The following story is of historical note, especially for music fans. Some of the lore has been forgotten in the intervening years. I wasn’t always an Eagles fan, but hearing this story when I was younger made me appreciate them much more. I wrote a polished version of this bit of musical history for Billboard magazine in 2008.The 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. For many fans, it was the culmination of years of hard work to get the band The Eagles recognized for its influential body of work. The band member’s infighting had delayed their induction. Fleetwood Mac and The Mamas and the Papas were also inducted with The Eagles. The Eagles had several hits which were going to be covered during the ceremony: Hotel California, Life In the Fast Lane, Take It Easy, New Kid in Town, and a couple of others.
The ceremony itself is quite the spectacle. Many of the artists spent several days in New York before the event. The record labels and the Hall of Fame made an effort to ensure that the paparazzi and the artists alike enjoyed themselves and treated it like a vacation.
During the 1998 trip, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts attended the festivities. Both were huge fans of not only The Eagles but also The Mama and The Papas. Don Knotts also enjoyed Santana. They had arranged to attend the ceremony and the pre-induction activities in costume from their roles on The Andy Griffith Show. Don Henley and Glenn Frey were both huge fans of the popular show. They had even unofficially re-recorded the theme song for Don and Andy and planned to give it to them as a surprise.
Due to the complexities of keeping some of the members of The Eagles separated, there were times in which Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the only members accepting the offers of being tourists in New York. Santana arranged to have an entire bowling alley available to anyone interested in knocking over some pins the night before the induction ceremony. Naturally, Don Knotts and Andry Griffith accepted. With a little prodding, Don Henley and Glenn Frey agreed to go, provided that the old-timers agreed to don their television costumes for the event. Surprisingly, Andy and Don good-naturedly agreed.
On the night of the event, a huge party bus arrived at the service entrance of the Waldorf. Santana, Don, Glenn, Andy, and a couple of other honorees climbed aboard the bus. They opened a bottle of champagne in celebration. Don Knotts was having a little trouble with his new hearing aid. Santana kept teasing him about shouting.
They arrived at the bowling alley, laughing and singing old melodies. After they went inside, they were surprised to discover that all 36 lanes were theirs. Only one member of the press was allowed to be there, and she had agreed that it was entirely off the record. Don Knotts, in his role as Barney Fife, pretended to wave his fake pistol in the air each time someone teased him about his hearing problem.
To warm up, Don Henley suggested that they throw a few balls randomly down the lanes to get a feel for throwing the ball. Glenn Frey laughed at this, as he was a renowned bowler and loved playing for money. Don Knotts was a little embarrassed about how badly he would throw the ball, so he walked the entire length of the cavernous bowling alley to use the last lane. “Holler when you all are ready to get down to business,” he told them. Glenn, always a quick wit, replied, “Just fire a warning shot when you’re ready.” Everyone laughed.
Glenn and Don took turns hurling the ball down the alley. Both were competitively eyeing one another. Santana stepped up and asked them, “Do you hear that?” They listened for a second. After hearing nothing, they continued throwing the ball. As they continued throwing the balls down the lane, they heard a couple of shouts.
All of them froze, certain they could hear someone shouting.
Andy stood up, smiling his huge smile that everyone loved.
“Ignore him. It’s Barney. I mean, Don.”
He paused, taking a moment to look directly at Don Henley and then Glenn Fry, his smile growing even wider.
“That’s just Fife In The Last Lane.”