Once you read Don Felder's Heaven and Hell, you'll never look at America's biggest band of the 1970s the same way.
In 1974, the Eagles hired Felder to add arena-rock guitar muscle to their ballad-heavy group. Bernie Leadon, Felder's childhood friend from Gainesville, welcomed him with an ominous whisper: "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Leadon, a gifted multi-instrumentalist and founding member who coined the band's name, became the first victim of "the Gods," the derisive nickname Felder uses to describe head songwriters Glenn Frey and Don Henley.
Once Leadon's country-bluegrass influence was supplanted by the harder edge of "Fingers" Felder in songs like Already Gone, the same could be said of Leadon. After a famous blowout with front man Frey, Leadon poured a beer on his head and soon quit, opening the door for Joe Walsh. With two formidable rock guitarists on board, the Eagles were on that dark desert highway toward their greatest success, Hotel California.
Heaven and Hell spotlights the price of fame. For years family man Felder tried to steer clear of groupies and hard drugs. But, he rationalizes, "I'd like to tell you I was a saint, and that's exactly what I'd have had to have been to resist the temptation thrust at me on a daily basis."
Florida music buffs will relish Felder's early brushes with other megastars on the rise: giving music lessons to a teenage "Tommy" Petty, getting musical advice from guitar god Duane Allman and romping after a gig in Palatka with a military brat named Stephen Stills. This book, like Bobby Braddock's memoir Down in Orburndale, gives a sense of the unique blend of country, folk and rock in our region that produced so many important musicians in the 1960s.
Felder's book may come with some sour grapes, but fans will find the back stories inside Heaven and Hell mighty tasty.
University Press of Florida just published Bob Kealing's investigative chronicle, "Tupperware Unsealed."