Hear Don Henley’s Pre-Eagles Group That Kenny Rogers Discovered
Don Henley was one of the founding members of the Eagles, but he was actually a veteran of Los Angeles' burgeoning country-rock scene years before that group got off the ground. Henley previously played in a band called Shiloh — and Kenny Rogers played a critical role in introducing his talents to the world.
Shiloh were an up-and-coming band that played around the music scene in Texas, and they met Rogers in 1968 in a chance encounter in a clothing store in Dallas that all of the cool local musicians hung out at. Rogers' country solo career was still years away, but he was already a star as the lead singer and bass player in the First Edition, who scored a string of late-'60s and early-'70s hits including "Just Dropped in (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "Something's Burning" and more.
According to legend, the then-21-year-old Henley approached Rogers and convinced him to come to Shiloh's club gig that night, though Rogers initially protested that he wasn't really interested. He ended up liking their set so much that he brought them out to Los Angeles, where they lived at his house for four months while they recorded a self-titled album that Rogers produced for Amos Records.
Though the album is not as focused as Henley's future work, there are undeniable flashes of the cynical wit that would underlie some of his later songs, and his one-of-a-kind voice is already in evidence on those early recordings, as is the sparse drumming style that would become part of the Eagles' signature sound:
Released in 1970, the album was not successful, and Shiloh disbanded in 1971. Henley had already met another struggling young musician named Glenn Frey, who was signed to the same record company as part of a duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle, and after that situation also fell apart, Linda Ronstadt's manager recruited both of them to play in her new backing band along with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. They split off to form the Eagles in 1971, and that group went on to become one of the most dominant musical forces of the decade.
Henley and Rogers remained close friends until Rogers' death in March of 2020, and Henley opened up to Billboard about his late friend in a statement the following day, saying, "In addition to his tremendous talent, Kenny was a generous and caring man, a wise mentor to so many of us. He loved his friends, his family, his fellow musicians and his fans, and they loved him, right back."
"Fifty years ago, The Gambler took a gamble on me and my first band from small-town Texas, and his big-hearted support launched many careers, including mine," Henley adds. "He also gave me some of the best career advice I ever got: 'You’d better be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you’re going to meet those same people on the way back down.'"
He got to see Rogers one final time, just weeks before his death.
"I’m just grateful that I got to visit with him in the hospital, about six weeks ago, and convey my gratitude to him for all he did for me. RIP, my friend. Thanks for all the gladness you gave us," Henley's statement concluded.
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