How the Eagles Reunited Because of Travis Tritt
The Eagles were one of the most successful musical groups of the 1970s before sputtering to a stop in the first part of the '80s, and with the exceptional bitterness of their breakup and the success of some of their solo projects, it seemed obvious the group would never reunite. But that changed in December of 1993 ... and it all happened courtesy of Travis Tritt.
The Eagles had always had some tense moments, but the band really began to flounder during the long and contentious sessions for 1979's The Long Run. The musicians were struggling with drugs, interpersonal problems and the pressure to follow up their landmark Hotel California album from 1976, and the album was a somewhat disjointed project, followed by a tour that ended unceremoniously in a gig at which Glenn Frey and guitarist Don Felder argued onstage in front of the audience and nearly came to blows backstage.
The band struggled to get through 1980's Eagles Live as an obligation, with Frey and Don Henley so at odds that they worked on separate coasts, and when it was finished, the members of the Eagles went off into various solo projects, with varying degrees of success and failure. Henley would post a long string of successes with "Dirty Laundry," "The Boys of Summer," "All She Wants to Do Is Dance," "The End of the Innocence" and more, while Frey scored several hits with movie and TV theme songs including "The Heat Is On," "You Belong to the City," "Smuggler's Blues," "Shakedown" and more, as well as pursuing an acting career.
Both men maintained they would never reunite in interviews, but in 1993, the Eagles' former manager, Irving Azoff, decided to release an Eagles tribute album featuring country artists revisiting the group's biggest hits via his label, Giant Records. Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles featured contributions from Vince Gill, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood and more, and Tritt led the album with his energetic cover of the Eagles' career-launching hit "Take It Easy." When the song became the lead single and the label asked Tritt to film a video, he had one condition.
As Travis recounts in Country Music: The Encyclopedia, he told Azoff, "The only way I'm going to do a video is if we get the Eagles back together" (quote via Ultimate Classic Rock).
He knew that was unlikely, admitting, "everybody kind of chuckled and got a big kick out of it, because nobody thought it could happen."
But enough time had apparently passed, and on Dec. 6, 1993, Tritt and the Long Run-era Eagles lineup of Henley, Frey, Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit assembled on a video set to shoot the clip, which featured the country singer and the band members all laughing and shooting pool.
The Eagles did not actually play together on the track, though the video features them accompanying Tritt onstage, but the shoot reminded them of their former shared camaraderie, and it wasn't long before they began talks for the unlikeliest of reunions.
The Eagles reunited officially in April of 1994 to film an MTV special, and those tracks became their Hell Freezes Over album, which was followed by a tour of the same name. The album and road trek were both massively successful, re-launching the band to a new generation. The Eagles have continued on in various permutations ever since, surviving both Felder's departure and Frey's death to keep performing their music for fans all over the world. Since 2017, Vince Gill and Glenn Frey's son, Deacon Frey, have been part of the Eagles lineup, dividing up Frey's vocal and guitar duties on his classic songs.
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