Linda Ronstadt’s Backup Band at Disneyland ~ 1971

Once again here’s a post without a picture of the original four as yet to be named ‘Eagles’. Backing Linda Ronstadt during her week long run at Disneyland, in June of 1971, is where Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Don Henley found the harmony that would become the sound of the Eagles. We all know the story. They became the biggest band in American history.

‘Date Nite’ ~ Disneyland ~ June 12, 1971

According to the Randy Meisner Concert Chronology, Randy, Glenn and Don backed Linda at ‘Date Nite’ in Disneyland on June 12, 1971. Bernie joined them on the Tomorrowland Stage that night for the first time. (Click to enlarge)


‘Date Nite’ ~ June 12, 1971
Source: Concert Ad from the Randy Meisner Concert Chronology


Source: San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, CA)
June 8, 1971 ~ Page 13


‘Grad Nite’ ~ Disneyland
June 4, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 1971

Not listed on the Randy Meisner Concert Chronology, but according to this article, ‘Grad Nite’ parties in 1971 were set for June 4, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18. Disneyland was reserved each night exclusively for graduates from participating schools and their dates.
Source: Santa Maria Times (Santa Maria, CA) ~ June 2, 1971 ~ Page 14


According to Linda’s book, ‘Linda Ronstadt Simple Dreams ~ A Musical Memoir’ on page 74, Linda recalled how she played with the Eagles as her official backup band at Disneyland in 1971 for a week of end-of-school-year festivities called Grad Night. So, Bernie would have joined Randy, Glenn and Don on stage for the first time on June 4th.


Testing their chemistry, Frey, Henley, Leadon and Meisner played together. These were unglamorous gigs, in front of high schoolers on graduation nights in Disneyland, in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Yet suddenly they were a quartet. “It was like people in love,” Ronstadt said of this burgeoning family. “It was a great thing to see that band when they first formed. They were so happy. They loved to play music with each other.”
Source: LIFE EAGLES Their Story. Their Music. Their Lives.
Meredith Corporation ~ Copyright 2021 ~ Page 14


Disneyland Requirements
for Linda Ronstadt’s 1971 Performances

In Simple Dreams, Linda Ronstadt’s 2013 memoir, the singer recalls her 1971 performances at Disneyland’s Grad Nite and she names several of the “particular requirements” spelled out in her Disneyland contract:
1. She was “required to wear a bra.”
2. Her “skirt had to be a certain number of inches from the ground” when she knelled.
3. She and the other performers “weren’t allowed to wander through the park in between shows.”
Source: The Disneyland Book of Lists ~ By Chris Strodder ~ Copyright 2015


Tomorrowland Stage in 1971

The Tomorrowland Stage became part of Disneyland in 1967, occupying the space that had previously been home to the Flying Saucers. With the 1977 Opening of Space Mountain, the Space Stage replaced the Tomorrowland Stage. The Space Stage was built into the base of Space Mountain, and had a more permanent appearance than the Tomorrowland Stage. In 1985, construction began on the indoor Magic Eye Theater for “Captain EO,” starring Michael Jackson in 3-D, on the site of the outdoor Space Stage. (The Captain is now in Yesterland too.)
Source: Yesterdayland.com


Putting Together a Possible Setlist

(Click to enlarge)
Note Michael’s comment (second from the end on page two)
Source: vintagedisneylandtickets.blogspot
(‘Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line’ Added to Possible Setlist below)


The San Bernardino County Sun article listed at the beginning of this post states that Linda’s single “Long Long Time” registered high on the charts. It’s quite possible she sang this at her Disneyland gig.
(‘Long Long Time’ Added to Possible Setlist below)


Source: Chris J Preimesberger’s Facebook Page
(‘When Will I Be Loved’, ‘You’re No Good’
and ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’
Added to Possible Setlist below)


Possible Partial Setlist
Disneyland ~ June 1971

Only Momma That’ll Walk The Line
Long Long Time
When Will I Be Loved
You’re No Good
Silver Threads and Golden Needles


ORIGINS WITH LINDA RONSTADT
AND BACKSTAGE WITH SMOKEY

Frey and Henley befriended each other in 1971 when they were hired as sidemen in Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. John Boylan, record producer and manager, assembled the best country rock musicians in the Los Angeles area to join Ronstadt’s band. Boylan specifically scouted musicians who could also sing, which is why both Henley and Frey were added to the roster with Frey on guitar and Henley on drums. Music historians point to that moment as the origin of the Eagles which formed soon after when David Geffen signed them to Asylum Records in 1971.

During downtime backstage, Ronstadt’s touring band frequently played poker with each other and other bands, because everyone knew the basic rules and the rankings of poker hands. During a series of gigs at Disneyland in 1971, Ronstadt’s band hung out backstage with the legendary Smokey Robinson. A poker game fired up initiated by Ronstadt’s new guitar player, Glenn Frey.

In a remembrance piece about Glenn Frey in the L.A. Times, Ronstadt explained, “We had to do four shows a night. You’d play a 20-minute set, then be off for three or four hours, then play another 20 minutes — there was a lot of time to kill between sets. At one point we got into a poker game with Smokey Robinson, who also was booked there. I had a huge crush on Smokey at that time, and we were playing poker, and Glenn kept winning. I told him, ‘Quit winning!’ That’s the kind of poker player I was.”
Source: Pokerstars ~ Life in the Fast Lane: Poker and the Eagles
By Pauly McGuire ~ @PokerStars ~ 5 years ago In Poker Buzz


“The last shows I played with the Eagles as my official backup band were at Disneyland in 1971 for a week of end-of-school-year festivities called ‘Grad Night.”
Source: Excerpt from ‘Linda Ronstadt Simple Dreams ~ A Musical Memoir’
By Linda Ronstadt ~ Copyright 2013 – Page 74


(Click to enlarge)

The original four as ‘Teen King and The Emergencies’ travel to Aspen, CO to hone their skills as a band.
Then it was on to Westlake School for Girls in Westlake, CA as the ‘Eagles’.
Source: Randy Meisner Concert Chronology

In-between the above two gigs the ‘Eagles’ perform for the first time in public at Boyd Elder’s Art Show in Venice, California.


1971 ‘Grad Nite’ Memories

Dress Code

Adjusted Dress Code

Source: DisneyHistory101.com


1971 Map of Disneyland
(click to enlarge)


1971 ‘Grad Nite’ Tickets

June 4th

June 15th

June 16th

June 17th

June 18th

Grad Nite Committee Rules


‘Grad Nite’ Souvenir Program
for June 11, 1971

The Graduates were given a different program each night of ‘Grad Nite’. Below is an enlargement of the fourth page of the June 16th program. It contains the names of the schools attending on that particular night.


1971 ‘Grad Nite’ Photo Booklets

‘Grad Nite’ Photo Directions
Source: DisneyHistory101.com

The ‘Grad Nite’ Photo Booklets were then mailed to the graduates
at their homes. Many have posted their pictures on their
individual Facebook pages and in Blogs.
Source: DisneyHistory101.com


Additional Newspaper Articles
‘Grad Nite’ 1971

Source: The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) ~ June 2, 1971 ~ Page 24


Source: Progress Bulletin (Pomona, CA) ~ June 2, 1971 ~ Page 23


Source: Times-Advocate (Escondido, CA) ~ June 3, 1971 ~ Page 2


Source: The Signal (Santa Clarita, CA) ~ June 9, 1971 ~ Page 2


See Below for Part 2

Source: The LA Times (Los Angeles, CA) ~ June 23, 1971


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