Each week, the latest honoree is revealed on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
Formed in Los Angeles in 1971 as a backing group for Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles would eventually go on to become the best-selling American band in U.S. history with over 100 million albums sold.
Pulling in inspiration from the sounds of Texas, Detroit and California, the band of expert musicians blended country with rock ‘n’ roll, pairing rich harmonies and storytelling with fleet-fingered guitar leads and flowering melodies. Their hits like “Take It Easy,” “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane” are still ubiquitous on terrestrial radio today and had a major influence on the modern country sound.
In 1980, the band went on a hiatus that lasted 14 years. After reuniting in 1994, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The band is currently touring in Europe in support of their History of Eagles documentary.
“The Eagles, just timeless music. Music that never goes out of style,” said Lady A’s Charles Kelley. “What I like about them: It’s no frills you know? The show was straightforward, playing the hits and giving us great stories. No big distractions with light or any of that. It was, ‘Listen, you’re coming here to hear great songs and listen to music and hear the stories.’ It’s just a great band.
“If they came out this day and age, they’d probably be considered country music,” Kelley continued. “And I think everybody pulls a lot of influences. Anyone would admit in country music now, we pull a lot of influences from the Eagles and a lot of that Americana rock ‘n’ roll sound.
“Absolutely,” bandmate Hillary Scott agreed.
“I think they’re very iconic, too,” said Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood. “I think, for me, that’s the best word. When you hear ‘Hotel California’ and you hear ‘Desperado,’ it just feels so iconic. Those songs are just some of the biggest and best songs of any genre in any format.”
Ronnie Dunn agreed that the Eagles are part of the blueprint for today’s country sound.
“Their stuff was all about the Southwest, and that’s something that even Kix (Brooks) and I as Brooks & Dunn gravitated to,” he admitted. “It’s kind of in my DNA. We would go to cowboy clubs in Abilene, Texas, when I was going to school, and that was just about all they’d play.
“(The Eagles would) be hardcore country by today’s standards,” Dunn said about the band. “They still are, to me.”
Fittingly, it was a country star who helped bring the Eagles back together after they stopped collaborating in 1980. After taking part in a tribute album, Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles, Tritt decided on a lark to invite the band to be in the music video for his version of “Take It Easy.”
“I was thrilled to be asked (to be on the album), and they came back after we had recorded it … and for whatever reason, the guys at the record label said, ‘We want to release your version of “Take It Easy” as the first single, and we want to shoot a video. What would you like to do for a video?'” Tritt recalled. “I said, ‘Man, I don’t know.’
“Just off the cuff, I said, ‘How about we get the Eagles back together?’ And everybody kinda looked at me like I had lost my mind, and I said, ‘I don’t care how we do it, but at least let’s make the call and make an effort.’
“And so, since that time, obviously we all know what happened,” Tritt said. “We were able to pull them together, and all I wanted to do was make a cool video. I had no intention of being involved, nor taking credit for trying to put the Eagles back together, other than just for that one day.”
Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT to check out the next artist on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice .