Don Felder Plays “Hotel California” at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a Double-Neck Guitar

Pete Town­shend played one. Jim­my Page famous­ly bran­dished one. John McLaugh­lin basi­cal­ly start­ed his own post-Miles Davis jazz group based around one. But the dou­ble-neck gui­tar played by Don Felder on The Eagles “Hotel Cal­i­for­nia” may be the best known to all the chil­dren of the 1970s. The white gui­tar went on dis­play in 2019 for the exhi­bi­tion “Play It Loud” at New York’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, which also fea­tured such his­tor­i­cal instru­ments as the hum­ble Mar­tin acoustic that Elvis Pres­ley played on the Sun Ses­sions, to Eddie Van Halen’s Franken­stein gui­tar. (And in a bit of DADA sculp­ture, the Met also dis­played the remains of a drum set that Kei­th Moon destroyed dur­ing a live gig.)

As part of the exhibit’s pro­mo­tion­al tour, Don Felder, long since out of the Eagles and with a law­suit behind him, picked up the gui­tar for a few min­utes on CBS This Morn­ing and played both the intro acoustic pick­ing part and the famous solo from “Hotel Cal­i­for­nia.’ Even though he isn’t mic’d up, you can still hear him singing along. He gives a cheek­i­ly sat­is­fied laugh at the end.

“Hotel Cal­i­for­nia”, the music at least, is all Don Felder. It began life as one of many demos and sketch­es he’d record while liv­ing in a Mal­ibu rental and look­ing after his one-year-old daugh­ter. This one was giv­en the short­hand title “Mex­i­can Reg­gae” as it com­bined a lit­tle bit of each. Don Hen­ley and Glenn Frey spot­ted its poten­tial imme­di­ate­ly, and wrote some of their best lyrics, both very spe­cif­ic (“Her mind is Tiffany twist­ed” is about Henley’s jew­el­ry design­er ex-girl­friend) and universal—-California, the state of mind, the fame machine, is the Isle of the Lotus Eaters, seduc­tive and destruc­tive.

The demo and the stu­dio record­ing did not use the Gib­son EDS-1275, but Felder pur­chased the gui­tar to use on tour.

Felder told The Sound NZ:

“When I got to the sound­stage to rehearse how we were going to go out and play the ‘Hotel Cal­i­for­nia’ tour, I said, ‘How am I going to play all these gui­tars with dif­fer­ent sounds?’ So I sent a gui­tar tech out to a music store and said, ‘Just buy a dou­ble neck with a 12-string and a six-string on it, I’ll see if I can make it work. So he brought it back, he brought back this white gui­tar, and I said, ‘Why did you get a white one? Why did­n’t you get a black one or a red one? Why so girly look­ing?’. He said, ‘That’s all they had.’ So I took a drill, drilled a hole at the top of it, wired it, so it was real­ly two sep­a­rate gui­tars,”

“Girly” or not—-sigh, Mr. Felder, sighhh—-that gui­tar still sounds pret­ty damn good.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What the Eagles’ “Hotel Cal­i­for­nia” Real­ly Means

The Hor­rors of Bull Island, “the Worst Music Fes­ti­val of All Time” (1972)

Watch The Band Play “The Weight,” “Up On Crip­ple Creek” and More in Rare 1970 Con­cert Footage

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (4)
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    I think Hotel Cal­i­for­nia is a good song, like so many Eagle’s songs. I think enough already with Hotel Cal­i­for­nia. It’s not THAT good that it has to be pre­sent­ed in all sorts of venues all the time. Now muse­ums, maybe under water some­day. It still sounds exact­ly the same.

  • Alejandro Tortolini says:

    I can´t see the video, and the site tells me that I have an ad-block­er (false). I live in Argenti­na, is that a lim­i­ta­tion? Best,


  • Claudio says:

    Ale­jan­do, click over the main title and you will see the video (with me hap­pened the same)

  • Lee says:

    Daniel; one’s must hear & see “Hotel” played live to tru­ly appre­ci­ate its melod­ic & bal­lad com­po­nent. When Joe Walsh came on board the Eagles(whether aware or not) launched them­selves into the stratos­phere Played live, Felder/Walsh sep­a­rate ear drums with flow­ing gui­tar riffs. Hotel (extend­ed) ver­sions take a back­seat to none.

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