If you’ve heard of the name Don Henley, you’re most likely a big fan of rock music from the 70s. He’s one of the founding members of The Eagles, and he’s had a very successful solo career too.
He’s more well-known for his singing abilities, but for this article, we’re going to looker deeper into his drumming abilities.
Here’s a brief breakdown of Don Henley, including everything he’s achieved, bands he’s played with, and we’ll touch on his drumming style and why it fit The Eagles so perfectly.
- 1 Notable For
- 2 History
- 3 Notable Artists That Don Henley Has Played With
- 4 Drumming Style
- 5 Gear
- 6 Notable Performances
- 7 Final Thoughts on Don Henley
- Founding member of The Eagles
- Drumming and singing in The Eagles
- Writing several of The Eagles’ biggest hits
- Highly successful solo singing career
- Being heavily politically involved
Don Henley was born in Gilmer, Texas, where he started playing music in school due to his physique being too small. He initially started with the trombone but moved the drums at a later stage. Throughout this time, he also learned to play guitar and sing.
His first experience with bands was in high school, and he was part of a band called Shiloh that eventually got signed to a record label.
When Shiloh disbanded, he met another musician signed to the label named Glenn Frey, and the two of them toured with Linda Ronstadt for a while. They became friends and eventually formed The Eagles with Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon.
Henley became the lead singer for the band, even though he was the drummer as well. They released some big hits and gained worldwide fame, but they split in 1980.
Don Henley then pursued a solo career where he mostly played guitar and sang. He released big hits under his own name, and he always hired world-class drummers to play with him.
The Eagles reunited in 1994, and they’ve been touring on and off ever since. However, Don Henley doesn’t play drums every time they perform, as the band often gets Scott F. Crago to play drums while Henley takes the front stage.
Notable Artists That Don Henley Has Played With
Don Henley and Glenn Frey co-wrote most of The Eagles’ songs. The band became so popular that it became the highest-selling band in American history, with songs like Hotel California and Take It Easy being instantly recognizable to most people.
It’s quite strange to see the drummer being the lead singer of such a famous rock band, but it’s one of the aspects that made the band so interesting.
Don Henley always played the drum kit in the initial years of all of The Eagles’ tours, but the band started hiring a session drummer when they reunited in the 90s.
From then until the modern-day tours, Don Henley has been off and on with his drumming, often preferring to play guitar and sing from upfront.
Things just sped up for Don Henley after The Eagles broke up in 1980. He ventured out to pursue a solo career, and he gained major success. A lot of it was thanks to his time with The Eagles, but there was a new demographic of people that he was making music for at that stage.
His biggest hit as a solo artist was Dirty Laundry, and it sold over one million copies in the US alone. Other notable hits were The Boys of Summer, All She Wants to Do is Dance, The Heart of the Matter, and New York Minute.
Henley often used Jeff Porcaro as the drummer to record the drum parts for his solo tunes.
Shiloh was the first band that Don Henley was a part of when he was in high school. The band went through a few name changes before being named Shiloh, but Shiloh was the name when the band got signed to Amos Records.
The band only recorded one album, though, and broke up in 1971.
When Henley was signed to Amos Records, he got hired as a session musician to tour with Linda Ronstadt.Through performing with her on tour in 1971, Don Henley built a close bond with Glenn Frey.
The two of them went on to create one of the biggest bands in American history, but they likely wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for the Linda Ronstadt tour.
Don Henley’s drumming style is incredibly simplistic. However, he’s always played exactly what is needed for the song. His drumming is just right for every Eagles song, and he plays parts that are simple enough to allow him to sing at the same time.
He’s known more as a singer than a drummer, but his timing skills and musicality demonstration have always been good.
We wouldn’t rank him anywhere near all the other celebrity drummers from the 70s and 80s, but he didn’t need to play anything flashy when performing with The Eagles. The music wasn’t about that, so intricate drumming would sound out of place.
Don Henley has played Ludwig, Tama, and DW drums throughout his career. He’s always been a big Paiste player in the cymbal department, regularly using a mix between 602 and 2002 Series cymbals.
Hotel California 1998 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction
Hotel California is one of The Eagles’ biggest songs. It’s become an anthem in rock music, and Don Henley’s soft grooves and powerful vocals are incredible to watch.
This is a clip of the band performing the tune when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It’s a seriously powerful moment!
One of These Nights Live
Here’s a newer clip of the band performing one of their big hits. Don Henley is on the drums here, showing that he’s still got it about 40 years after the track was initially released.
Notice how clean his drumming is while he’s singing at the same time. It’s highly impressive.
The Boys of Summer by Don Henley
Even though this isn’t a clip of Henley playing drums, it’s worth mentioning again how much success he gained as a solo artist. Jeff Porcaro was the drummer on this tune, but Henley undoubtedly gave input when the drum parts were created.
Final Thoughts on Don Henley
We wouldn’t say that Don Henley is many people’s favorite drummer, but there’s no escaping the fact that he’s the drummer for one of the biggest and most popular bands in the world.
All the drum parts that he created for the early hits were perfectly suited for the music, and the fact that he sings at the same time is just the cherry on top.
If you want to hear more of Don Henley, we’d suggest that you listen to both The Eagles and his solo work.