If you’re a fan of the Eagles, you’ll know exactly who Randall Meisner is. As one of the band’s founding members, he performed on some of their greatest albums, including Desperado, One of These Nights, and Hotel California. He walked away from the band in 1977, but continued to perform with other groups and as a solo artist until his health forced him to withdraw from the stage in the early 2000s. Find out more as we reveal 10 things you didn’t know about Randy Meisner.
1. Elvis Presley inspired him to perform
Meisner was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska as the second child to farmers Herman and Emilie. Music was in his blood: his mother loved to sing and his grandfather was a violin teacher. At the age of ten, he saw Elvis Presley perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and realized he wanted to be a musician. He started out playing guitar in local bands, but then one of his teachers suggested he take up the bass instead. He did, and found it came naturally to him.
2. He wasn’t an overnight success
He might have been a member of one of the biggest rock and roll bands in history, but success didn’t come easy to Meisner. As randymeisneronline.com writes, his first band was The Driving Dynamics, a small-time outfit whose main gigs consisted of high school dances and local events. Convinced he’d have more success on the West Coast, Meisner joined a group called the Soul Survivors and headed to LA. Unfortunately, he had no more luck there than he’d had in Nebraska. Discouraged by their lack of success, the band members started drifting off one by one, only for Meisner to replace them each time. When he realized he was the last remaining member of the original group, he renamed it The Poor. The change in name didn’t help matters one little bit, and by 1970, Meisner has retreated to Nebraska with his tail between his legs.
3. A call changed his life
After moving back to Nebraska, Meisner took a job at a John Deere Dealership, only rarely going back to LA for the occasional piece of session work. Then, as outsider.com says, he got a call that would change his life forever. The call was from John Boylan, who invited Meisner to join Linda Rondstadt’s backing band. At the time, the band was made up of Glen Frey, Don Henley, and Bernie Leadon. Meisner agreed, and a short time later, the band had become the Eagles, had signed to Asylum Records, and were on course to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
4. He’s been married twice
In 1963, Meisner married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Lee Barton. The first son, Dana Scott, was born in November 1963, and in May 1970, they welcomed twins Heather Leigh and Eric Shane. By the early 1970s, the couple’s marriage was already rocky, with Meisner spending more time touring the country than at home. Efforts to patch things up failed, and by 1981, the couple had divorced. In November 1996, Meisner married again, this time to his long-time girlfriend, Lana Rae.
5. He was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife
On March 6, 2016, Meisner’s wife was shot and killed at the couple’s home in Nebraska. Meisner was held for questioning, but was released after surveillance tapes showed he’d been in a different part of the house at the time of the shooting. The death was later ruled an accident – it’s believed that Lana shot herself after the rifle she was holding was struck by an object and fired. Following the incident, Meisner was placed under a temporary psychiatric hold after he made threats of suicide.
6. He requested his own conservatorship
According to some reports, Meisner’s marriage had been rocky for years before Lana’s death. In April 2015, several of Meisner’s friends filed a lawsuit requesting that Meisner be placed under a temporary conservatorship to protect his personal and financial matters. Lana, they claimed, was taking advantage of the singer’s addictions by force-feeding him alcohol in order to keep him drunk and compliant. Both Lana and Meisner denied the claims. In the event, the court issued a conservatorship to direct Meisner’s medical care only. In a twist to the story, Meisner applied for his own conservatorship in 2016 following his wife’s death, saying he was “barely able to accept the sudden and tragic loss of his loving wife.”
7. Take It to the Limit pushed him past his limit
In 1977, Meisner became the second member of the Eagle’s to depart the band. According to grunge.com, his decision to leave came down to one thing in particular: the song, Take it to the Limit. Meisner had taken the lead on the studio recording, so it was down to him to perform it live – something the notoriously shy bassist didn’t relish one iota. “I was always kind of shy,” he’s since said. “They wanted me to stand in the middle of the stage to sing Take It to the Limit, but I liked to be out of the spotlight.” During one particular gig in Knoxville, Tennessee, Meisner refused to sing the song as part of the encore after feeling ill. Glen Frey apparently called him a few choice words, Meisner reacted with his fists, and shortly after, made the decision to quit the band for good.
8. He was part of an all-star band
After leaving the Eagles, Meisner made a few solo albums, scored a top 20 hit with the 1980 single “Hearts on Fire,” and then, in 1985, joined the all-star band Black Tie along with Jimmy Griffin and Billy Swan. After bagging a hit with their cover of Buddy Holly’s Learning the Game, they started generating interest. When session musician Blondie Chaplin and former Eagles member Bernie Leadon joined them on their US tour in 1986, they started generating even more. After Griffin was replaced with Charlie Rich, Jr., they renamed themselves Meisner, Rich & Swan and spent the next decade touring extensively. Unfortunately, their decision to release an album on September 11, 2001 backfired for obvious reasons and they sank into obscurity soon after.
9. He stopped performing in 2008
Meisner has battled alcohol dependence since the late 60s. By the 2000s, his years of drinking had caught up with him, resulting in a series of minor heart attacks that forced him to cut back on touring. His health continued to deteriorate, and by 2008, he’d stepped back from performing altogether.
10. He doesn’t bear grudges
When the Eagles got back together for the 1994 tour Hell Freezes Over, Meisner expected to be asked to join the party. He wasn’t. Considering he helped form the band, that rankled. It rankled even more when he asked if he could join them for their Millennium Concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve 1999 and was turned down. Still, he’s said in interviews that he bears no ill will towards either Don Henley or Glen Frey, and even showed up at one of their gigs at The Forum in Inglewood, California in 2018.