NASHVILLE (Billboard) - The Eagles and country music have long had a rather neighborly relationship.See Also:
The band's 1975 hit "Lyin' Eyes" reached No. 8 on the country chart, and Don Henley was nominated for a Country Music Assn. Award in 1992 for "Walkaway Joe," his duet with Trisha Yearwood. The tribute album "Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles" won the CMA award for album of the year in 1994, and helped pave the way for the band's reunion that year.
So when it was time to work the J.D. Souther chestnut "How Long," the lead single from the Eagles' new album "Long Road out of Eden," due October 30 exclusively via Wal-Mart stores, it wasn't much of a stretch for Universal Nashville (which is working the single domestically) to take the song to country radio.
"Where else would they go right now?" asks Universal Music Group Nashville chairman Luke Lewis, who points out that country radio has recently been "dabbling" with acts outside the format like Bon Jovi. "How Long" has received significant airplay on country radio, and is No. 26 after peaking at No. 25 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
"Country radio programmers have been way warmer than I anticipated, and I think that's kind of a sign of the times," Lewis says. "Ten or 15 years ago I don't know if things would have been the same, because there was always this sort of dictum that if someone wasn't going to contribute to the genre, they didn't really want to let them use a slot. I'd say the Eagles have contributed and continue to contribute to the genre, so maybe it's not so surprising."
The Eagles' Glenn Frey says he doesn't pretend to understand the intricacies of radio formatting, but adds, "I've never thought we were a country act."
Frey says he believes the Eagles' more country-leaning songs of the past, most of which he sang, would not have garnered any significant country airplay when originally released in the '70s. But he says that when he listens to country radio today, "oftentimes what I hear is what I'd call pop songs with country lead singers. They become country songs because of the way they're sung."
Frey does know that the Eagles have many fans and a lot of credibility in the country genre. "We're just the Eagles, and we make these records and we wrote these songs and we sing them, and we put them out and people are allowed to pick up on what appeals to them," he says. "We made the (song) choices based on the quality of the material, and if somebody thinks it's country or thinks it's not is totally out of my hands."
Henley says the Eagles are just hard to define. "I don't think that we can be put in a box," he says. "We're an American band, and what we do is informed and influenced by just about every form of American music you can think of. It's all in there and it always has been, which is one of the reasons I think we have a lasting appeal."
That said, the Eagles are "pretty excited" about playing the CMA Awards on November 7 in Nashville. "We don't normally do awards shows, but we're making an exception because we're honored and thrilled to have been accepted by country radio," Henley says. "That's kind of a hard club to get into."
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