Bernie Leadon was a Burrito and an Eagle before becoming a session man and playing with artists like Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, Alabama, the Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin and The Jayhawks. So what does he have that everybody wants? "Nice guitars," Leadon quips. "One time I did a session here in town and somebody went, 'Man, your guitar sounds great! What kind is that?' And I said, 'It's a 1942 Gibson J-45.' They went and bought one. That was the end of them hiring me," he laughs. "So I think it's the guitars, not the player."
His long record in the business doesn't support that contention. Leadon's banjo and guitar work contributed significantly to the Burrito Brothers sound, and his work with the Eagles, including writing "Witchy Woman," was important to their success. But the Eagles barely acknowledge his existence, telling interviewers "we've changed a lot of members through the years, and it's always been for the better," the guitarist said from his Nashville home. "I understand why they would build up the current lineup. Politicians do that too. But at the same time the proof's in the pudding. It's the stuff that I played on that sold the most."
Leadon left the Eagles at 29, tired of touring, having worked professionally since he was 15. "I started a family and went and got really healthy," he laughs. He's done session work ever since, and has no plans to join another supergroup. "It's like forming a government, man. 'I wanna be vice president. Let me run the show. No, you can't. You didn't pay for it.' I don't know if I could handle the whole band thing anymore," he sighs. He's just released his first solo album in 27 years, Mirror, a quirky album that reflects his musical history from bluegrass to country rock.
"I was probably just chicken," he laughs when asked what took him so long. "Then I gotta get out there and promote it and do interviews, and then... Hell! People are gonna notice it ! I don't mind making a record. I just don't want anybody to notice it."
Just in case they do, Leadon's ready. "I own a studio, so I own the means of production. I'd love to do another one like this here--you don't spare any expense and do it how you think it oughta be."
In addition to a show Saturday night at The Pour House Music Hall, Leadon is playing a free show that afternoon at Schoolkids Records on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh at 1 p.m.