Randy Meisner: A Retrospective is once again honored to have the chance to interview another of Randy’s friends, Colleen Stewart. We appreciate her insight into the time when Randy was touring during his solo career.
Colleen was more than generous with her time during my phone interview with her on September 22nd. Before I began to ask her our prepared questions, she commented on the times, and the music business, that she and Randy worked in during the ’80s. Colleen did not work with Randy, but she was friends with him. She was on some of the tours with him as her roommate and bandmate, Terese Heston, was in Randy’s touring band, The Silverados, during most of his solo career.
Back in the day ~ L to R: Stunt car driver, Carly Barag, Colleen and Terese
Photo: Courtesy Colleen Stewart
After we greeted each other, Colleen told me about her life today and during the ’80s.
I have a ranch outside of L.A., a couple of acres, a fence with a couple of goats, and I have my recording studio here. My goddaughter just bought a huge ranch in Ventura so I’ve been up there with her, hanging out, and helping her decorate.
When Terese and I lived together, she gave me a list of The Silverados’ tour schedule. She said that then I knew where she was and I could come to any of their gigs. Also, Trudy, we all called her Truly, Green was managing Randy and she was managing us (The Heston Stewart Band). We started putting our band together before Terese started playing with Randy so we were recording songs that we wrote together with a different band ~ Carlos Vega on drums from James Taylor’s band, who played on ‘Physical’ with Olivia Newton-John; and then we had Dennis Belfield from Chaka Kahn’s band on bass; and Joe Kelly on guitar who was from Ike and Tina Turner’s band; and me on keyboards and songwriter with Terese. Finally, Randy came in towards the end and started working with us on the last couple of songs. He sang and played bass. One song I wrote is called ‘Over the Edge’ and Randy sang and played on it. I wrote ‘No Means Yes’, which I wrote in high school and then what Terese did basically is put the words and the lyrics to it.
Randy Meisner and The Silverados’ 1981 Tour Schedule
Source: Colleen Stewart
(Click to enlarge)
1980 Heston Stewart Band ‘No Means Yes’
Source: Colleen Stewart
(Click to play)
Terese and I used the same studio as Fleetwood Mac. We were recording at the same time as Fleetwood Mac. Capitol Studios has an A, B or C Studio and Fleetwood Mac was in the A Studio and we were in the B Studio.
I met Timothy B Schmit in the early ’70s, before I met Randy, at a record producer’s (Tom Sellers’) home in the Hollywood Hills. Tommy Sellers was a man who was a young producer at the time, but he was very responsible for a lot of hits. He was underneath producers that took the credit, but he really did the work. There was Timothy sitting on the floor. He was kind of young, long hair and I think he was probably a little high. Tom said, “This is Tim.” And I said, “Oh, hey man. What’s up?” And he just put his hand up and took my hand, and Tom and I just kept going up the stairs. In those days, everybody was pretty stoned I think.
I was such good friends with Val Garay, and because I lived literally five blocks from Record One Studios, where everybody recorded, James Taylor would come over to our house. Everyone would go back and forth. I was in the studio when they (Kim Carnes) did ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. Val played me the demo to ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ before they recorded it. Bill Como, the keyboard player, came up with the opening line that everybody thinks is a guitar. You know how ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ opens up? That’s actually Bob’s keyboard.1 That’s how that record became what it is because of that intro. It won the Grammy and Kim and her husband, David, were super sweet people. I never saw them do any drugs.
Tell us about yourself and if you are still involved in the music business.
Totally. One hundred percent. I’m writing, writing, writing. I have a studio. I’m writing probably more than ever. Because the world has changed so much, and also COVID has made us all change, I co-write with people all over the world. We send files, we write songs and what we’re writing for is ‘Sync’2 which is music that is needed for commercials and podcasts and even when you turn your phones on. Forty-thousand pages of music are need monthly. Just think of all the commercials like Samsung commercials, Amazon commercials. That’s the kind of stuff I’m writing at the moment. I write regular songs, as well. I work with a lot of different singers.
How did you meet Randy?
I met him at Val’s (Val Garay) studio. I don’t even think Terese was there. I met him through Val. We struck up a friendship right away. We immediately hit it off. If you were in Val’s office that meant you were somebody, there for a reason. It was ‘the’ studio. James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne ~ that particular countryish type of people were there.
Top left photo, L to R: Val Garay, Colleen,
David Helfant (Colleen’s music lawyer who also manages Val and Jackson Browne)
Photo: Courtesy Colleen Stewart
(Click to enlarge)
Did Randy ever think that hitting the high notes every night might be a strain on his vocal cords?
Well, I’m sure it was. Making it on the records was one thing, but doing it consistently, and on tour, and with the live show at the time.
What was your role in working with Randy?
When I first met him, I just met him with Val and Val told me he was going to produce Randy’s next record. I knew Wendy Waldman for maybe 10 or 15 years before that. I knew what a great writer she was and I knew that she was involved and they were playing me some demos. I think Val did Kim’s (Carnes) record first and then Randy’s. I did not work with him. Terese did not sing on the record but did the touring. Terese and I were living together down the street. Randy and Alanna (Alanna Kelly, Randy’s girlfriend) would come over and hang out with us all the time. We would go to the Mexican restaurants and hang out and the Italian restaurants. I spoke to Alanna recently. She lives in Colorado. I think she’s still in touch with Randy a little. Alanna only has great things to say about him. We all traveled together, San Francisco, New York. I went to quite a few of the places that they went to.
Alanna and Randy
Photo: Henry Diltz ~ Source: Sleeve Front of Randy Meisner Self-titled Album, 1982
Were you ever in the studio with Randy?
Yes. He played bass on a song for Terese and me, ‘Over the Edge’. In high school (’71-’72) my band at the time was learning all the Eagles’ tunes from the first record. It was interesting that we went that route. Then I wrote a song, ‘Till We Fall’. I wrote it for Linda Ronstadt. It was like an answer to ‘Desperado’. We had pedal steel on it. It was a waltz, very much like ‘Take It To The Limit’.
(Click to play)
‘Till We Fall’ ~ Written by Colleen Stewart/Terese Heston, 1980
Terese Heston, vocals ~ Carlos Vega, drums ~ Dennis Belfield, bass ~ Joe Kelley, guitar ~
Doc Martin, pedal steel ~ Unmixed unreleased off the board in the studio.
Did Linda Ronstadt record ‘Till We Fall’?
No, she didn’t.
You’ve worked with Val Garay, who produced Randy’s second album, ‘One More Song’. Has Val ever shared anything about working with Randy that you could tell us?
I think he loved working with Randy. Absolutely. They had no problem and I think they got along. I think that Val made a really great record. Val is now working with Richie Furay. The record is coming out soon and it is amazing. This is a record of all covers. Timothy sang on it. One of the songs is ‘Country Roads’ by John Denver.
Collaborators on the One More Song Album
L to R: Randy, Wendy Waldman and Eric Kaz ~ 1980
To your knowledge, did Randy have a hard time adjusting from mostly backup vocals with the Eagles to being a solo artist?
No, I don’t think so at all. I think he was comfortable singing. I think he was comfortable being in front too. I think he really had a great time in that band (The Silverados). He loved the songs and they only had one bad night in New York where they had a sound issue. Otherwise, Randy was always pleasant. He was not hard to get along with. He wasn’t demanding. He was very humble.
The Desperado record is so much Randy and the base playing is phenomenal.
When he was with the Eagles, everybody was always nervous when they did ‘Take It To The Limit’. If Randy was going to hit the notes that night, and it became a thing in the band. And no one can hit the notes. No one else can hit that high note. He hit it almost every time and if he didn’t feel that he was up to it, maybe they had done some drinking and partying, he just wouldn’t take the shot. They would just get upset about it and always looking for a reason to pick at him. That was it. Then he left the Eagles and Timothy came in.
Don Henley and Glenn Frey always really pushed Randy kind of in the back. I don’t think they were very nice to him.
Randy’s demeanor changed drastically from his Eagles’ days to his solo career. Do you think that was easy for him to accomplish?
He had a blast in that band (The Silverados). He loved that record ‘Hearts On Fire’ and he loved being in the front. I think he finally felt vindicated with Don and Glenn running the show all the time. You will hear the same story from every other person in that band. Bernie Leadon will say the same thing. Don Felder will say the same thing. He’s a very quiet shy man too. Joe Walsh is a hell of a nice guy. He got cleaned up so I think he enjoys his career as well. And Randy, to me he’s always beautiful. Alanna (Kelly) took good care of Randy. Alanna was great. She still is great. She only has good memories of Randy.
Randy thanked Alanna on the album liner of his 1982 album,
although they didn’t get the spelling of her name correct.
We’ve read that Randy learned to sing in a lower key during his solo career. Do you know if he had to work on that?
I don’t know about that. When I listen to ‘Hearts On Fire’, I don’t think he had to lower his register. I don’t think he had a problem. I think he could sing anywhere on the register.
It seemed that your friend and bandmate, Terese Heston, had good chemistry with Randy on stage. Can you tell us why she left the Silverados?
We were trying to get a record deal. That photograph of Terese and I, we did a whole day of shooting for those pictures.
The Heston Stewart Band ~ L to R: Colleen Stewart and Terese Heston
Photo: Courtesy Colleen Stewart
When they were doing ‘Hearts On Fire’ with Val producing, Randy had pretty much the same band, so Kim Carnes’ band was Randy’s band. They added Terese into the mix because they needed a backup band and you know she was so pretty. She worked out perfectly. Also, Wendy Waldman was there. Wendy was not in a position to go on the road, but she did co-write a list of songs if not write the songs. It’s a great record and all the people in the band were awesome.
Randy and Kim Carnes ‘Deep Inside My Heart’
One More Song ~ 1980
Why didn’t Randy’s solo career take off?
For me, I don’t think the record label put money in it. I don’t think that even though Randy wrote probably the biggest selling Eagles’ song of all time, ‘Take It To The Limit’, for some reason I just think he wasn’t a draw and a good tour person. Even though he did a tour which was successful, but it was smaller venues.
Did band members hang out together off stage?
Yes. Everyone was friends. Randy was good with all the guys in the band. All of us went to New York to see Linda Ronstadt in the play the Pirates of Penzance.3 Alanna, Me, Terese and Randy all ended up hanging out with her (Linda Ronstadt) all night.
The Pirates of Penzance Broadway Production
L to R: Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline
We’ve also read that Randy has a sense of humor. Can you share any funny stories with us?
We went to a place that everybody used to go to and I don’t know what we did, but they wouldn’t serve us. They said you guys have to go.
Then another time, when Randy was ready to go on tour, he threw me the keys to his gray Corvette, and he said, “Take my car, Colleen, and see if you like it”. He left me his car when he went on the road. I remember driving that thing down Sunset Boulevard and thinking “Oh my God”, and you know it was a lot of car. I went somewhere and I couldn’t get back in the car. I couldn’t figure how to get it open. I could eventually get in it and drive it again. We were all crazy in those days. Young kids you know. It was fun having Randy there. It was great.
What was it like seeing Randy again at Richie Furay’s 50th Anniversary Show at the Troubadour in 2018? I’m sure it was just a thrill to be at the show.
At the Poco reunion (Richie Furay’s 50th Anniversary at the Troubadour), I walked in, and saw Randy from across the room and we just locked eyes. I walked over to him and we just burst out laughing and he just whispered in my ear, “Oh my God, Colleen, I can’t believe it. How much fun did we have?”
Randy and Colleen at Richie Furay’s 50th Anniversary at the Troubadour
Photo: Courtesy Colleen Stewart ~ Nov. 16, 2018
Then we started recalling all the stories, all the shenanigans, and one of the best stories was when we were in San Francisco. I brought up a package, maybe just a joint, it was nothing, but we couldn’t find it so we figured somebody got it. So, Randy said, “Let’s find out who took our stuff”. So, when everyone’s in the hotel room after the gig, Randy puts on a raincoat like a detective. So we were in this hotel and both of us were crawling on the floor with raincoats and listening. In those days, they had a device that you listened on with those baby cassettes and he had a microphone with it. And he’s putting the microphone under everybody’s door, and we just laughed our heads off crawling on our knees down the hallway.
(Could this be the same raincoat?)
1980s Cassette Recorder/Player
Do you and Randy, or any of the other band members, still keep in touch?
I’m in touch with Bill Como from Kim Carnes’ band.
L to R: Timothy B. Schmit, Jason Scheff4, bassist from the band Chicago,
and Richie Furay at the Troubadour ~ Oct. 25, 2019
Photo: Colleen Stewart
After I interviewed Colleen, I realized how modest she is. I recently came across a video of her and asked if she would share one with us to be included in an update to her interview.
In 1978, Colleen played in France Gall‘s Made in France Tour at the Champs Elysees Theater in Paris, France. This concert was recorded live for France’s 1978 album, which was remastered in 2004 on Warner Brothers records (Warner Music France). France was backed by and all-female band. Besides Colleen on keyboard/piano was Patti Quatro on guitar, formerly of The Pleasure Seekers band, an all-female rock band from Detroit, Michigan, and sister of Suzi Quatro.
Album Cover: France Gall Live, 1978 (and album poster)
Footage of Colleen on piano/keyboard during the band introduction at the Champs Elysees Theater ~ Paris, France, 1978
France Gall Retrospective Concert 1978: But loves her (with presentation of the troupe)
1 Keyboardist Bill Cuomo came up with the signature synth riff, using the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer, which now defines Carnes’ version. The song was recorded in the studio on the first take.
2 A music synchronization license, or “sync” for short, is a music license granted by the holder of the copyright of a particular composition, allowing the licensee to synchronize (“sync”) music with some kind of visual media output (film, television shows, advertisements, video games, accompanying website music, movie…
3 The first preview of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ was held on Dec. 22, 1980. It opened on Broadway on Jan. 8, 1981 and closed on Nov. 28, 1982. The performances were held at the Uris Theatre from Jan. 8, 1981 to Aug. 9, 1981 and then at the Minskoff Theatre from Aug. 12, to Nov. 28, 1982. There were 787 performances and 29 previews.
4 Jason’s father, Jerry Scheff, was a session player before he hooked up with Elvis Presley and played bass in his band for years. He was also on LA Woman by the Doors.