Former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder in Beaver Creek Tuesday | VailDaily.com

Former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder in Beaver Creek Tuesday

You can be a Hall of Fame guitarist or a best-selling author, but you cannot be both, unless you're Don Felder.

You've heard his work. It's good.

Felder was lead guitarist with the Eagles for 27 years. The band's album "Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)" sold more than 29 million copies — the most in the 20th century, which really wasn't that long ago. He co-wrote the band's biggest hit, "Hotel California," along with favorites like "Victim of Love," "Those Shoes," "One of These Nights," "New Kid in Town" and countless others.

In other words, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has been doing this for the better part of six decades and won't have trouble filling the evening with amazing music Tuesday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

"Who would ever thought that a guitar player from Gainesville, (Florida), would go on to be in the Eagles and then become a best-selling author?" Felder said.

The Eagles years

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The Eagles are considered by some to be America's greatest rock band. Founding Eagles member and Felder's childhood friend Barry Leadon asked him to meet the band in California for a recording session. They were working on "On the Border." They liked what they heard. The next day they invited him to join them.

"They were having difficulty getting on AM radio. You either had to be a rock band, a drippy ballad singer or something of that nature. Country music was really still very country, so they did not really fit on the country radio charts," Felder said in an interview with http://www.Crypticrock.com. "That's why I was invited into the band, to bring more rock skills into the recording, touring and just the overall feel of the band."

They had success, failure, friendship and some titanic creative battles. Felder left the Eagles in 2001 after the "When Hell Freezes Over" tour, and he wrote about most of the triumph and tragedy in his riveting New York Times confessional memoir, "Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles."

Florida man

Felder grew up Gainesville, Florida, in a flourishing music scene.

He started playing guitar when he was 10 years old after he saw Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show." He discovered B.B. King and eventually The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

"I wound up exploring jazz, teaching myself to read music, studying jazz, working in recording studios, learning how to make records, playing in just about every kind of band from bluegrass bands to rock bands, jazz bands, any and every kind of music that I could get involved with," he said. "Along the way, I met some incredibly fascinating as well as talented people."

In high school, he formed a band with a young Stephen Stills, gave guitar lessons to a teenage Tom Petty at the local music store and counted both of the Allman Brothers (Gregg and Duane) among his local pals.

"Duane Allman was first person I ever saw play electric-slide guitar," Felder said. "I said, 'You've got to show me how to do that,' so we sat on his mother's floor in Daytona Beach and Duane taught me how to play slide."

Feldert is nothing if not versatile. While he was in Los Angeles he played with The Bee Gees, Bob Seger, Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, Kenny Loggins, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Boz Scaggs, Warren Zevon, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Vince Gill, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand and his old friend Steven Stills.

The harder you fall

What goes up must come down, and Felder's life crashed. In 2001, he separated acrimoniously from the Eagles for the last time, while facing the end of his first marriage, which had lasted 29 years and produced four children.

"Every identity I'd been attached to — musician, husband and father — was being taken away," he said.

He started writing memories to help him heal. He decided to try a book and connected with Hollywood deal-maker Michael Ovitz to set it up.

"Two weeks later, I went to New York with a three-page synopsis and received four offers from publishers," Felder said. "Now I was forced to reflect on my life."

He put some of his life's stories into songs, which became "Road to Forever," his second solo album.

He went back on the road and plays Tuesday in the Vilar.

"I had to figure all that out for myself, and I'm glad that I did. In the process of making the upcoming album, I found out who I really am — I had to find out what happened when I almost lost it all," he said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go

What: Don Felder: A Night at Hotel California

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: $68

Information: Felder is former lead guitarist with The Eagles and has been on his own since 2001. Order tickets at vilarpac.org.