Bernie Leadon’s Top 5 Guitar Moments with The Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles

Guitarist Bernie Leadon was at the forefront of bringing country rock to mainstream audiences in the early 1970s. His recordings with the Eagles dominated radio, and they became one of history’s greatest-selling rock bands.

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Yet, it was Leadon’s groundbreaking early work with Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers that created underground yet profoundly influential recordings, paving the way for alternative country and Americana artists like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and many others.

Born in Minneapolis, Leadon began with a California bluegrass group called the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers in 1962. He then worked with Hearts and Flowers before co-founding Dillard & Clark. Leadon wouldn’t spend much time in these groups as he quickly moved on to join Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. Then, he joined The Flying Burrito Brothers before returning to Ronstadt’s band, where he met Glenn Frey and Don Henley. They formed the Eagles with ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner. The Eagles evolved the country rock hybrid of The Flying Burrito Brothers and popularized the new genre.

Let’s take a look at Leadon’s top five guitar moments from his days with The Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles.

“Train Leaves Here This Morning” by the Eagles (1972)

Leadon co-wrote “Train Leaves Here This Morning” with Gene Clark from The Byrds. He also sings lead vocals on this dusty country song, and though it wasn’t a radio hit, it remains a diamond in the Eagles’ vast catalog. The guitar solo splits between electric and acoustic guitars with Leadon’s signature country style. Clark and Leadon played together in Dillard & Clark, a country rock band formed in 1968 following Clark’s departure from The Byrds. “Train Leaves Here This Morning” first appeared on their album The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark.

I lost ten points just for being in the right place
At exactly the wrong time
I looked right at the facts there, but I may as well have
Been completely blind

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles (1972)

Glenn Frey helped Jackson Browne finish writing “Take It Easy,” and Browne’s song soon became an Eagles hit. Leadon’s banjo connects California folk to Appalachian bluegrass though it wasn’t initially welcomed by the band. Producer Glyn Johns suggested the banjo part, and he said everyone thought “it was a bonkers idea.” Leadon also layered electric guitar parts, bringing outlaw country to the band’s sublime vocal harmonies. “Take It Easy” opens the band’s self-titled debut, and it’s one of their defining anthems. The title describes the easy-listening sound the Eagles perfected.

Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles (1972)

Jack Tempchin wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” an easy-listening country rock song about young love. Leadon performs minimalist country licks on a B-Bender electric guitar before he turns up the volume during the solo section. It echoes the Bakersfield sound made famous by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, giving some edge to the Eagles’ rounded corners.

And I found out a long time ago
What a woman can do to your soul
Ah, but she can’t take you anyway
You don’t already know how to go

“Just Can’t Be” by The Flying Burrito Brothers (1971)

“Just Can’t Be” is a swaggering, psychedelic rock song from the band’s third album. Leadon’s fuzzed-out electric guitar solo has hints of Jimi Hendrix’s spacey “Third Stone from the Sun.” Meanwhile, Chris Hillman had fired Gram Parsons from the group, and soon, Leadon would leave to join the Eagles. Leadon, with Frey, Henley, and Meisner, added pop songwriting to The Flying Burrito Brothers’ country rock style and created a smooth version made for radio.

You know I lost a friend
The other day
She said she’d like to stay
But she’s on her way

“Wild Horses” by The Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)

Did Gram Parsons write The Rolling Stones’ classic “Wild Horses”? Keith Richards said he didn’t, but he and Parsons were hanging around each other then. Parsons and The Flying Burritos Brothers were vastly influential in blending country music with rock and roll. They released their version of “Wild Horses” a year before The Rolling Stones’ own recording appeared on Sticky Fingers. Leadon’s Dobro playing blends with Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel guitar, creating a kind of drunken cosmic country.

Wild horses
Couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses
Couldn’t drag me away

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