a rock and roll tune or even a guitar instrumental. It was a clarinet piece, backed by strings, that was played on pop and “easy listening” radio stations (later called “adult contemporary”). However it was incredibly popular worldwide and our boys, The Eagles, decided to adapt it for electric guitars and released their version in 1963.

THE EAGLES (UK BRISTOL) – Stranger on the Shore 1963

If you like “Sleep Walk” (1959) by Santo & Johnny, you’ll probably like The Eagles cover of “Stranger on the Shore”.

Sadly, The Eagles’ mentor and producer suddenly and literally went blind. If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the band members suffered a mental breakdown, resulting in the break up of The Eagles from Bristol in 1964.

However, we’re not done with bands called The Eagles. There was a rhythm and blues group by that name in Washington, D.C. who released a tune in 1954 called, “Tryin’ to Get to You”.

This particular track is historically interesting and worth mentioning because of the artists who recorded covers:

  • Elvis Presley liked it enough to record five different versions over the years, starting in 1955
  • Roy Orbison was singing with a group called The Teen Kings when they recorded the song in 1956
  • Eric Burdon and The Animals did their version in 1983
  • Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers, Faith Hill, and several others all covered this R&B single
  • Paul McCartney wrote a song called “In Spite of All the Danger”, one the first songs – if not the first song – recorded by The Quarrymen in 1958… a group that included McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, before they grew into The Beatles. McCartney’s song has been described as modeled on one of Elvis’ versions of “Tryin’ to Get to You”, or at least inspired by it.

And, that’s a wrap for your music history lesson for today.

Question of the night: Where were you in ’62? (Or ’72…or ’82… oh, heck, any two…)

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About Richard Doud 49 Articles
No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.