The transcript from this week’s MIB: Don Felder, Eagles’ Guitarist, is below.
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VOICE-OVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast I have an extra special guest and I know everybody bust my chops when I say that, but my guest is extra special. His name is Don Felder. He was the lead guitarist for the Eagles. He wrote Hotel California. He is a legend in the music industry and really a very nice guy and an informative raconteur who tells wonderful stories.
If you are at all interested in music or 70’s, or the Eagles, or the 80’s or guitar history, or the 90’s, you will find this to be an absolutely fascinating conversation. So with no further ado, my interview with Don Felder.
My extra special guest this week is Don Felder. He is a legendary guitarist and a songwriter, perhaps best known for his work with the Eagles where he has written numerous songs, including Victim of Love, and perhaps most famously, Hotel California. Don Felder, welcome to Bloomberg.
FELDER: Thank you. It’s fabulous to be back here again.
RITHOLTZ: So you have really a fascinating background, and I was really, you know, stunned when I was reading you — you grew up in Gainesville, Florida, which somehow became a hot bed of music. Is that a fair statement?
FELDER: Yeah, for some reason and I don’t know if it was something that was in the water or in something that we were all smoking at the time that so many people came out of Gainesville that went on to become rock and roll legends, rock and roll hall of fame inductees, platinum-selling artist. We were all just kids in different garage bands down there. One of my guitar students was a kid named Tommy Petty who I taught how to play guitar. He was playing …
RITHOLTZ: Little Tommy Petty.
FELDER: Little Tommy Petty. He was playing base in this band called the Epics, and he thought it was kind of awkward and keekee to be fronting a band playing bass and singing. So he wanted to learn to play guitar so he could write songs instead of playing base, so I gave him guitar lessons. I helped with a little bit of the arrangement on a couple of their songs and their shows. I went to just hang out. We were friends. We were in Battles of the Bands together.
Stephen Stills and I had a band together in Gainesville. I think we were 14 and 15 years old. My mom would drive us around in these little events because we didn’t have a car or a driver’s license or anything.
Duane Allman and Gregg Allman were in different bands in that time called, like the Allman Joys or The Spotlights. Duane taught me how to play slide guitar one night on the floor of his mom’s house in Daytona Beach about 2:30 in the morning. Who else was around there?
Lynyrd Skynyrd was right over in Jacksonville, Florida. Bernie Leadon actually moved to Gainesville because his dad was given the appointment of heading up the Nuclear Research Department at the University of Florida, so he moved his family, all eight kids over to Gainesville. And Stephen stills had just left to move to California. Bernie showed up and picked me up actually at a bus station where I was coming back from a little town called Lake City, about 30 minutes away, where I’ve gone up by myself and played this little women’s tea party in the afternoon.
So he had a car, he was 16. He picked me up at the bus station and actually wound up replacing Stevens Stills in that band. And Bernie went on to become one of the founding members of the Eagles. We’ve known each other since high school. So Stephen, Bernie, and Tom and myself all went to the same high school, Gainesville High School, together so …
RITHOLTZ: That’s astonishing.
FELDER: I don’t know how that all happened, but it did.
RITHOLTZ: And — and what first got you interested in music? The — the legend is you see Elvis Presley on television and that just sparks a lifelong interest.
FELDER: Well, there was a huge interest in that explosion of rock and roll in that time. It had a just a really strong, exciting energy about it, whether it was Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti or Elvis on stage shaking and gyrating, and flipping his greasy hair around, snarling his upper lip. And watching all those young girls screaming at him, I kind of said, you know, I think I’d like to do that. That looks like fun.
And so I traded a handful of cherry bombs to a kid that lived across the street for a broken guitar. It had a crack in it, it was missing strings. And I found the guy around the corner that helped me tune the thing, replace some of the strings on it. And I used to sit on my front porch down there on this dirt road in Gainesville on this metal collider just sliding back and forth and back and forth, trying to figure out how that guitar work. Where do you put your fingers? How do you make chords?
And there wasn’t a music school. There was no money to be had in my family for lessons if there was a music school. So I was pretty much self-taught, and it turned out that I gave myself kind of basic ear training by listening new stuff on the radio or listening to my stuff on my dad’s tape recorder and just playing it over and over and over until I could figure it out on guitar. And eventually, even today I can hear something two or three times and just play it right away because I’ve trained my mind and my body and my inside into music to be able to hear something and play it.
So from there, I moved from Gainesville. I think I was 19 years old.
RITHOLTZ: Well, before we leave Gainesville, let’s just stay …
RITHOLTZ: … stay in Gainesville, Florida for another moment.
RITHOLTZ: You start working at a music store, like an instrument store, and you were working essentially to be able to earn money for instruments. Is that …
FELDER: Yeah, I wasn’t getting paid money, I was given credit for every hour or every lesson that I taught there. I was given a credit on the store card. They had this thing, you know, they put in the register and give me $5 or $10 for every much I done, and I could use that money for strings, for pedals, for chords. If I saved up enough I could trade in my old guitar and get a better guitar and — or an amp or some tubes or I blew out a speaker and my amp had needed to be replaced, which happened frequently in those days. I would be able to work until I got enough money to get a speaker replacement. So yes, that’s where I was learning how to make money was in working in a music store.
RITHOLTZ: And — and where did the music theory in Gainesville first come into your experiences?
FELDER: There was a great guitar player that lived there whose name was Paul Hillis. He left the Gainesville and went to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and came back a few years later, but he given up guitar and started playing piano cause he thought you could see in compositions, and chord clusters, and progressions much easier on piano than on guitar, which is true. It’s a repetitive octave on piano, and guitar, everything is a different fingering as you go up the scale or up the neck.
So he opened a school of music, and for every hour that I taught there these incoming young kids who had gotten a guitar for Christmas who were complaining about their calluses hurting on their fingers, for every hour I taught them, he would teach me music theory, composition, chord progressions, how to read music. And I basically got a — the cheap version of a Berklee College of Music education for ball.
RITHOLTZ: The — the cheap version. There was one other person you did not mention I recall reading about from the area, and I want to say it was the keyboardist for Stevie Ray Vaughan. Is that right?
FELDER: I don’t know anything about that.
FELDER: That’s — that’s out of my …
RITHOLTZ: That was — that might have been a little — a little later. So — so what finally motivated to say, all right, Gainesville has been good to me musically, but on the other side of the country is this place called Los Angeles, and there seems to be a burgeoning music scene going on over there.
FELDER: There were a couple of stops along the way. I had a band called the Maundy Quintet that Bernie Leadon was in with me. We played opening for this band called The Circle. The Circle were being managed by Sid Bernstein who was a huge manager here in New York. And their road crew decided they were going to take us up to New York and do some showcases up here in different clubs. And we had a 16-year-old drummer that actually own the van. So we loaded everything into this van and drove from Gainesville up to New York. I think we were up here about a week.
And we had done some showcases and Sid’s organization was really interesting in signing us, managing us and kind of building a career. But our drummer started crying, I think the second or third day in the bedroom because he missed his mom and he was frightened by New York City. So we had to pack everything back into the van and moved back down to Gainesville to — it was his van, he had to go home.
So later I had another band that I put together called Flow, and I packed up with the guitar in one hand, a suitcase in the other and moved back up to New York with that band, starred here on the street for about a year and a half. The very first thing I did when I got here the second day was I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was no art in Gainesville at all, probably nothing south of the Mason-Dixon down there that rivaled what I had heard about the Met.
FELDER: So I spent the entire day there at the Met, my second day here in New York just soaking up all the history and the amazing artwork that’s there, and the sculptures, and the Egyptian history going back thousands of years and just had a new found appreciation for what I had never seen or had before.
Anyway, I worked here for about a year and a half. We made a record with a band called Flow, signed by guy named Creed Taylor for CTI Records. Creed was one of the biggest Blue Note, Verve, jazz producers in the business. I think Quincy Jones was on that label with me. Hubert Laws was on that label. It was kind of a …
RITHOLTZ: Flute player, Hubert Laws?
FELDER: Yes, that’s right. We had a — it was kind of a jazz label, and we were a jazz fusion rock band. He saw us play at the Fillmore East one night and signed us literally the following week to his record label.
After about a year and a half, I decided I — I just didn’t want to live in New York City. It’s a — it’s a tough transition from beach bum in Florida up to Eskimo here, and living on the city was a little — a little difficult for me.
And my high school girlfriend had moved back to Boston. And so I went up to visit her a couple of times and decided I was going to move to Boston because we wanted to get back together. And I asked Creed Taylor if he would help me, and he called Berklee School of Music and set up an appointment there for me to go in and called two or three recording studios up there to give me an introduction to that area.
So I went in and started doing jingles and sessions in these recording studios. And actually I went over to Berklee College of Music and they offered me a job teaching. And I — I didn’t want to be a teacher, I wanted to actually be doing music, not teaching music. So I humbly declined their offer to teach there and wound up working in this one studio. I think I was working there six days a week, and I made $50 a week.
Now if you went to a recording school today and you spend that much time and effort learning how to record, you’d probably spend 50 grand a semester. I get that kind of education, so I think I got the better end of that bargain and I got the better end of the bargain on a handful of cherry bombs for a guitar. All these trades and things that I did along the way for the free Berkeley education and learning how to make records in that studio in Boston for three years really served me well.
So finally, my friend Bernie Leadon kept calling me and going, “What are you doing in New York? What are you doing in Boston? The music business is out in California. You need to move to California.”
RITHOLTZ: I want to talk about California right now. Hotel California, let’s talk a little bit about your writing that song because my — I — I mentioned my pet theory is the Eagles were kind of thought of as like a kickback mellow country, not quite rock band. And I know the rest of the band really wanted to be more of a Led Zeppelin type of both with hotels destruction and with rock and roll. And Hotel California just took the band to an entirely different level, not only is the song ranked 49 on the list of greatest songs of all time.
The album sold 17 million copies in the U.S., 32 million worldwide. I think it was number three on the all-time list, something like that. So — so you deserve a whole lot of credit for really taking the band up and to the next level. I have to ask because it’s so different from everything else that was done. How did you come up with that that intro and then how did you basically just write the music for that song?
FELDER: At the time I was living in a rental beach house on Malibu Beach, and I had two little kids. One was about a year old, one was about 2.5 years old. And I was sitting on the couch one day just playing an acoustic guitar and looking out at the sun glistening on the Pacific Ocean, and watching my two kids playing in the sand and this little swing set we had on the beach. And out came that progression two or three times and I — I had to go record a little bit of it so I wouldn’t forget it.
Much like a dream, when something comes through me, I have to write it down or record it or, you know, two days later I can’t remember what it was.
RITHOLTZ: It’s gone, right.
FELDER: It’s gone, you know. So I run into my daughter’s back bedroom who was almost a year, and when she was awake I’d set up this little recording studio back there where I could go in and make demos. So I went back and recorded that little progression three or four times, and turned it off, and went out and played with my kids on the beach.
Years — well, months later when it was time to sit down and write the songs that we’re going to become candidates for what was going to be the Hotel California record, I had put together about 15 or 16 song ideas. And I heard the little three-time loop through the progression and I said, “I got to finish that,” so I really rebuilt the whole idea of playing acoustic guitar, 12 strings starting it off, and I played bass on the overdub. I played the drum machine that ran through it. This sounded kind of like a cha-cha beat or something.
And I thought Joe how should just joined the band and was going to be the first appearance on this record Joe Walsh should just the band and was going to be the first appearance on this record. And Joe and I had been playing together a lot before he joined the band. If you go online and look at Joe Walsh and friends, you can see him and I doing all this guitar trading and jamming together. I wanted to have something on this record that he and I could do together.
RITHOLTZ: That — that was by design from the very beginning.
RITHOLTZ: It wasn’t an afterthought, “Hey, let’s put a little guitar duel at the end.” That was …
RITHOLTZ: … conscious.
FELDER: That was conscious and aimed at trying to have a — a bed that we can do that on. So I — when I got to the part where I was recreating or making up or adlibbing these solos, I said I’d play something kind of like this, and Joe had played something kind of like this, and then I’d play this and he’d play something like that. And so I made a little mix of that, I think, 14 or 15 other song ideas; one became Victim of Love, and put it on this cassette and made copies of the cassette, if anybody knows what a cassette is anymore. I think you got to be over 50 to …
FELDER: … know what a cassette is, right, and forget eight-tracks. Nobody knows what that is.
RITHOLTZ: It’s a — it’s a little plastic MP3, like a ZIP drive. You can just hand (inaudible).
FELDER: It’s just hard to get it in the CD player.
RITHOLTZ: That’s right.
FELDER: It’s a little fat. Anyway, so I made copies and I gave a copy to Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner who is the bass player in the band at the time. I said, “If there’s anything on these songs you guys like and you want to finish writing with me, give me a call, let me know and we’ll figure it out. You know, we’ll start working on.”
Henley called me a couple of days later and said, “You know, I like that track. It sounds kind of like a Mexican Reggae,” and I knew exactly which track he was …
RITHOLTZ: So almost a little Spanish influence and …
FELDER: That’s right, yeah.
RITHOLTZ: So — so let me ask you a few questions about that because I’m — I’m fascinated by this process. First, the — the guitar duel at the end, so you want to incorporate Joe Walsh more into the band, what — what did you use as inspiration for that because when I was thinking about this I immediately think of the end of — of Layla or the Beatles Abbey Road Medley where there’s three guys swapping a — a guitar licks back and forth. What — what was the driving force that said, hey, let’s do a little guitar duel on here.
FELDER: I think Joe and I had already been doing that, and you were talking about Layla, that was Duane Allman playing …
FELDER: … the high slide guitar part on that and Eric playing below it. It was just — it was something that all guitar players like to do, to go together against somebody that plays really well, and it pushes you up to another level. And so I wanted to do that with Joe on this record, so I kind of designed that whole track with that in mind.
Now, after I gave them that cassette, it was like a year and something later we were actually in the studio. We had recorded that basic track three times, first time it was in the wrong key for Don Henley to sing in and weighed …
RITHOLTZ: He could — he’s got a pretty high range, but …
FELDER: Yeah, so …
RITHOLTZ: but even that was too high.
FELDER: We had to go lower from E minor down to B minor, which is not a particularly friendly guitar key to play in.
And then finally, we got everything laid out on the track, and the overdub is on, and the intro is recorded and everything done. And Joe and I, as I always kind of foresaw it, were sitting in the control room with two guitars plugged into amplifiers out in the studio and miked up. And I was going to play a lick and Joe would play a leg, and we just started doing what we’d always done.
RITHOLTZ: Improving (ph) a little …
FELDER: Yeah, that’s right. And Don Henley opens the door and comes walking back in and stands there for a minute and goes, “What are you doing?” I said, well, we’re recording the solos on the end of this record and he says, “That’s not right. You had to do it just like the demo.” I said, “I don’t know what that was. That was a year ago that I made that demo ID on …
RITHOLTZ: Those were throwaways. We can …
RITHOLTZ: do 100 of those.
FELDER: That’s right. So he said, “No, no, no, no, you got to record it like the demo,” because he had been listening to it over and over and over and over.
RITHOLTZ: Well, it is — you have to admit, it’s really catchy.
FELDER: Well, I have to say some of the best first shots that come out when you’re improvising are usually your best.
FELDER: You know that moment of just first inspiration comes out. So I had to call my housekeeper back in Malibu and have her go through my cassettes, find that copy, put it in a blaster, play it, hold the phone up to the speaker so we could record it in Miami. Then I had to sit down and learn what I just made up off the cuff note for note …
RITHOLTZ: Wait a second, hold on. Hotel California was recorded in Miami?
RITHOLTZ: Not in — not in L.A.
RITHOLTZ: I — of all the research I did, that’s the one thing I didn’t even think of looking up. It would make sense for you to record that in — in — in California, but what — why Miami?
FELDER: Well, you know, it’s funny because nobody in the band was from California. Henley was from Texas …
FELDER: … Glenn was from Detroit, Joe was from Ohio, and Randy Meisner was from Nebraska. I was from Florida, yet we became the California band that everybody identified with, you know. And so — especially after Hotel California came, it had just such an iconic, you know …
FELDER: … everybody hears the word “California” and you think of palm trees, and beaches, and stars on Hollywood Boulevard, movie stars, and all of these images that we have just pounded into our head over the years are associated with that word “California.” Whether you’ve been there or not, you have images in your mind.
FELDER: So, you know, to be the California band and nobody from California is kind of a unique thing, but we recorded in Miami.
RITHOLTZ: So the last Hotel California question, there is a version of the song played live and acoustic. And for that version, you rewrote this beautiful sort of Spanish introduction. What — what was the inspiration for that?
FELDER: Well, in the middle of the 90’s, everybody, including Eric Clapton …
FELDER: … did an acoustic unplugged version of like Layla.
RITHOLTZ: Right. For — for MTV, they had …
RITHOLTZ: … MTV Unplugged, and again the same people who won’t know what cassettes are, won’t know what MTV is, but …
FELDER: That’s right.
RITHOLTZ: … half the audience will get it.
FELDER: That’s right. So we were putting together a bunch of different things for that filming of the “Hell Freezes Over” film, and Henley finally says about three days at the very end of rehearsals he says, “We need an acoustic version of Hotel.”
Now we had been playing this thing with electric guitars and distorted amps for years, right?
FELDER: And that’s what everybody knew. And I thought, well, if we sit down with a couple of acoustic guitars and try to play dadadadadadadadadadadadada (ph), we’re going to sound like a couple of country bumpkins playing …
FELDER: … you know, acoustic steel string guitars. So I had spent a lot of time sitting in the Holiday Inn in Cambridge Square playing nylon string guitar while people ate their dinner and ordered more wine from the waiter and stuff, and I developed some pretty good technique on acoustic guitar, nylon string guitar.
So I went home that night, I took out my nylon string guitar and I started playing around with that and I go, okay, I got to order tomorrow two acoustic nylon string guitars with pick-ups and I’ll put one on Joe’s hand, one in my hand, here’s how we start, we play it and dadadadada. And so we just put together a rehearsal one day. We were rehearsing for two to three days, we get on the soundstage to record. I think it was like 12 or 14 cameras rolling. There’s an orchestra behind us, two recording trucks recording all the audio.
And at sound check, we do the song. It starts right at the beginning like it started on the record. Don Henley says, “This song needs a special introduction.” So I said, “Well, what are you going to say? How are you going to introduce this?” He says, “No, no, no, no, not talking introduction, this needs a special musical introduction.”
I said okay, so I said, “You guys play a chord. I’ll doodle around. When I stop playing, you play another cord, this cord, I’ll doodle around. Third cord, I’ll doodle into a kind of a frantic arpeggio, and then when I finally hit the slow retarded part of that arpeggio, you hit the final chord and we start the percussion.” So literally sitting on the stage 30 minutes before we start taping, we run through this thing and I go, okay, I’m just kind of make it up, hope I’m funny, you know, like all the jazz stuff that I learned in New York. Improvisation has become really important to me to be able to do that, walk into a studio, plug in, make up the solo.
So anyway, we recorded that. We made two takes. We filmed the show twice. The first take, obviously, was the best. The second one, I did okay but it wasn’t as good, it wasn’t as fresh. It just weren’t …
FELDER: … as exciting as the second one. So we chose first take and it’s really the only song that I know that was the same record recorded by the same band that has been nominated two times for Grammy’s.
RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating.
FELDER: First the original and that one as well.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about your new C.D., American Rock ‘n’ Roll. This reads like a Grammy Award list of — of guest musicians, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, Slash, Joe Satriani, Mick Fleetwood. I’m sure I’m missing lots and lots of other people. What — what made you want to record a sort of super group C.D.?
FELDER: Well, it didn’t start out that way. I originally had the initial concept for this record based on the song American Rock ‘n Roll. I was at Woodstock in 1969. I saw Jimi Hendrix play live. I saw a Crosby, Stills and Nash. I saw Santana. I saw Janis Joplin. I saw the Grateful Dead, three days’ worth of just drenched, soaked shorts covered with mud of probably the most historic rock and roll performances, I think, in the history of rock and roll music.
As a matter of fact, that nuclear rock explosion that took place at Woodstock in 1969, the fallout from that event really circumference the entire world, and everybody was influenced and impacted by that. As a matter of fact, Slash is a huge Jimi Hendrix fan. He cut his teeth learning Jimi Hendrix licks. And everybody that are invited in to play on this record, in one way or another, were influenced by the artist at Woodstock.
So this song American Rock ‘n Roll is a little bit of a rockumentary musically starting back in 1969 with Hendricks and all those guys from Woodstock, and through the decades, every one of the orders that has risen out of the ashes of Woodstock and gone on to be huge artists themselves, successful artists themselves, I thought was really a — a nice salute to the history of rock and roll.
RITHOLTZ: So who helped you put this album together? Who produced it? Tell — tell us a little bit about the backdrop for this.
FELDER: I have a studio in my home. I’ve had a studio since 1981. And I spend just about every single day in my studio when I’m home, not out laying on my pool, by my pool in Beverly Hills but in my studio working. So I always doodle around with different ideas, whether it’s driving on the 405, and grabbing a cell phone, and singing lyrics into a cell phone or sitting on a plane with a laptop, writing lyrics or doodling around in the studio just plugging in a guitar and writing little part, whatever it is, I’m just obsessed with music and that’s what I do.
So the — the inspiration for this whole record was to be able to take these little bits and pieces and invite friends of mine and to play on it. My last record Road to Forever, I played everything on it except for one guy came in, Steve Lukather played guitar on the title track of Road to Forever with me. And it really turned out beautifully well, but it was very controlled. It wasn’t that inspiration in that fire and that energy that comes together when you’re sitting in a room with Joe Satriani who’s an incredible guitar player …
RITHOLTZ: Amazing, right.
FELDER: … and we’re trading off licks and writing harmonies and just that excitement that’s there or Peter Frampton and I play on an Alex Lifeson, Richie Sambora, Orianthi, tons of great players. It just really got me excited.
And there’s a song on this record called Charmed, and it’s about once you go through the success — the rise to success and you have all the money, and the fame, and the adulation, and the private jets and cars and big houses, if music doesn’t have the passion, all that other stuff has lost its charm. It just doesn’t, it’s not worth it. And so to me, my original inspiration has always been the excitement, love of music from the time I was 10 until the time — even today, when I walk out on stage, I don’t have to go out and play anything, but I love to be on stage playing for people, so all of these people that came in feel the same way.
We didn’t have to negotiate with managers and lawyers and all that stuff. I just call up Slash and say, “Hey, I got this song I’d love to have you play on.” He’d come in with a guitar and we’d sit down and jam on stuff and have a great time doing it. A couple hours later, he’s given me a hug, he’s off and we’re editing and putting stuff together that we recorded.
Same thing with Sammy Hagar on this — I wrote this song called Rock You. It was like a big stadium power rock storm.
RITHOLTZ: Perfect for Hagar, absolutely.
FELDER: Yeah. And so I — I really wanted to do a rock duet with somebody to have that really strong rock and roll gravelly voice. I called up Sammy and hey, I got this song I’d love to have you sing on, he said, “Sure, come on up to my studio.” So I hop on a plane and fly up Sausalito with my little hard drive in my bag and go in. And literally an hour later, he and I have sung a verse, he sings a verse, I sing a verse, we trade off on the chorus as we do vocally by just sharing the — the stage there on that song so well. Sammy was such the perfect person to play on that.
Just as we’re finishing, Joe Satriani comes walking down the hallway. He keeps his guitars and stuff from the back of the Sammy Studio. I said, “Joe, go grab a guitar. Come in here. I got someone I want you to play onto.” He comes in, I set up my guitar and we just, out of nowhere, create this thing, much like I wanted to do with Joe, but we had to go back and reenact the exact demo perfectly.
FELDER: There’s so much fun and excitement when you do it live right there, and Joe is an incredible player, pushed me and I pushed him, and that’s what it’s all about.
And then as we’re finishing up with Satriani, Bob Weir has his studio about two blocks away.
RITHOLTZ: Come on, in Sausalito.
FELDER: Yeah, he comes over to just hang out and get a free cup of coffee and hear a few jokes. And I see him, I said, “Bob, come here. Go out on that mic and just sing Rock You, which is the chorus.” And I think we got five or six Bob Weirs singing on the chorus with this.
RITHOLTZ: That’s so funny.
FELDER: But it all just fell together in such a sweet way. And the — the title track, American Rock ‘n’ Roll, I wanted it to start off sounding like the late 60’s, 70’s. Mick Fleetwood has a way when he plays. He just sounds like Mick and everybody so identifies with that feel and that era that he starts off the song playing drums.
RITHOLTZ: Another — another drummer vocalist …
FELDER: That’s right.
RITHOLTZ: … not a lot of them …
RITHOLTZ: … and you worked with two of the best.
FELDER: Yeah. And about halfway through, Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers comes in, feeling like a 5,000-pound gorilla on steroids. He plays so loud and so strong, and the track just kind of lifts up off the runway and takes off when he starts playing. But that’s really the migration from like the ‘69 all the way through the decades. And when we started hitting the 80’s and that more intense, you know, Chili Peppers …
FELDER: … Foo Fighters in the ‘90 kind of feel just kind of took over. I wanted the song musically to migrate as well.
So there’s so many great people on this record, you know, Todd Sucherman from Styx plays drums on it, Jim Keltner, a couple of guys from Toto. David Paich and I wrote a song called Hearts on Fire that he’s just got this greasy keyboard player feel about him. Steve Porcaro, their keyboard player is on it. Nathan East who used to be Clapton’s guitar player and before that — or bass player …
RITHOLTZ: Clapton’s guitar player.
FELDER: No, Clapton’s bass player.
FELDER: And then before that he was with me and before me, I had stolen from Kenny Loggins. So he finally got to work with Clapton and I don’t have time to see him anymore.
Anyway, the record was mixed by Bob Clearmountain. I don’t know if you — an audio file, but Bob Clearmountain is probably the most hi-fi legendary mixer in record history to tell you the truth. He mixed it for me and did an amazing job. There’s a guy named Bernie Grundman who was a mastering engineer that Bob Clearmountain recommended that I use. So I go over to Bernie Grundman’s mastering lab.
RITHOLTZ: This is all in Sausalito or is it …
FELDER: No, this is back in …
RITHOLTZ: Back in New York, okay.
FELDER: Right, yeah. And so Bernie calls one of his guys over and whispers something in his ear, and the guy comes walking back and he’s got this big box of tape, and it actually turns out to be the original two-track mastered version of Hotel California from 1976 that Bernie mastered originally and has remastered for C.D., and remastered for vinyl release, and remastered for the Greatest Hits and all of the stuff. And so I’m sitting there holding this box. I got a picture of it, I’ll show you of me holding this box in the original master while he’s mastering this record …
RITHOLTZ: Oh, that’s so fine.
FELDER: … of American Rock ‘n’ Roll.
RITHOLTZ: So — so this really was an opportunity to do what you couldn’t do on Hotel California, which was jam with Joe Walsh, and instead you jammed with all these other people.
FELDER: That’s true.
RITHOLTZ: That must have been very satisfying.
FELDER: Yeah, it really was and just inspiring. The other thing that’s — a little point of side note is that Bernie top-ended the artwork for the cover of it. That’s his American …
RITHOLTZ: Elton John’s songwriter.
FELDER: Yeah, songwriter, yeah.
FELDER: He’s a brilliant artist, and I saw some of his work in Nashville at a party and I said, “Would you mind if I use one of those American flags for the cover of this album. I’m going to call it American Rock ‘n’ Roll. I know you’re British, but you had — had such an influence in America …
FELDER: … (inaudible) are you and Elton that I’d be honored.” He absolutely let me have it so …
RITHOLTZ: That’s — that’s fantastic.
FELDER: … everybody on this record has an unbelievable pedigree, a great friendship and did a wonderful job.
RITHOLTZ: You wrote the — I — I almost forgot, you wrote the theme song to Heavy Metal, didn’t you?
FELDER: That’s right.
RITHOLTZ: The movie, I love that movie …
RITHOLTZ: … back in the day.
FELDER: As a matter of fact, that track was a track that I wrote for the long run record. It was going to be a follow-up to Hotel California where Joe and I would have been able to play these harder electric guitar …
FELDER: … who’s trading off into harmonies and all that stuff. And we just never got to the point — I think we left three or four bits and pieces unfinished in the studio, and we just had to get out of the studio. We had a tour booked and we were right up to the deadline running out of time before …
FELDER: … we had to finish, and we just said we don’t have time to finish these.
So I got a call from a — a director who wanted me to come over and look at this animated movie.
FELDER: And I had never seen anything like this in my life. It was …
RITHOLTZ: That’s because there never was anything like that before.
FELDER: You’re absolutely right. It was like an animated adult stoner movie …
FELDER: … and I went, “What do I write to that?” And I thought about that song that I had written. It was tentatively entitled “You’re Really High, Aren’t You?” And I thought that would be an appropriate …
RITHOLTZ: Perfect for Heavy Metal.
FELDER: … appropriate vibe that would go into that movie. And so I rewrote the lyrics, re-recorded the track and it turned out to be really a good successful track for me.
RITHOLTZ: So — so before we talk about your book, I just have to throw some numbers out about some of the accolades and — and records set by the — the Eagles. So the Greatest Hits album comes out the same year as Hotel California, right, within …
RITHOLTZ: … a couple of months of that. That goes on to be the best-selling album of the 20th century and the second best-selling album of all time. The only reason it fell to number two is after Michael Jackson passed away Thriller surged, and it just slightly notched. I want to say 29 million in the U.S., 42 or 43 million worldwide.
FELDER: Actually, the RIAA went back and they started analyzing all the streaming numbers and counting so many streams as they say them.
FELDER: And so now the other number one best-selling album of all times is Greatest Hits Volume 1, Eagles Greatest Hits. Michael Jackson is at number two, and number three is Hotel California.
FELDER: So having two of the three top-selling albums of all time is okay, not bad.
RITHOLTZ: So the Eagles go through to two periods. They — they break — they start in the early 70s, they break up early 80’s.
FELDER: Early 80’s, yeah.
RITHOLTZ: Right? So a decade is what did the Beatles last, eight years, so 10, 12 years is — is actually pretty good run. What motivated everybody to get back together?
FELDER: Well, you know, I think Don Henley put together this salute to the Eagles recorded in Nashville by country artists.
RITHOLTZ: I recall Vince Gill and a number of other people …
FELDER: Travis Tritt …
FELDER: … and a bunch of people are on it, and it did so well. It was a bit of an eye-opener about the demand and appreciation for Eagles songs.
RITHOLTZ: So I — I keep hearing that, and I always want to call B.S. on it because Hotel California was a monster smash and the Greatest Hits sold a ton. And if you remember, what was it, late 80’s, classic rock kind of takes over the airwaves? Why wouldn’t anybody think that there would be a demand for that? The bloomers were aging. It — it was just, you know, ready made to keep selling for the next few decades or is this just plain sight?
FELDER: No, no, I think you’re right. I think that Hotel California was always there. It’s kind of the shining star of the catalog that the Eagles put out. But I think the country side of it, when it came out on — with country artists doing it, it was completely different. It wasn’t Eagles performing, it — it was just an acknowledgement …
FELDER: … it was called “common threads,” and it was a great country record.
RITHOLTZ: The closest thing to that would be the dedicated album of all the Grateful Dead covers.
RITHOLTZ: It was not — not much earlier than that. Is that about right?
FELDER: Right, but it really just kind of brought to everyone’s attention the viability of the possibility of a reunion. We had tried numerous times to get back together unsuccessfully before that.
RITHOLTZ: And why — why — there was one hold-out, wasn’t there?
FELDER: It was Glenn Frey, yes.
RITHOLTZ: I mean, both him and Don Henley had a fairly successful solo career, and — and Frey started doing TV in Miami Vice and — and movies. I think he liked his second act as a — as a star.
FELDER: He did, he enjoyed it, and he was free of all the pressure and demands of having to follow-up songs like Hotel California and make another album. The stress and difficulty of being in the studio after reaching the height of a successful song album like Hotel California was just intense. Glenn used to call it the “hardening of the artistry.” That’s a dreaded disease, you know, that happens when you have this huge success that you have to surpass. Anything is like a huge hit movie and you come out with sequels, it’s always a little less than the original …
FELDER: … original movie. So …
RITHOLTZ: Godfather 2 being the only exception to that.
FELDER: Well, thanks. But you’re right, I think that Common Threads record really kind of brought everybody back and going, you know, we should get together and — and see how this works. And so we went on to a shoot for Travis Tritt for Take It Easy. It’s the first time we’ve been in the same room together for 14 years.
RITHOLTZ: That was a video done from the album for MTV.
FELDER: That’s right, for Common Thread, that’s right. Yeah. And we all played, we all hung out, we shot pool together, we told jokes. It was — it was like, hey, this is okay, we can do this. All the old bad water is under the bridge.
FELDER: And so we decided we’d get back together and do a tour and a new record in that MTV show that we’ve taped for MTV. And it all started off really well.
RITHOLTZ: But as these things happen, they tend to — it only is a matter of time before all the bad memories started coming back. Eventually, you leave the band and you write a book, which is not what I typically think of when I think of Fingers Felder. So what made you decide — and, by the way, the book isn’t in merely a throwaway. If you read the book, it’s well written. It’s clear you put some time and effort into this, didn’t you?
FELDER: Well, I never started out to write a book. As a matter of fact, I failed ninth grade English and had to spend the summer back in the same class in Gainesville in a 100 degree temperature where everybody else was going to the pool and to the beach with the same English teacher that had failed to me to make it up so that I could go on into the tenth grade. So I didn’t start out to try to write a book. I started out after I had left the band and also in the same 12 months had gone through a divorce and separation from my wife that everything that I knew that I had built up to that point in my life have been taken away.
FELDER: My fatherhood, my wife, my home, my family, my job, my celebrity, my association with the Eagles, it was all gone. And so I don’t know if you’ve ever thrown pots, but when you sit down on a wheel to throw a pot, you have to take a piece of clay and throw it in the middle of this wheel, and then you have to center it by leaning into it. And if it’s a little bit off center, as you try to make something, it goes more and more and more out around as you go up.
FELDER: So I needed to re-center myself and my life to get a clear understanding of what had happened to me to where I was today, and so that I could go forward not out of round. I could REEVES:-center myself and go forward with a clear understanding and kind of shed a lot of that baggage. So I started doing these morning meditations every morning at about five, 5:30 in the morning when it was really quiet and still, had meditate for about 15 minutes on specific areas of my life. And as I came out of those meditations, I would write them down on legal pads, just fill up three, four, five pages of memories from that time. I started filling up these piles of legal pads after a couple of months.
And my fiancé, at the time, went in unbeknownst to me and started reading these things and said one day, “You know, this would make a great book.” I went, “I can’t write a book. She said, “No, no, no, these are amazing.”
RITHOLTZ: You’ve written one already, right?
FELDER: These are — no, I’ve never written anything.
RITHOLTZ: No, no, when you — when she was saying to you this would make a great book, you said I couldn’t — I can’t write a book. Her response is effectively you already did.
FELDER: You have, right. That’s right. She said these stories are great. This — this is fantastic. So she introduced me to a guy named Michael Ovitz who, at the time, was a …
FELDER: … was a big hitter, right?
FELDER: And he had a literary department, a television production department, a film department, blah blah blah, and managed Leo DiCaprio and all these different things they had going on in this new company. So I went to him and after talking to him for about five minutes just describing some of the stories that I had written, he said, “You go to my office tomorrow and ask for the head of the literary department there, and he’ll take care of it.”
So I go in. I don’t even have a book, I don’t have anything in writing except my hand scribbled notes on legal pads. So I meet with this guy, tell him some of the stories and some of the thoughts and stuff I had had and how this came about, and a week later, we’re on a flight from L.A. to New York to meet with five publishing companies.
And when we get back on the plane by the time we land back in L.A., we have five offers for me to write a book. And I would never been so petrified in my life about how to take these chickens scrolls with my memories and turn them into a real book. So with the help of a — a co-editor and co-writer Wendy Holden, and the publishers editor themselves, we went through all this and I started transcribing my memories, my meditations on to tape and then that was transcribed into keyboard writing onto a …
FELDER: … a Word document so I could look at it and edit it and stuff so I wasn’t writing it all out by hand.
And it turned out that we finally got to a point where we wanted to publish it, and I had put together bunch of pictures in it. The next thing I know I’m an author. I come to New York a couple of weeks after that release of the book. I’m sitting in a friend’s apartment and I’m looking on Amazon to see where my book is. It’s like 128 or something on the rock bios. I go in that morning at like six a.m. or something to be on the Howard Stern Show.
RITHOLTZ: I’ve seen those clips, they’re quite amusing.
FELDER: And we had a great time. I think I played Hotel California and had him and everybody in the — in the room sing Hotel California with me. And I go back to my apartment when I’m done and I go to Google Amazon to see where my book is, it is number one.
FELDER: In the following week it went — actually went on “The New York Times” Bestsellers List like that, the power of Howard.
FELDER: It was just unbelievable.
RITHOLTZ: So here’s a question for you. There was all sorts of interesting responses to the book. What’s the most vivid pushback that — that stands out in your mind to — to what you had actually written?
FELDER: You know, I think a lot of people thought that I was actually going out to like slam the guys in the band or reveal a bunch of dirty insides …
RITHOLTZ: There really wasn’t a lot of dirty — no pun intended, dirty laundry in.
FELDER: No, no, no. I — I deliberately left all of that aside. I did not want to come out angry, bitter, retaliatory in any way. I have the highest respect for the work and the art we may need together, and I really like to cherish that and keep that in a very positive light.
Despite all the arguments and, you know, stress of having to create something past Hotel California and all of that tension, the ultimate outcome of the whole thing has been phenomenal. What we went through to produce those records was well worth the effort and time and hassle. So I held that in the highest and still do — I held in the highest regard and would never slander that or slander the people, so it was really is — is unbiased as I could be …
RITHOLTZ: And that — that comes across in the book.
FELDER: Yeah, just honest and unbiased and — and truthful about what — and some people would go, oh, you just want to make these guys look bad, and I’m like, no, that wasn’t the intent at all.
RITHOLTZ: And to be fair, subsequently, the — the Eagles do this two-part documentary and that’s completely unvarnished warts and all. In fact, your buddy, Joe Walsh said after he saw some of the honest things that Gleen Frey said, he went back and said, “Oh, I could be a little more honest also,” right? Fairly — fairly completely transparent and — and unvarnished.
FELDER: Well, I didn’t see anything anyone said until I was asked to go in, and at one time I thought, well, maybe I don’t want to be part of this. But then I thought, well, if I win and I was just telling the honest truth much like I told in my book, I’m not going to use an opportunity to punch somebody in the nose but just be respectful of what we had done together that I thought, okay, I’ll go do it. So I didn’t even get to see the footage that I was in before they put it in the film much see anything else that anybody had said.
The only regret that I have about that documentary was that the only two people that — or had any history, which it was the history of the Eagles, prior to the Eagles forming, was Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Now Randy Meisner was in much bigger bands before Don Henley and Glenn Frey and …
RITHOLTZ: Poco — Poco.
RITHOLTZ: He worked with the Stone Canyon Band, Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band.
FELDER: He did a lot of touring. I think he was with a lot of other bands other than the Eagles, prior to the Eagles and had a lot of success doing it. And yet there was no mention of his prior history, no mention of my history and the people I had worked with in Gainesville and grew up with, and all of that stuff that led to the whole Eagles being who and what they are. So I thought it was a little bit more like the history of Don and Glenn parts of the history of the Eagles.
RITHOLTZ: But — but all told, I think everybody was pretty satisfied with how it came out.
FELDER: Yeah. I — I enjoyed it.
RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Don Fingers Felder, Lead Guitarist for the Eagles and all sorts of other musical ventures. If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure to stick around for the podcast extra where we keep the tape rolling and continue discussing all things music-related.
We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out my daily column on bloomberg.com/opinion. Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I am Barry Ritholtz. You’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.
Welcome to the podcast. Don, thank you so much for doing this. I’m — I’m a — a fan of your work for a long time, and I’m really intrigued by some of the stories that you don’t hear all that often. There are a couple of questions I didn’t get to that I have to ask before I get to my standard questions we ask all our guests.
So what — you mentioned a couple of people who played on the new album. Let me ask you this. Who was the guitarists that you admire and why?
FELDER: I like players that actually write, sing and perform their own songs.
FELDER: They have a triple threat, which is what everybody in the Eagles did. To me, it’s the highest level of development and — and the highest of artistry. If you look at people like John Mayer, to me …
RITHOLTZ: I — I knew you’re going to go there because he is the modern-day Eric Clapton.
FELDER: He can write really well, he sings really well, he plays really well. He’s like the whole package. He will have a career that spans decades. He’s not like a great singer that has to find a great guitar player to play a solo or a song writer to write him a song or — he’s self-contained.
Alicia Keys is the same way to me. So I — I like and admire players that really carry the whole — whole triple threat to tell you the truth.
RITHOLTZ: And what about, you know, after you do show after show, night after night, I’m sure they all kind of blur together. Any gigs stand out as unique or special, whether it’s solo, with the band, any particular performances stand out in your mind as wow, that was really a special show?
FELDER: A couple of things. One, we did right after I joined the band, I think Joe Walsh wasn’t in the band, he was on the show. Bernie Leadon was still in the band. We played a show in — in Wembley Stadium in England …
RITHOLTZ: Giant, right, giant place.
FELDER: … which — which Elton John was headlining. And I think they were four or five other bands on the show as well, but it was for 110,000 or 120,000 people. And if you’ve ever been to a baseball field and you want somebody strike a baseball and then you hear the delay a second or two later, the further away you are you really get to appreciate the distance and the speed of sound. So when we were standing on the stage and people were jumping up and down, you could see this wave of jumps across the floor of Wembley, and Wembley’s got this overhanging kind of like terraces that hang out over the round of the stadium there. They’re actually going up and down. Structurally, I hope they were engineered to carry that kind of weight, but it was just a phenomenon to be able to witness the speed of sound at 120,000 people in one room.
The other thing is like I had to walk and — and sing and play at six a.m., which is three a.m. in Pacific Time …
FELDER: … in the Howard Stern Show. I have done thousands of radio interviews, thousands of TV interviews, and I had never been as scared as I was walking in the Howard Stern’s radio show because in those days if he doesn’t like you, he just went straight for the goods, you know, and …
RITHOLTZ: Right, absolutely.
FELDER: And I just went in, you know, with my fingers crossed and hoped so, I think that might have been one of the performances that I was really petrified to step in and play.
RITHOLTZ: But it ended up turning out great and it catapulted the book to the top of the bestseller list.
FELDER: Howard was great, kind to me. Really he and Joe had spent a lot of time together before in Joe’s pre-sober time. And so he knew from Joe that we had had a great relationship.
RITHOLTZ: If you want to repay the favor, he’s got a new book coming out and he’s starting to do the circuit, so you can bust his chops or — or tell somebody else to bust his chops when — when he comes in begging for some — for some publicity. I think this is first book in like a decade, so he’s really trying to try to — trying to push it.
So let me get to my favorite questions. I ask these of all my guests more or less. Let’s plow through these. What was the first car you ever owned, year, make and model?
FELDER: I think it was ‘61 — ‘60 or ‘61 Simca.
RITHOLTZ: Was it Ford?
FELDER: That’s a Simca. That’s exactly what I said. My older brother, who was just a brilliant academic in high school, got a scholarship to the University of Florida, got a scholarship to law school was like one of those 5.9 GPA students, he got like a Chevrolet convertible, like a ‘57 Chevrolet convertible.
RITHOLTZ: The Bel Air, sure.
FELDER: Yeah, beautiful car, dual exhaust. And I got to wash it on Saturday if you give me a ride to Teen Time Dance or something that night, you know, because I was still riding a bike.
Anyway, so my dad decided he was going to go over to Jacksonville where there were all these car lots and who is a mechanic. So he comes driving back into the front yard the Simca, and I had never seen or heard anything like this. It was like a made by Citroen or some French company. And I wanted to say, where is my ‘57 Chevy convertible, you know, but I was kind of black sheep of the family, so I got the Simca.
RITHOLTZ: What’s the most important thing people don’t know about you?
FELDER: Wow, that most people expect me to be a certain type of cliché rock star.
RITHOLTZ: You are not for sure.
FELDER: I am not.
RITHOLTZ: You’re just a totally chill dude, you are not a cliché at all.
FELDER: Yeah, I — I think I’m surprisingly normal. It was …
RITHOLTZ: The — the black leather coat and the boots are the closest thing to the rock star vibe.
FELDER: Only because I was doing TV …
FELDER: … you can’t go in there with sweats and, you know, a T-shirt and flip flops on. So — but I do think people kind of jumped to the conclusion that what they see in typical rock personalities is part of me and that’s so not the case.
RITHOLTZ: So who are some of your early musical mentors? You — you mentioned Duane Allman and Elvis Presley. Who helped shape your world view of music?
FELDER: You know, I learned and studied everything I could steal, anybody that can play really well. I was fascinated by learning how they did it. Chet Atkins was a huge …
FELDER: … influence on me. B.B. King was a — Albert King was a huge influence. A matter of fact, I think I have to acknowledge that Chet Atkins is the reason I wound up playing that double-neck. And the reason was …
RITHOLTZ: On — on Hotel California.
FELDER: … on Hotel California. My dad, I had been trying to learn …
RITHOLTZ: I thought that was Jimmy Page. I had no idea you’re going to go with Chet Atkins.
FELDER: No, no, no. I had been trying to learn a lot of Chet Atkins things. Now Chet has a special way of playing where he takes a low three strings and he plays much like the left hand of a ragtime piano …
FELDER: … on the low strings.
FELDER: And on the top three strings he plays the melody much like the right hand of a piano, so he’s able to accompany himself and play a melody at the same time, which I found technically fascinating. And at 14 I was trying to figure out how he did all this stuff.
So my dad took me over to Daytona Beach and he played in a small like little Daytona Beach civic auditorium, and he had taken a guitar and he had wired it so that the low three strings went out of one pick-up and went into amplifier on one side of the stage. The top three strings when out of another output into another amplifier on the other side of the stage. And when he played these things — first of all, it was first time I’d really heard stereo live. But secondly, he played this thing that he said, “You know, the bloodiest war we had in America that caused the most American lives was the Civil War — Americans killing Americans.” And I want to be able to heal those wounds and I’m going to play the two themes.
So he started playing, Yankee Doodle Dandy …
FELDER: … on the low three strings coming out of one amplifier. Then he stopped and said I’m going to play the — the theme of the South and he started playing Dixie, came out of the other amplifier. He says in order to unite these two spirits, I’m going to play them both at the same time. And he played both songs simultaneously coming out of two different amplifiers and the top of my head just exploded. How can he technically do that? And instrumentally, how does he have — so we stayed, right, where Chet went back and got a — a case, opened it up, packed up his own guitar. There was no road crew …
FELDER: … a roadie or anything, and he walked off in front of the stage and there were steps that came down. He was just going to walk out of the front of the hall. My dad and I stayed there, and I said, “How did you do that?” And he described how he had wired and split his pick-up so he could do that.
So when I got on the soundstage after recording all these guitar tracks in the studio to figure out how I was going to play that song live, I sent a roadie out to buy the guitar and I rewired it so it’s literally two different guitars. One is a 12-string guitar, the one that switches up, it goes out of one output and into a Leslie amplifier …
FELDER: … that sounds just like the record. You flip it down to the other neck, it goes out of another output, through a pedal board and to an amp. You got all that rock and roll electric guitar. So he not only influenced me in the playing and technical ability, but the concept of being able to do something as electronically technical and splitting the guitar into stereo, which really is a reason I had to wear that white double-neck every night.
RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. Let’s talk about books what were — what are some of your favorite books? You’re on the road a lot. What do you like to read? What — what sort of stuff do you enjoy? Do you read books or listen to books or podcasts? What — what do you do to keep busy when you’re traveling?
FELDER: I — I like three. As a matter of fact I’ve got a great story. When my wife was working at the Harvard Square, she was a — a — assistant research secretary for guys who were writing thesis and books at Harvard. So I used to take a train over there when I got out of the studio. You know, I’d sit in this coffee shop and I was reading this book written by P.D. Ouspensky called “In Search of the Miraculous.” And I was — always I think I have always been in search of the miraculous in my life.
So sitting there reading this, this guy comes down and sits down — an older gentleman sits down next to me, and he looks at me and he goes, “What are you reading?” And I go, “Well, this book about this guy in search of the miraculous, and he was doing experiments with music where he would play different types of music and tonalities, Egyptian music, halftone music, whole tone music, eastern, western, southern to see what influence and how we responded musically and personally to certain frequency oscillations.” And it was just fascinating to me and I sort of explaining to this guy, he said, “Are you a student here at Harvard?” No, I’m just a musician. He said, “Would you be interested in going to school here?” And I went, “No, I’m studying music. I’m a musician. I don’t want to go to study to Harvard.” So I had the opportunity not only to be a teacher at Berklee, but because …
RITHOLTZ: That’s funny.
FELDER: … I was reading that book, he was — he was a professor at Harvard and he was going to get me as a student just because I was so obsessed with trying to, you know, read amongst stuff.
RITHOLTZ: So what do you do today for fun? What do you do when you’re not in the recording studio?
FELDER: Well, I used to play golf a lot. I was a 7-handicap, and I love playing golf when I have the time. But over the last five years, my life has just gotten so full of writing, recording, producing, touring, promotion, everything that my golf game has really suffered dramatically. I’m up to a 12-handicap. And there’s moments where you see the Hole 7 show up, and then there’s moments of 12 and 14, which are, you know, not quite as welcomed into my golf game.
RITHOLTZ: So what sort of advice would you give a millennial or a recent college grad who is interested in a career in music?
FELDER: You know, if it’s something you’re not absolutely obsessed with for the love of doing that, don’t do it for the money, don’t do it because you think you’re going to become rich and famous and, you know, overtake the world because at the end of the road, when you look back at your life, if you have not lived a fulfilling, loving, challenging passionate life doing what you want to do, then you’ve lived your life wrong. You’ll — you’ll have regret that you — it’s not the number of zeroes that you have them that end of your bank account number. To me, it’s s how much thrill and passion and excitement you had in your life while you were here doing what you chose to do.
RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the music industry today that you wish you knew back in the early 70’s when you were first starting out?
FELDER: Well, you know, I became kind of self-educated about the music business. I — my brother was a lawyer, like I said earlier, and I really wanted to know how it worked. Everything from accounting, I took accounting classes so I could read the general ledger. I got involved with overseeing a lot of the investments my business managers were doing because so many artists wind up, you know, starting out rich and for bad business investments wind up not being …
RITHOLTZ: Ripped off.
FELDER: … so rich, you know just being ripped off.
RITHOLTZ: It’s legendary.
FELDER: I was — I refused to let anybody put out a check out of my account more than $5,000 unless I sign it today, as a matter of fact. So, you know, I just stay really keeping a close eye on the business side of it as well as I’m sort of self-managed today. I mean, I have management, but I literally look at every contract that goes in and out for show performances. We run spreadsheets to see what the gross is going to be, what the costs are going to be, what the net is going to be, is this worth doing and going and doing, and just really involved in the business side of the music business.
Every document I signed whether it’s a publishing deal for — for my book or a new recording contract with BMG who’s a great record label right now who my new record is on American Rock ‘n’ Roll, great. I look at every contract, discuss it with my lawyers, go over it. If you go through life with your eyes closed, you are just a turkey waiting to be shot.
RITHOLTZ: True words were never spoken.
We have been speaking with legendary guitarist and musician Don Felder. If you enjoyed this conversation, well, look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you can see any of the other nearly 250 such chats we’ve had over the past five years.
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I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.