It may have seemed as if the Eagles were always there, burst spontaneously from the forehead of Zeus (or from Asylum Records founder David Geffen) during the summer of 1972, when “Take it Easy,” “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” had the airwaves in a vice grip.
No, of course not. As much as Don Henley and Glenn Frey seemed like omnipotent singer/songwriters right out of the box, they too had to grow up out of the limelight.
Frey came from the Midwest, and he arrived in Los Angeles as part of a duo with J.D. Souther called Longbranch Pennywhistle. They were signed to Jimmy Bowen’s vanity label, Amos Records, and recorded an album there in 1970.
Don Henley’s group had been called Felicity when it was playing lean, mean “southern country rock” around East Texas, but when Henley and his chums (a group that included steel guitarist extraordinaire Al Perkins, and future Warner Brothers Nashville head Jim Ed Norman) got to the L.A. studio to cut their debut, the name had become Shiloh. Henley was the band’s singing drummer.
Shiloh made one self-titled album for Amos (Shiloh, Amos 7015). It tanked, as did the one by Longbranch Pennywhistle, and soon Henley and Frey were backing Linda Ronstadt at the Palomino, and by ’72 they were soaring as Eagles.
Psst: Kenny Rogers produced the Shiloh album.
Gilmer, your hometown in Texas, and Shiloh’s home base of Linden aren’t all that close to Houston, where Kenny Rogers came from. What was Shiloh’s connection to him?
We met Kenny in a clothing boutique in Dallas in the spring of 1969. He was on tour with the First Edition. He had begun to look for groups to produce so he checked us out, and evidently formed the opinion that we had some potential.
Of course, being fellow Texans didn’t hurt, we had a regional and cultural connection. After the initial meeting, we kept in touch with him by phone for about a year until we joined him in California to do some recording.
How was he in the studio, in what I assume was your first studio experience?
Kenny was amiable and enthusiastic in the studio. We had a very small budget and none of the members of Shiloh, including myself, had really developed as songwriters, but we did the best we could under the circumstances.
Although I was not satisfied with the final product, it was a learning experience for me, as well as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I remain grateful for the opportunity.
Kenny has said he “returned your publishing” when the album wasn’t successful. Was there a money deal involved or did he just “cut you loose”?
Kenny was remarkably fair with me when things didn’t turn out as well as everyone had hoped. He did return my publishing to me, no strings attached, but of course those songs were not, and still are not, worth anything.
As I recall, Kenny also helped facilitate my release from Amos Records, although in the end David Geffen bought out my contract (as well as Glenn Frey’s and J.D. Souther’s) for a relatively modest sum.
Was Kenny Rogers a mentor, a pain in the ass or just a blip in the road for you? How do you look back on that time?
Kenny was certainly a mentor for me and the fact that our paths crossed, even for a relatively brief span of time, has made an immeasurable difference in my life.
One can always speculate and get into the endless cycle of “What ifs,” but all I know is what actually happened.
Had we not had the connection with Kenny, my buddies and I might never have worked up the nerve to pack up our little trailer and head west. Even though great success did not come to Shiloh under Kenny’s wing, his efforts on our behalf did set us on paths that were ultimately successful. I have a lot of respect for Kenny, and I will always appreciate what he did for me.