In 2001, Don Felder, long-time guitarist with The Eagles, got into some legal bother with the band. After he was fired, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, writer, producer, and all-round Mr. Nice Guy, Steuart Smith, stepped into his shoes. 20 years later, he’s still touring with the band. Anyone who’s seen The Eagles play live would consider him a cornerstone of their performances. And yet somehow, he still lacks official member status. Not that he minds that much. In a world of big egos, Smith is remarkably self-effacing, shying away from the limelight whenever and wherever possible. To find out more, take a look at these ten things you didn’t know about Steuart Smith.
1. He’s with the band… just not officially
In 2001, Don Felder left the Eagles in acrimonious circumstances. Despite being one of the longest-serving members of the band, it didn’t take them long to replace him. Smith was recruited, and shortly after, began appearing on stage as part of the band’s regular lineup. He also played, co-wrote, and co-produced a number of songs on their most recent studio album, 2007’s “Long Road Out of Eden.” And yet in 2013, he made headlines when he declared “I’m not an Eagle” in the documentary, “History of the Eagles.” 8 years later, he still isn’t.
2. He prefers staying in the shadows
If Smith’s ‘undeclared’ status in the Eagles gets you rankled, don’t let it. Not on his account, in any case. When Smith signed up to replace Felder, he did it on the agreement that he’d play sideman to the core group. That’s how he wanted it then, and that’s how he wants it now. This, after all, is a man that doesn’t do interviews. This is a man that, as ultimateclassicrock.com notes, remains doggedly anonymous. He doesn’t court fame: if the celebrity lifestyle was dished up on a plate and presented to him for dinner, he’d go on a hunger strike. The work he loves. The fame that comes with it? Not even slightly.
3. He’s got the respect of his band
What Smith lacks in status, he more than makes up for in respect. The Eagles might not have extended him official band membership, but there’s no doubt they appreciate and recognize what he brings to the band. According to iHeartRadio (www.iheart.com/content/2020-07-07-steuart-smith-still-isnt-an-official-member-of-the-eagles-after-20-years/), frontman Don Henley has even gone so far as to say that without Smith, there’d be no Eagles. “If we hadn’t found him, I’m not sure we could have continued, frankly,” he said. “Because there are not many guys around that can do what he does.”
4. He played hard to get
Don Henley’s introduction to Smith came at a Shawn Colvin concert. Despite being a huge Colvin fan, the only person on the stage Henley had eyes for that night was Smith. Following the performance, Henley reached out to Smith to offer him a place with the Eagles. But while Henley was convinced he’d be a great fit for the band, Smith was less sure. He liked playing with Colvin and saw no particular reason to stop. In the end, he agreed to meet up with Glenn Frey. After hearing him play, Frey teamed up with Henley and after two weeks of pleading, Smith left Colvin to join them.
5. He never stops working
Smith’s work ethic would put most of us to shame. When the Eagles take a break, Smith carries right on working. Over the years, he’s worked extensively as a session musician with artists such as Rodney Crowell, Dolly Parton, Wynonna Judd, Rosanne Cash, and Shawn Colvin. When Henley does solo tours, Smith is his right-hand man. Speaking during a Runaway Tours Q&A in 2017, Henley said “Steuart’s one of those guys that … cannot stop working and sit still for five seconds. If we’re not playing, if we’re not doing Eagles stuff, or if I’m not doing solo stuff, he’s off doing some other project. He never ever stops. We say, ‘Steuart, why don’t you take a vacation, just a couple of days?’ But he just loves to play and he’s really good at it.”
6. He’s a multi-millionaire
He might not have the same kind of wealth as his bandmate Don Henley (who, by all accounts, is worth a monster $250 million), but Smith has accrued his fair share of wealth over the years. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Smith is now worth the grand sum of $10 million.
7. He hails from Baltimore
Smith was born and raised in Baltimore. His mother was a nurse and his father was a systems analyst. After relocating to Arlington, he began gigging with regional bands. By 1983, he was playing with Switchblade. When the band’s management decided to arrange a showcase in New York in the hope of landing a contract, Smith was invited along for the ride. In the event, no contracts were offered, but unbeknown to Smith, Grammy-nominated producer Rick Chertoff, who was in the audience that night, took a shine to him. A few years later, Chertoff invited Smith to New York to record with Patty Smith. Shortly after, he was introduced to country singer Rodney Crowell. From that point forward, Smith became one of the most in-demand session guitarists on the scene.
8. He never stops practicing
With live performances off the menu, you’d have thought the pandemic was the perfect time for Smith to take a break. But no. In an interview with northernvirginiamag.com, Smith revealed he’s still keeping his hand in. “Since the pandemic kicked in, I’ve been practicing a good bit,” he says. “At my age, I have to keep practicing or atrophy will settle in.”
9. He was a member of the Cicadas
In the mid-1990s, country singer Rodney Crowell took a short sabbatical. It didn’t last long. In 1996, he resurfaced in the Cicadas. Joining him was Micheal Rhodes on bass, Vince Santora on drums, and his old touring buddy Steuart Smith on guitar. Their 1996 album may have been a one-off project, but the inspired performances from Smith et al. led many to wish it wasn’t.
10. He’s a fan of Ernie Ball Music Man guitars
Wondering which guitars rank among Smith’s favorites? Then wonder no more. Smith is a long-time fan of Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. His go-to is a Music Man Double Neck, although he’s not averse to the brand’s Axis and Silhouette models either.