In His Own Words: Randy On His Early Days

This is part three in my ongoing series where I let Randy tell his own story through a compilation of quotes. Here, he describes his early life and career, up until the formation of the Eagles.


“I’m a believer in predestiny. I was given a voice [and] gifted with parents who brought it out of me.”
Bam, November 7th, 1980


Randy’s parents, Emilie & Herman Meisner.
Photo from Gering Courier (celebrating their 60th anniversary), March 11, 1993

“I was kind of devilish [as a kid]. I got in trouble a lot. I would always take the dare.”
The Story Of The Eagles: The Long Run, Marc Shapiro, 1995

6th grade, Lake Alice School

“I grew up on a farm in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and my mother sang a lot. My grandfather played violin and taught piano. So it was kind of a musical family in a way… At around twelve or thirteen I got an acoustic guitar and took some lessons.
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

Scottsbluff High School yearbook, 1961

“I heard country music growing up but I wasn’t influenced by it. My influences were Elvis and Conway Twitty. The first song I ever performed in public was ‘Honeycomb’ at a PTA meeting. I had my first guitar by then and knew a few chords. I later changed to the bass when I started going to school in town.”1
 Desperados, The Roots Of Country Rock by John Einarson, 2000

“I loved R&B, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Mary Wells, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye. The bass players on the Motown stuff were great. They really inspired me.”
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

The Drivin Dynamics, 1961
L-R: Richard Rohnke, John Ankeny, Randy Meisner, Larry Soto

“It just felt natural. The bass was something I felt secure with and I was able to get a lot of feeling out of it.”
Bam, November 7, 1980

“Then I went to town school (Scottsbluff High School) when I was fourteen and a half. I met some guys in town and I started a group with Grady and Doug Waugh called the Deacons and then it was the Thunderbirds. We couldn’t find a bass guitar so we ordered one out of a Sears catalog. We got one guitar that was really sturdy and put four strings on it. We played through high school. Met up with my guitar teacher and we started a band called the Dynamics. We did a lot of Beatles and R&B songs.
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

“The Dynamics started out as a Top Forty band but mutated into a rhythm and blues band which allowed me to do my James Brown thing (laughs). When the Beatles came out we went totally the other way and started doing stuff by The Dave Clark 5 and all the English groups.”
The Long Run: The Story Of The Eagles by Marc Shapiro, 1995

The Drivin’ Dynamics
L-R: John Ankeny, Randy, Paul Asmus, Larry Soto

“There was this other band at the [Battle Of The Bands] competition2 called the Soul Survivors who had just lost their bass player. They heard me sing and I already had that really high voice that they liked.”
The Long Run: The Story Of The Eagles by Marc Shapiro, 1995

“About two weeks later a guy from the band drove over to Nebraska3 and asked me if I wanted to go out on the road with them to open for an L.A.-based group called the Back Porch Majority, who used to play Denver quite a lot. They convinced the other members of the Soul Survivors to come out and try our luck in L.A.”
To The Limit: The Untold Story Of The Eagles by Marc Eliot, 1997

The Poor (originally the Soul Survivors), c.1967
L-R: Pat Shanahan, Randy Naylor, Randy Meisner, John Day, Allan Kemp.

“[The Soul Survivors] more or less cleaned up in Denver because they were real hot when I joined them. So we hit all the stops and pretty much managed ourselves. We made a bunch of money then split for LA.”
The Music Gig, October 1976

“For musicians growing up in the midwest, California was the only place you dreamed about being.”
Bam, November 7th, 1980

“I was aware of the music business but all I wanted to do was play. I just let things happen as they happened. My parents taught me to be a good guy and to be honest and don’t lie. If there is a gig, show up on time. I just let the good times roll. I never thought about money. In my heart I know what I do best is perform for people and make them happy, you know. It’s better than digging ditches in Nebraska. And the money didn’t go for new equipment. I have my original Fender Dual Showman amp.”
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009

L-R: John Day, Gene Chalk, Randy, Laurel Canyon, c.1966
Photo source: Karen Carvalho

“Playing was the only thing I really knew how to do. I didn’t graduate from high school and never went to college. I was a dropout, and so music was the only thing. My grandfather was a musician, a violinist, so I came from somewhat of a musical family, although I never studied formally.”
To The Limit: The Untold Story Of The Eagles by Marc Eliot, 1997

The Poor on the set of the TV show, Ironside, 1968
L-R: Randy Naylor, Randy Meisner, Pat Shanahan, director Richard Colla, Allan Kemp.

“When we first got out there, one of the [Back Porch Majority] had an apartment in Encino, off Ventura Boulevard, behind a Ralph Williams Ford dealership. So we all took apartments there, or rather one apartment, unfurnished, for all of us. We used the mats they left outside the dealership as beds. And it went downhill from there. Eventually, we found a house in Laurel Canyon, Jonathan Winters’s brother’s house. We lived there for a while. One of the guys in my band. Gene Chalk, finally gave up and went back to Denver.”
To The Limit: The Untold Story Of The Eagles by Marc Eliot, 1997

“I think maybe we tried to be too original and we ended up the same way we arrived, with nothing. We lost all our money and the house, then briefly struggled under the name of The North Serrano Blues Band. Then we got to thinking, ‘What would be a good name for the band?’ Well, we were poor so we decided, okay, The Poor.”
The Music Gig, October 1976

Laurel Canyon, c.1966
Photo source: Karen Carvalho

“It was right out of the Beach Boys. Our group, The Poor, found a house in Laurel Canyon to rent, on Ridpath. It was owned by comedian Jonathan Winters’ brother–boom, a star right off the bat. I was always worried because we smoked marijuana and so we were scared. I never had marijuana until I came out here. I drank beer. A friend of mine took me outside and said, ‘Try this.’ ‘What is it?’ Well, I didn’t notice any difference. Then a little later, yes (laughs).”
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009

“I never had a car. I had to walk. I sold the Los Angeles Free Press on Sunset and Highland. I made about five bucks a day. I took acid twice. And it just blew me away. It was too much for me ‘cause I’m a real anxiety kind of person. Where we lived was above Griffith Park. And the first time I took it I thought, ‘this is weird.’ I walked all the way up to the observatory to see the sunset. Then we walked back down to Tiny Naylor’s restaurant across from Hollywood High School at Sunset and La Brea. I ordered some eggs and they just started spinning on the plate. I thought, ‘God damn. I’ll stick with beer.’”
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009


“We couldn’t find any work because there were a million bands out here (laughs). We kind of kicked around in Hollywood. By that point I was playing bass. We called ourselves the Poor. We made three singles with Charlie Greene and Brian Stone. They had Sonny & Cher and Buffalo Springfield at that time.”
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

We made a couple of records, put them out and nothing happened.”
BBC Radio 1 Interview, April 1977

“We ran out of money and moved from Laurel Canyon to Hollywood and Sunset, a little bungalow, with eight units in it. So it was eighty dollars a month between the five of us; my first bed was on the floor. And I only owned my jacket. Our friend, Bob Garcia, used to give us vegetables just before the grocery store tossed them out. He felt sorry for us. And macaroni and cheese, everybody had that. When we cut our album at Gold Star, Cher came in. She watched from the control room and gave me a smile. It almost made up for all the mac and cheese.
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009

“They sent us to New York, and we played a club, The Salvation Army [sic], that wasn’t finished yet. We got there and we stayed in one bedroom at The Earl Hotel in the middle of summer. It was like a hundred degrees. We all had cots and there were cockroaches all over and we couldn’t breathe. The drummer had poison ivy and had this calamine lotion all over him. At the time there was a guy that wanted to sell us some weed. We had eighty dollars between us, all five of us. We gave him the money and never saw him again so now we had nothing…We finally opened the club. Jimi Hendrix was the opener. Charlie and Brian got us some nice clothes, some bell-bottoms and we get ready to go on and Jimi Hendrix comes in. We were excited to meet him. So he goes up and he does the fire thing and he burns the guitar and destroys the whole P.A. system.”
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

The Village Voice, August 3rd, 1967


“When [Hendrix] finally finished, the manager of the club said to us, ‘Hey, good news, you guys don’t have to go on at all! Come back tomorrow.’ We felt like shit. The whole idea was that we would be the opening act and get some real exposure in New York. We did play a few times the next two weeks, and nothing happened. And then it got worse…We ended the gig and couldn’t find the guy who was supposed to pay us. We didn’t have any money for plane tickets out of there. Nothing. We were all really pissed. Finally, we found out where the manager of the club lived, went there, pounded on his door until he came out, and tried to scare him by telling him simply, ‘Either you pay us or we’re going to kill you.’ He quickly bought us one-way plane tickets back to L.A.”
To The Limit: The Untold Story Of The Eagles by Marc Eliot, 1997


Randy Meisner, c.1968

“[I heard about Poco] through our road manager (Miles Thomas), who came out with us from Denver. After we were in LA for a while, he quit because we didn’t have any money and there was nothing for him to do. So, he joined the Buffalo Springfield. When they broke up, he knew the guys (Richie Furay & Jim Messina) and he knew that we weren’t doing much, so he asked me to audition for Poco. I auditioned and got the job.”
BBC Radio 1 interview, 1977

Poco (originally called ‘Pogo’) on the roof of the Troubadour.
L-R: Randy Meisner, Rusty Young, Jim Messina, George Grantham, Richie Furay

“[Miles Thomas] thought of me and broke up [The Poor], which had been together for three years and knew absolutely nothing. I mean, we practiced, had original songs and everything, but at the time they just weren’t what people wanted to hear. They were good songs, meaningful songs.”
The Music Gig, October 1976

“I played about three songs with [Richie Furay & Jim Messina], and it was my voice—which was real high and strong, and meshed with Richie’s—that worked. We didn’t use any falsetto in those days, just full out blasting.”
Desperados: The Roots Of Country Rock by John Einarson, 2000

“[Poco] started out, practiced for three months and got all the material together. Jimmy [Messina] and Richie [Furay] had put it together. We went to the Troubadour for a ‘hoot night’ and got really great reviews and everything was happening for us and we were really hot. We played there for about a week as an opening act.”
The Music Gig, October 1976

Los Angeles Free Press, November 22, 1968

“We were like the first country rock group. I was real into R&B so I considered myself a good R&B bass player. George Grantham, Poco’s drummer, could play anything and Rusty Young with the steel guitar and Jimmy Messina. Rusty and Jimmy had written some songs. I don’t think I really wrote anything for the band.”
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

Pogo performing December 1968
L-R: Jim Messina, George Grantham, Randy Meisner
Photo by Cindy Dakin

“Our first opening night was just incredible. So many people…it was really good. I remember Jimmy Messina had his dog come on stage, which was kinda funny. We had a really good time.”
Poco 50th Anniversary, November 18, 2018

“Everything was working fairly smooth until we got into the studio.”
BBC Radio 1 interview, 1977

Poco

“I quit because I wasn’t allowed in the studio for the mix down. But I realize now why, and that is because Jimmy Messina and Richie Furay were more experienced at the time and I was a young punk…. I felt if I couldn’t be there for the mix down that that was it. So, I called them and I said if I can’t come to the mix, I’m out of the group, and they said, “Fine.”
Interview with Peter Rodman, February 28, 1981

Pickin’ Up The Pieces (1969)

“I think there’s a dog [on the cover] now. The dog might have been there anyway but I always say they replaced me with a dog . . . [and] I love dogs, so I like it.”
KKTV interview, January 1995

There wasn’t really much money at the time, so it wasn’t like I was throwing anything big away [by leaving Poco].”
Desperados: The Roots Of Country Rock by John Einarson, 2000

“The world was getting ready for country-rock and we were gonna lead the charge…but without me!”
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009

Laurel Canyon, c.1968
Photo by Cindy Dakin

“Having left Poco, I was ready to give up, but then Rick called and asked me to join his band, so I went with him. I loved Rick Nelson. He’d seen Poco playing the Troubadour. He’d got real buzzed by hearing us play that kind of music.”
Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock by John Einarson, 2000

Randy, Pat Shanahan, Rick Nelson, and Allan Kemp

“Rick was looking to form a country rock band and wanted to know if I was interested and I thought it was an opportunity to the guys who got me out here. So I got hold of a couple of members of the Soul Survivors and we became the Stone Canyon Band”
The Long Run: The Story Of The Eagles by Marc Shapiro, 1995

“I remember Rick doing ‘Hello Mary Lou’ and some of the standards, which were always fun to play. I mean, you know, you grow up listening to the guy and to actually be playing with him was quite a thrill for me.”
Interview with Nelson’s manager, Greg McDonald, 1986

With Rick Nelson, San Diego, 1970

“I quit [the Stone Canyon Band] because I didn’t feel I was getting a chance to express myself. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Rick always consulted us and we all made suggestions, but even so I wasn’t happy with the music. I wasn’t making any money, and I had been away from my family a long time, so I told Rick I couldn’t handle this anymore.”
  Desperados: The Roots Of Country Rock by John Einarson, 2000

“I just wasn’t getting anywhere. I was still a backup musician.”
Argus Leader Sun, September 7th, 1975

“I went back to Nebraska and worked with a friend of mine at one of the John Deere dealerships (Frank Implement Co.) I was like a parts man for about 8 months.”
Interview with John Beaudin, August 2000

Randy wearing a Frank Implement Co. t-shirt, Netherlands, November 1973.
Photo by Peter Mazel

“[The farmers] came in and needed parts for their tractors and combines and things and I would go back and get them a part. Sometimes the wrong one [laughs].”
BBC Radio 1 interview, April 1977 

“I’d never worked a job in my life. It was a real switch.”
Argus Leader Sun, September 7th, 1975

Rick Nelson called…they were doing Rudy The Fifth…and said can you come and just play a couple of songs.”
Interview with John Beaudin, August 2000

Gold Rush, with Steve Love (right), Scottsbluff, 1970

“I was trying to get another group going at the same time called Gold Rush with some other guys I had met. There was a college in Nebraska for a while (Hiram Scott) and these people were from Pennsylvania and New York, Steve Love4 and Dan Rossi.”
BBC Radio 1 Interview, April 1977

“The band would play until three in the morning and I would have to get up and be at work at eight. I started getting into work later and later…I thought about it for a while and then went to my boss at John Deere and told him ‘this just isn’t working.'”
The Long Run: The Story Of The Eagles by Marc Shapiro, 1995

“So, I came out [to California] and then it started all over again.”
Interview with John Beaudin, August 2000


“That was like a turning point for me. Just realizing what I wanted to do.”
BBC Radio 1 interview, April 1977


“I first played with Glenn Frey while working with Linda Ronstadt, just before or just after Rick Nelson. We worked a place, Chuck’s Cellar, in the Bay Area. Don Henley was there as well.”
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik, 2009

After I played with them that one night I just felt a magic between the three of us.”
Interview with Ken Sharp, 2006

“That’s when it all started.”
Interview with John Beaudin, August 2000


Photo by Eve Babitz, October 1971
Clockwise from top left: Ned Doheny, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon,
JD Souther, Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne

“I’m just arriving in the city and there’s music on my mind
Lookin’ for my destination and my home is far behind
‘Cause it’s a long road ahead
And you can make it in the end
I’m gonna make it with my friends
And I’m tryin’”
“Tryin’,” Eagles, 1972
Lyrics by Randy Meisner


Notes:
1In interviews Randy will often say that he came to high school “in town,” which refers to Scottsbluff High School. Up through 8th grade, he attended Lake Alice School, which was located about 10 miles north of Scottsbluff.

Lake Alice School
Photo courtesy of Steve Cassells

2There is some confusion regarding the exact year of the Battle Of The Bands. In interviews, Randy himself has given the years of both 1964 and 1965. The actual year is 1966, according to Steve Cassells, who was with the band from 1964 until the Spring of 1966. Randy was still with the band when Steve left and they did not compete in a Battle Of The Bands while Steve was a member. However, when he ran into Randy in the Fall of 1966 at the Exodus club in Denver, Randy was already with the Soul Survivors/The Poor. So, the Battle must have occurred sometime in the Summer of 1966.

3The story goes that Gene Chalk of the Soul Survivors borrowed his mother’s car, drove to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and begged Randy to join their band. “We’re going to California!” he said. They arrived in L.A. in November 1966. Source: Colorado music historian, Michael Stelk, via a conversation with Gene Chalk.

4Steve Love replaced Randy in the Stone Canyon Band.


12 comments

  1. Imagine if Randy could have recorded all these memoirs onto disc and made an audio book. Reading them all is a treat, hearing him speak them would be wonderful.

    • An audio book would be the icing on the cake, wouldn’t it? If only…

      So nice to hear from you, Leah!

  2. I love what you and Kathie have created here. Your personalities shine. You’re both doing Randy proud.

  3. Thank you so much for the article it was a great read. I love to hear Randy sing and really hate that he had such a tough time thru his life. I would love to know how he is doing now. Thanks again for the article.

    • You’re welcome, Peggy. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
      I wish we knew more about how Randy is doing as well. All we can do is hope that he is staying as healthy as possible and that he knows he hasn’t been forgotten.

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