Don Felder and Gibson Guitars

Updated on April 22, 2019
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

Don Felder on stage with his Gibson Les Paul.
Don Felder on stage with his Gibson Les Paul. | Source

Don "Fingers" Felder and the Eagles

When you think of the greatest of all American rock and roll bands, you think of The Byrds, you think of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and you absolutely think of the Eagles. Then when you think about the greatest of all rock and roll albums, you think of things like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin IV, and brother, you know you think of Hotel California.

I'm sure I speak for millions of Americans when I relate how so many songs by the Eagles prompt me to turn up the radio, and though I can not sing well, I'm going to do my best to sing every single word, and hit every note. The music of the Eagles is just so relateable. The songs just hit you in the soul. There was an eighteen month stretch in history where the Eagles sold one million records per month for eighteen straight months.

I've been to Los Angeles, it didn't seem like the place where the greatest of all country rock bands could have come from, but that's the case with the Eagles. In fact, The Eagles are the single biggest musical act to have ever come from the city of angels. Already a smash success, the Eagles were a band where everyone fought. Don Felder would learn this in 1974 when, as a studio musician, he was brought in to add some hot guitar to a couple songs on the On the Border album.

Following his studio work for the group, Felder was asked to join the band. For a time the Eagles would have both Felder and Leadon, but Bernie Leadon was a bluegrass musician working in a country rock band, he'd leave and the Eagles would fly in a different direction. They were headed towards stadium rock.

The Eagles were a band where every single member was very good at their instrument, but the contributions expected of them did not stop there. Every member was expected to write songs, and also to sing, if not a lead singing position from time to time, at least in harmony. Replacing Bernie Leadon would require some taste and consideration. Rocker Joe Walsh was added to the lineup, and the twin guitars of Walsh and Felder would lead to some of the most fantastic music of our age.

All in all, at present, the Eagles have sold more than one hundred and fifty million albums. Don Felder is now worth more than sixty million dollars, and "Fingers Felder," as he's been called, has been honored by Gibson Guitars with two very different signature guitars. We're going to have a look at them!

Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" 1959 Les Paul VOS guitar.
Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" 1959 Les Paul VOS guitar.

Gibson Custom Don Felder "Hotel California" 1959 Les Paul VOS Electric Guitar

What's the big deal about a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, anyway? Well, from the beginning you had Les Paul years which were great, but in 1957 the PAF pickup was first manufactured and put into production. As the years have gone on, those pickups were thought to have something truly magical about them. This does not explain 1959 mania though.

The 1958 Les Paul had those same PAF pups, and they also had the sunburst finishes the 1959s have. So why are the 1958s not so vaunted and valued as the 1959s? Well, the neck got thinner and 'faster,' if you will, in 1959. If your hands are large enough, then the 1959 LP would not feel so good to you as the 1958 would. So we can see the explanation must include some variables which are not especially objective.

There were around seventeen hundred Les Paul guitars built per year in those years, but what happened with the 1959 batch was Eric Clapton got one, and used it to record one of the most famous blues rock albums of all time, the John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers 'Beano' album. After that, other big shots of the day had to have a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. So Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Peter Green all had those guitars. They all swore they were the finest things ever.

How big an influence was Jimmy Page on Don Felder? Well, I tell you what, Felder plays a 1959 Les Paul, and Felder also plays a Gibson EDS-1275, both models Page helped to make famous, and in a recent television interview, Don talks about playing in front of over four hundred members of the press for an exhibition, but also present, and on the first row, was none other than Page, and he was the one person Felder says he's been nervous about playing in front of.

What specifically does this Les Paul have to do with the song or album Hotel California? Don Felder used his '59 Lester to play the outro section of the song. Premier Guitar takes it further, and says the guitar was used for nearly every guitar solo Don performed on the entire album. What's different about this 1959 reissue, and all the rest? The burst finish is the most specific difference between the Felder '59 LP and any other R9 you may see. This is the Felder Burst finish, which is as exact a reproduction as can be done of the specific 1959 Les Paul Don Felder owns.

There were a total of two hundred and fifty of these guitars produced in 2010. Of that number, one hundred were hand aged, and the next one fifty were given the complete VOS treatment. I'm going to display specifications for the VOS guitar simply because there were more of that variety produced.

Additionally, there are fifty guitars produced with all the VOS and hand aged treatment imaginable, and also signed by the great Don Fingers Felder. Of course the signed ones cost the most, and you're looking at over seventeen thousand dollars for one of those. It's ten grand for the VOS guitar, and a little over fourteen for the hand aged but not signed one.

Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" '59 Les Paul VOS Solidbody Electric Guitar

Gibson Don Felder Hotel California 1959 Les Paul VOS features:

  • VOS Felder Burst finish
  • 2-piece figured maple top
  • 1-piece solid mahogany back
  • Single-ply cream binding on top
  • 1-piece mahogany neck w/long neck tenon
  • Felder neck profile
  • Holly headstock veneer
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 22 frets (fretted over binding)
  • Aged acrylic trapezoid inlays
  • Single-ply cream binding on neck
  • 24 3/4" scale length, 1 11/16" width at nut
  • Vintage tulip tuners
  • Nashville TOM bridge
  • Stopbar tailpiece
  • Aluminum strap buttons
  • BB #2 neck pickup
  • BB #1 bridge pickup
  • Gold Top Hats
  • Only 50 aged & signed guitars will be produced
  • Leather/engraved Certificate of Authenticity
  • "Hotel California" guitar sheet music signed by Don Felder
  • Custom Shop hardshell case silkscreened with Don's signature included

Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" EDS-1275 LTD
Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" EDS-1275 LTD

The Gibson EDS-1275 is a Stage Guitar

The Gibson EDS-1275 is a stage guitar. I don't want to put people off of any particular guitar they desire, but the point of the matter here is this is a guitar you use on stage for the times when you need both a twelve string guitar, and a six string guitar in the same song. Every product must fulfill a specific function, or it simply won't last.

The Gibson EDS-1275 completely knocks it out of the park for its function, and that is of a stage guitar for the role just previously stated. You're simply not going to sit and play this guitar. It's not going to work for you. You're going to definitely be standing to play this guitar, and so, you need a proper strap for it.

You need a wider strap, say three inches wide, for playing this guitar. I own and use a Legato guitar strap, of three inches, and leather, and such a strap as this would be what I recommend for something as big and heavy as the EDS-1275.

The problems come when someone uses too small a strap, and these are big problems. People sometimes wind up dropping this guitar. Guitars are not meant to be dropped, and most definitely, super expensive double neck guitars are not meant to be dropped.

If dropped, you will knock the necks out of their set sockets, and you will forever regret it when you do. Even worse, you may make it look like it never happened, and sell the thing to someone who'll never know why they can't keep the guitar in tune. Get the right strap. Never drop an EDS-1275.

Historically, this instrument was virtually unknown until Jimmy Page needed one to perform songs like Stairway to Heaven on stage. You will note Page did not use the EDS-1275 in the studio to record that song, or any of the other songs he used the guitar for on stage. It's a stage guitar. For Don Felder, it would be the same exact way.

Stairway to Heaven made the EDS-1275 a legend, and then Hotel California continued the legend. It is, of course, an outstanding instrument for the purpose. There's hardly anything one could even consider to be competition for the Gibson EDS-1275. There are comparable instruments, none of them are established enough for a name drop here.

Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" EDS-1275 LTD

It should absolutely be mentioned here, on this, my exceedingly humble tribute to the greatness that is Fingers Felder, that Felder wrote Hotel California, and he did this entirely with he and Joe Walsh in mind. Don and Joe had a great admiration and respect for one another, and Felder wanted to write something fantastic, to where they could trade solos, and then harmonize on guitar. He certainly succeeded, and the Gibson EDS-1275 made it possible to do it on stage as well as was done in the recording studio.

Well what about the Don Felder EDS-1275, what makes it different, or special? Mainly, this guitar has a different neck profile than the typical EDS-1275. When I say a different neck profile, I'm certainly talking about two different necks. Both necks of the guitar are of a rounded to specifics determined by Don Fingers Felder.

Another thing which deviates from the norm on the Felder EDS-1275 is the material used for the necks. Felder's guitar is of maple. This deviates from the Gibson standard for such guitars, which is a neck, two in this case, of mahogany. Then the pickups, there being four of them, The Felder guitar warrants Burstbuckers, and not the typical 490R and 498T sets. I do not find one set superior to the other at all, I only find Burstbuckers to be of an older style and sound.

What does an EDS-1275 cost? Oh just your children's inheritance. We're talking seven thousand used, to close to fourteen thousand new. Seriously, if you're not in a band playing stadiums like the Eagles used to do, then you should get yourself the Epiphone version for your live shows.

Gibson Don Felder "Hotel California" EDS-1275 LTD Aged Solidbody Electric Guitar Features:

Gibson Don Felder 'Hotel California' EDS-1275 LTD Guitar features:

  • Color: Aged White
  • Body: Solid mahogany
  • Neck: 3-piece maple, with long neck tenon
  • Neck profile: Felder rounded neck profile
  • No headstock veneer
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • No. of frets: 20 (fretted over binding)
  • Inlays: Pearloid parallelograms
  • Neck binding: Single-ply white
  • Scale length: 24-3/4"
  • Width at nut: 1-11/16"
  • Tuning machines: Kluson strip w/nickel button tuners
  • Bridge (6-string): ABR-1
  • Bridge (12-string): Nashville Tune-o-matic
  • Tailpiece: Claw
  • Endpins: Aluminum
  • Bridge pickups: Burstbucker #1 humbuckers
  • Neck pickups: Burstbucker #2 humbuckers
  • Controls: 2 volume, 1 tone
  • Control knobs: Witch Hat style
  • Includes leather/engraved certificate of authenticity and "Hotel California" guitar sheet music (signed by Don Felder)

Don Felder and Joe Walsh trading licks on stage for the Eagles.
Don Felder and Joe Walsh trading licks on stage for the Eagles. | Source

Somebody's Gonna Hurt Someone, Before the Night is Through

In the documentary The History of the Eagles, Glenn Frey's constant conflict with Don Felder is documented quite well. The documentary is essential viewing for fans such as myself, and I do love Glenn Frey, but lets be serious, the dismissive way in which Frey and Henley treat other members of the band is pretty shameful. Really, it's Frey who treats everyone so poorly. Henley is the equal of Frey in the band though, and he doesn't do anything at all to stop it.

You could see the Eagles as something like Kiss, where Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley treat the other members as though they were just hired hands, there to do a job, and then be sent on their way, whatever may happen. Glenn Frey says, in the documentary, that Don Felder just doesn't appreciate all that has been done for him. It seems more to me Frey and Henley failed to appreciate Felder. He only wrote Hotel California, and then the rest of that album was written around that one song. His other contributions are too numerous to name.

Don Felder was formally dismissed from the Eagles on February 6, 2001. Felder's troubles with the band's leadership, however, date back a long long time, and were a major contributing factor in the band being inactive for roughly fourteen years. Lets go back in time a bit.

Felder's troubles with Henley and Frey date back to the glorious Hotel California album, and forty two million copies of it being sold may have only made Felder's injury worse. Don has a writing credit on the song Victim of Love. This is to say he wrote the music, and probably, he wrote some of the lyrics. Felder says he was promised the lead vocals on the track.

Frey and Henley say no such promises were made, but Eagles manager, Irving Azoff, was dispatched to take Felder out on the town, to get him out of the studio, so that Don Henley could record vocals for the song.

Glenn Frey and Don Felder
Glenn Frey and Don Felder | Source

The Long Night at Wrong Beach

Don Henley and Glenn Frey were absolute bigshots in this world. It was 1980, and when you're quite rich, and have a huge ego, as rock stars often do, you could start to think of yourself as a mover and a shaker in the world of politics. Or it could be that you genuinely see yourself in a position to help the world change in the sort of way you think is best.

In any event, however it was with Frey and Henley, they were getting into politics. They cared about the environment, and that's an easy thing to talk about, especially when you're very rich, and so as to make yourself seem the saint you simply never were meant to be.

It was the night of 31, July, 1980, and the band was doing a show for the benefit of United States Senator, from California, Alan Cranston. Before the show the Senator and his wife wanted to shake hands and thank the members of the band. Don Felder was never into politics at all, and he clearly had the disdain for it that one has to maintain in order to block all that junk out of the mind.

When Cranston shook Felder's hand, Don Felder said, "You're welcome....I guess." Don Felder focused on being the best musician he could possibly be, and by every account in the world, he succeeded in his task. He was not the person who got into politics, and don't we all know just how lucky such people are? It's a spiraling vortex of ridiculous argument after ridiculous argument, and Felder was maintaining his defense mechanism against it all.

Glenn Frey was not just offended by Felder's comment, he was incensed in such a way that the thing became legend, and besides that, it ended the life of the Eagles for fourteen straight years. The audio of the exchanges between the two is captured for all posterity, and the clips include Frey asserting he'd use his feet to kick anatomical parts of Felder which are often used, as a manner of speaking, to describe incidents when friendships end in fisticuffs.

Luckily no one was injured, and no physical altercation took place. Don Felder sacrificially smashed his least expensive guitar after the show, jumped into his limousine, and promptly sped off into the night. The Eagles were done for the next fourteen years.

Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Grenn Frey, and Don Felder.
Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Grenn Frey, and Don Felder. | Source

Don Felder, In the Long Run

Born on the other side of the nation from where he'd strike his fortune, Felder reports his family was very very poor. His father was an auto mechanic, who worked very hard his entire life. Felder traded cherry bombs to someone for his first guitar. I'd say he got the better end of the deal.

Almost entirely self taught, Don Felder looked at music as a make it or just bust sort of thing. He apparently has a very fine ear, and learned how to find the notes on a guitar by slowing down records. Later on he'd meet an educated musician who'd employee him for a bit, and teach him some basic theory and notation.

Don Felder also seemed to be in the right places at the exact right times, and often. He had attended the exact same high school as Bernie Leadon, one of the founding members of the Eagles, and by Leadon's association with Stephen Stills, got to know him, and when giving guitar lessons at a music store in Florida, got to meet Duane Allman, and take some lessons himself from the great slide guitarist.

He'd travel north instead of west, and he seemed in every way a natural musician, quickly learning improvisation, and getting jobs in Boston as a studio guitarist. Once you learn to play one stringed instrument well, it's then a lot easier to acquire some skill on another, and the rest of them, should you have the time to invest, and the inclination. Don Felder would do just so, and learn the mandolin, the banjo, and the pedal steel guitar.

Following the Long Night at Wrong Beach incident, Don Felder would find himself with much opportunity by returning to studio musicianship, which is to say he was an ace guitarist for hire, and when Stevie Nicks, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and the Bee Gees would call, he'd record guitar parts on their albums.

When the Eagles would reform in 1994, Felder who was closer to Joe Walsh in friendly relations than Henley and Frey, would be sought out in order to help get Joe Walsh sober enough to perform and record again.

Don Felder would be dismissed from the Eagles in 2001. The issue was money, and that Henley and Frey were paying themselves three times what they paid Felder, Walsh, and Schmidt. A family man, Don Felder enjoys spending more time with his family now the Eagles are done with him. Here we are in 2019, and Don Felder is working on his third solo album, and you can still catch him performing live. Lets all wish Don the best in the long run. Thanks for reading.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Wesman Todd Shaw

    Comments

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      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        5 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Noted, and thanks. I think I can put my fingers to the guitar in the future.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        5 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Well thank you, Miebakagh. It's really hard to get started playing, but after a while it does get easier!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        5 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Thanks very much, Liz. I'm never really so certain about which order to put it all in. Hopefully it'll work out.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        5 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        I am not a guitar player. But my pleasure for a good read.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 months ago from UK

        I like the way you interweave an interesting biography with detailed information about the guitars.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        5 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Thanks very much, Kaili. During that show, they were threatening each other between songs, and the microphones were picking it all up. So some of the audience was absolutely hearing everything. I wonder if they thought it was part of the show, or some gag being done for entertainment. Well, it wasn't. LOL.

      • Kaili Bisson profile image

        Kaili Bisson 

        5 months ago from Canada

        Wow, what a great story. I didn't know the details around the "Wrong Beach" incident. Another super article about the personalities and the instruments behind some of our favorite music.

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