Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Timothy B. Schmit was the bass player and angelic high harmony voice of the Eagles for 39 years of the band’s chaotic life, its massive successes, its 14-year hiatus, its 1994 “Hell Freezes Over” reunion and beyond.
With the death of Glenn Frey early last year, the Eagles are finally no more. Schmit has re-focused with a new solo album, his first in seven years, and a concert tour. He plays the Napa Valley Ballroom at the Opera House this Sunday, Jan. 22.
Born in Oakland and raised in Sacramento, Schmit headed for Los Angeles in his early 20s in search of a musical career. On the phone from his home studio last month, he talked about first breaking in with Poco, the seminal Southern California country-rock band that was an offshoot of Buffalo Springfield.
“Richie Furay is the one that asked me to join Poco,” Schmit said. “I had done an audition of sorts with those guys in the summer of ‘68 and I didn't get the gig right away. It wasn't until the person who got the gig quit the band during the recording of their first album, that they called me back.
“Richie was the one who really championed me, because there was some question as to whether I was going to fit it in with, shall we say, the other personalities. I watched how he worked as a songwriter and a singer and a performer, and I really learned a lot just by being around him. I consider him one of my best friends, on many levels.”
When Schmit was asked to join the Eagles in 1977, he didn’t hesitate. “It was not a difficult choice,” he said. “The truth is, I sort of had my eyes open for what would be next. I was getting very disconnected from Poco. I wanted more, I guess.
“I was ready to make a move, but I couldn't have dreamt about what was offered to me. I mean, it was a spectacular offer. It was kind of perfect for me and I also thought it was perfect for the Eagles. I couldn't have asked for anything better.”
As the Eagles' bass player, his even more important role was as the third voice, the harmony layer above Frey and Don Henley. He did occasionally sing lead and in 1980 his vocal on “I Can’t Tell You Why,” which he co-wrote, was a Billboard Top Ten hit single. Together with his bandmates, Schmit was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
During the long break between the band’s break-up and reunion, Schmit had no difficulty finding work. A long list of recording and performing collaborators includes Bob Seger, Boz Scaggs, Crosby Stills & Nash, Richard Marx, Sheena Easton, the Beach Boys, Dan Fogelberg, Jimmy Buffett and Ringo Starr, as well as solo projects of Henley and Eagles guitarist Don Felder.
Aside from his deep catalog of collaborations, Schmit has recorded six solo studio albums. The most recent is 2016’s “Leap of Faith,” which he co-produced with long–time colleague Hank Linderman. They stacked the studio with all-stars.
“I loved the way Benmont Tench from (Tom Petty and) the Heartbreakers played the keys,” Schmit said, “he never failed to do the right thing, the perfect thing… Jim Keltner, he played (drums) on a zillion records, he played with some of the Beatles…Paul Franklin, the great pedal steel player from Nashville, I brought him in… there's a rock song that I thought would be perfect for Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters, who doesn't live far from me.”
“Finally,” he said, “I brought in my daughter, my oldest daughter, to sing on a song called ‘All Those Spaces.’ I didn't bring her in because she's my daughter. I brought her in because she's a really talented singer and I knew that it would be just perfect. And it was.”
Sunday, Jan. 22, 8:30 p.m. $35-$85. Opera House Ballroom. 1030 Main St., Napa. 707-880-2300. BlueNoteNapa.com.
-- Sax man Michael Lington at Blue Note
The Danish jazz saxophone star’s last three albums have marked a transition from his trademark polished smooth jazz to rhythm-soaked grooves, to something funkier and more soulful. If Michael Lington brings the latter, expect more Memphis than New York City, more Muscle Shoals than Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 20 and Saturday, Jan. 21, 6:30 p.m. (doors open 5 p.m.) and 9 p.m. (doors open 8:30 p.m.). $25-$45. www.BlueNoteNapa.com.
-- Ladysmith Black Mambazo returns to Opera House
It’s been more than 30 years since Paul Simon’s genre-shattering “Graceland” album was released, and with it the launching of Ladysmith Black Mambazo onto the world stage. The three-time Grammy-winning South African a capella choir has been circling the globe ever since. They return to Napa with new leadership. Their founder and leader, Joseph Shabalala, has retired, his place taken by his son, Thamsanqa (Tommy). Several other family members, including Joseph’s grandson, are in the ensemble. Wednesday, Jan. 25, 8:30 p.m. $30-$55. Opera House Ballroom. www.BlueNoteNapa.com.