A Six-Pack of Joe Walsh

“Joe Walsh is a fluid and intelligent player. There’re not many like that around.” – Pete Townshend

Note that my six-packs are not necessarily the six best of a given artist, just six I dig. You won’t find “Life’s Been Good” or “In the City” because frankly, despite their being hits, I don’t much like either one. But there’s some stuff of his I really dig.

Joeย  Walsh, of course, had a career long before he joined the Eagles. Frankly, given how much of rocker he is, I have often thought his joining that essentially soft-rock country-oriented band was more of a way to seal his financial future than anything else. (And for the record, I like the Eagles. But no one will ever mistake them for a balls-out rock band.)

Brief history from Wikipedia: Joseph Walsh was born on November 20, 1947, in Wichita, Kansas. Walsh’s mother was a classically trained pianist and Walsh was adopted by his stepfather at the age of five after his biological father was killed in a plane crash.

Walsh got his first guitar at the age of 10, and upon learning The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run,” decided that he wanted to pursue a career as a guitarist. Inspired by the success of the Beatles, he replaced Bruce Hoffman as the bass player in the locally popular group the Nomads in Madison, New Jersey, beginning his career as a rock musician.”

After high school, Walsh attended Kent State University, where he spent time in various bands playing around the Cleveland area. He was present during the Kent State massacre in 1970. Walsh commented in 2012: “Being at the shootings really affected me profoundly. I decided that maybe I don’t need a degree that bad.” After one term, he dropped out of university to pursue his musical career.

Joe replaced his friend Glenn Schwartz in the James Gang. (Schwartz went on to form Pacific Gas & Electric.) From his site: “One night in May 1968, on the way to Detroit for a show at the Grande Ballroom opening for Cream, half the band quit. Needing the money to pay for gas to get home, the James Gang took the stage as a trio, and Joe was forced to learn on the fly how to carry rhythm and lead duties while now singing lead simultaneously.”

They dug the sound and started to develop a following in the Midwest. The aforementioned Pete Townshend heard the band’s album, liked them, and invited them to open for The Who. Joe later gave Pete a 1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins guitar that was so loud that Pete “used that guitar on every track of Whoโ€™s Next.”

Let’s listen to some James Gang, shall we? From their 1971 album Thirds, here’s “Walk Away:”

Spotify link

I’ll come back to the James gang later. For now, let’s jump ahead to 1981. Joe had been living in California and palling around with some of the Eagles (with whom he shared a manager.) In fact, on his album There Goes the Neighborhood, Don Felder played guitar and pedal steel and Timothy B. Schmit sang backing vocals.

I’ve always dug the sinuous lick on this tune, “A Life of Illusion.”

Spotify link

Here’s one you may not know and that will probably come to you right out of left field. Joe plays a nice blues guitar but you don’t get to hear that too often. This tune, “The Devil Must Be Laughing,” is from a 2017 John Mayall album called Talk About That. Nice:

Spotify link

Let’s jump back to the James Gang and here what Pete Townshend heard from this hot player. You know it, you love it, you can’t live without it, “Funk #49.

Spotify link

Here’s a tidbit you may not know. After the James Gang broke up in 1971, Joe was invited to move to England and join Humble Pie by Steve Marriott, since Peter Frampton had left the band, but declined his offer. (Ouch)

Instead, he moved to Colorado and formed a band called Barnstorm, with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale, and bassistย Kenny Passarelli, although both of their albums credited Walsh as a solo artist.

Inspired by his surroundings, Joe came up with “Rocky Mountain Way,” credited to the whole band:

Spotify link

Joe did a tune called “All Night Long” for, believe it or not, the movie Urban Cowboy which hopefully by now you’ve recovered from. I’d play the Eagles version but since the band is so douchey about using their tunes, let’s just go with Joe on YouTube, Eagles on Spotify:

Spotify link

Joe Walsh is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is #54 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 guitarists and is, of course, Ringo Starr’s brother-in-law. Life’s been (mostly) good to him so far.

23 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Joe Walsh

  1. Good one. I only checked out most of Walsh’s James Gang and 1970s stuff for the first time last year. It made me question why he joined the Eagles when he had such a nice little solo career going on.

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    1. I think he started to feel comfortable with them having jammed with them and hung out. And when a slot opened up, probably a natural fit. Same as when Ronnie Wood fell into the Stones. And Walsh, per Wikipedia, is worth $75M. I’ll go out on a limb here and bet that number would be quite a bit lower minus the type of money the Eagles can pull in.

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        1. Not entirely. As it happens I’m reading Don Felder’s autobiography. When asked the question why he would give up a solo career he said that both leading a band (James Gang) and being solo were tremendous pains in the ass. Rather than just play music he had to take on leadership and logistic responsibilites as well. So when the Eagles thing came along, it was not only lucrative but also a place where he could just be a musician. I have the sense he would have joined just about any band that asked him at that point. But he knew the Eagles and so…

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        2. It’s interesting the Eagles felt they needed another lead guitarist – two lead players obviously worked on the solos at the end of Hotel California. One of my favourite solos on a Walsh-era Eagles cut is actually played by Glenn Frey – ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’. I can understand enjoying just being a guitarist rather than leading a band though.

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        3. They recently broadcast an Eagles concert from a couple years ago that I was literally watching just last night. They have a million guitarists on stage – Vince Gill, Deacon Frey, Joe Walsh, Steuart Smith (who has been with them on the road for years and does Felders’s parts.) And when Henley comes from behind the drums to sing, he also plays guitar.

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  2. The Eagles made so much money and they are douchey about anyone who they think is stealing from them by playing their music with out them getting a cut. Totally unlike the Grateful Dead who encouraged their fans to tape them and make bootlegs.

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  3. Nice selection. Joe Walsh is a cool dude and bad ass guitarist.

    I actually like the fact he joined the Eagles and made their sound more rock-oriented. Among others, this gave us one of the most epic guitar solos in rock with โ€œHotel California.โ€ Walsh also co-wrote โ€œLife in the Fast Laneโ€, another highlight on that album.

    As for the tunes you highlighted, that John Mayall track, which I hadnโ€™t known is great.

    โ€œFunk #49โ€ and โ€œRocky Mountain Wayโ€ are probably my favorite Walsh tunes.

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    1. Oh, sure, I like that he joined them too. Made them sound ballsier. But I got to wondering, over and above money, why trade in your rock and roll shoes for an overall softer sound? And then it occurred to me that he could still get that out of his system with his solo albums. So, best of both worlds.

      That Mayall album is pretty good.

      BTW, I got a chance to watch about half of that televised Eagles concert. Enjoyed it quite a bit. Probably watch the rest this weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I like Joe as a guitarist, less as a singer. But he’s ok in that regard. Truthfully, though, I would have to listen to a lot more of his stuff to find an album’s worth of songs I like. Glad you dug the Mayall tune. Dug that one up. Probably nobody buys his albums but he makes them anyway.

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  4. Joe Walsh is a legend! I just finished reading the Stevie Nicks bio Gold Dust Woman and she had a lot to say about Joe! I guess they were hot and heavy for about three years!

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  5. Hello. I enjoy reading your posts! In fact, I have nominated your blog for โ€˜The Sunshine Blogger Awardโ€™! I hope you donโ€™t mind and I hope you choose to participate!

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  6. Count me as a James Gang fan. I, too, really liked the Mayall work. From his solo work, Iโ€™ll always have an ear ready for โ€œTurn to Stoneโ€. The first version off Barnstorm is when youโ€™re a tad out-of-sync with the world, and the more radio friendly one from So What is for when youโ€™re ready to kick ass.

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