With five number one singles and four number one albums, the Eagles were among the most successful recording artists of the 1970s; at the end of the 20th century, two of those albums, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and Hotel California, ranked among the ten best-selling albums ever, according to the certifications of the Record Industry Association of America. Though most of its members came from outside California, the group was closely identified with a country- and folk-tinged sound that initially found favor in and around Los Angeles in the late '60s, as played by such bands as the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco, both of which contributed members to the Eagles. But the band also drew upon traditional rock & roll styles and, in their later work, helped define the broadly popular rock sound eventually referred to as classic rock. That helped the Eagles to achieve a perennial appeal among generations of music fans who continued to buy their records many years after they had split up, which inspired the reunion they mounted in the mid-'90s.
The band was formed by four Los Angeles-based musicians who had come to the West Coast from other parts of the U.S. Singer/bassist Randy Meisner (born in Scottsbluff, NE, on March 8, 1946) moved to L.A. in 1964 as part of a band originally called the Soul Survivors (not to be confused with the East Coast-based Soul Survivors, who scored a Top Five hit with "Expressway to Your Heart" in 1967) and later renamed the Poor. In 1968, he was a founding member of Poco, but left the band prior to the release of its debut album, joining the Stone Canyon Band, the backup group for Rick Nelson. Singer/guitarist/banjoist/mandolinist Bernie Leadon (born in Minneapolis, MN, on July 19, 1947) arrived in L.A. in 1967 as a member of Hearts and Flowers before joining Dillard & Clark and then the Flying Burrito Brothers. Singer/drummer Don Henley (born in Gilmer, TX, on July 22, 1947) moved to L.A. in June 1970 with his band Shiloh, which made one self-titled album for Amos Records before breaking up. Glenn Frey (born in Detroit, MI, on November 6, 1948) performed in his hometown and served as a backup musician to Bob Seger before moving to L.A. in the summer of 1968. He formed the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle with J.D. Souther, and they signed to Amos Records, which released their self-titled album in 1969.
In the spring of 1971, Frey and Henley were hired to play in Linda Ronstadt's backup band. Meisner and Leadon also played backup to Ronstadt during her summer tour, though the four only did one gig together, at Disneyland in July. They did, however, all appear on Ronstadt's next album, Linda Ronstadt, released in early 1972. In September 1971, Frey, Henley, Leadon, and Meisner signed with manager David Geffen, agreeing to record for his soon-to-be-launched label, Asylum Records; soon after, they adopted the name the Eagles. In February 1972, they flew to England and spent two weeks recording their debut album, Eagles, with producer Glyn Johns. It was released in June, reaching the Top 20 and going gold in a little over a year and a half, following the release of two Top Ten hits, "Take It Easy" and "Witchy Woman," and one Top 20 hit, "Peaceful Easy Feeling."
The Eagles toured as an opening act throughout 1972 and into early 1973, when they returned to England and Glyn Johns to record their second LP, Desperado, a concept album about outlaws. Released in April 1973, it reached the Top 40 and went gold in a little less than a year and a half, spawning the Top 40 single "Tequila Sunrise." The title track, though never released as a single, became one of the band's better-known songs and was included on its first hits collection.