The Life and Times of Glenn Frey's Number One
The Life and Times of Glenn Frey's Number One
In September of 1991, a rosewood back-and-sides, spruce-topped dreadnought model EF360S -- SN #91072458 -- would reach final stages of completion at the Takamine Guitar factory in Sakashita, Japan. There it would be set up, play-tested, cosmetically inspected, then forwarded to shipping where it would be cleaned, waxed, bagged and packaged.
In this sense it was no different than any other guitar to leave the Takamine factory that day, or that decade. It would have benefited from the same uncompromising quality-control standards as any other handcrafted guitar from that world-class factory. But this particular six-string had a date with destiny. It would arrive in Los Angeles, be inspected once again, and would find its way to a particularly talented and successful American singer-songwriter named Glenn Frey.
Glenn had been a Takamine player since the mid-1970s, well before the factory had introduced their game-changing Palathetic pickup. In fact, one of the most recognizable acoustic guitar parts ever recorded, the minute-long 12-string intro to the 1976 recording of Eagles' "Hotel California", is the voice of Frey’s pre-electronics Takamine F385.
After the band’s split in 1980, Glenn’s solo career would produce several top 40 hits like "Smuggler's Blues", "The One You Love", "You Belong to the City", and "The Heat is On", but his acoustic-based Eagles compositions remained very much a part of his live concert mix, and so did his Takamines. A rare circa-1982 photograph shows Glenn being presented with an early acoustic-electric model PT-015-ST by Takamine’s legendary leader and master luthier, Mass Hirade.
By early 1992, the Eagles had been apart for 11 years, and the only agreed upon timeframe for any sort of reunion was “when hell freezes over." Still, when Glenn learned his friend Bobby “Norton” Thompson had a strong connection with Takamine, Glenn asked for a meeting to be arranged. By the end of the several-hour visit at Frey’s Coldwater Canyon home, where everything from touring with Nils Lofgren to Joni Mitchell tunings was discussed, the official relationship between Glenn Frey and Takamine Guitars had been firmly established. He would soon take delivery of two new Takamines: an EF400S 12-string and the previously mentioned EF360S.
Successful solo projects aside, the Eagles' body of work would prevail, as masterpieces tend to do, and by the spring of 1994 Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, and Don Felder were in a Studio City soundstage, rehearsing for the MTV Unplugged performance that would eventually be released as their first post-reunion album, appropriately titled Hell Freezes Over. Glenn’s EF360S would soon be accompanied by a growing number of Takamine models acquired to facilitate the band’s ever-expanding set list. Henley, Frey, Walsh, and Felder would all play a Tak at one point or another during the MTV Unplugged performance. From that point on, Glenn’s EF360S would simply be referred to as Number One.
The Hell Freezes Over tour was a huge success, and it was extended right up until the band’s release of their double album Long Road out of Eden. It was at this time that Glenn and his longtime guitar tech, Victor Rodriguez, began discussing the idea of having Number One duplicated to serve as a backup. That opened the door to the idea of creating an honest Glenn Frey signature model. Frey liked the idea, and would later describe the subsequent process in a May 2009 interview with Premier Guitar.
“Some designers and engineers from Takamine took my Number One for a couple days and made extensive measurements of every part of the guitar,” Frey said, “from the thickness of the top and exact placement of the braces, to the thickness of the finish—everything about it. We took a pretty straightforward approach to it,” he continued. “The only extra is the little ‘GF’ on the headstock. I’ve had ten or twelve of these in my hands, and they all sounded great and needed very little set up.”
And so, as signature model guitars go, Glenn Frey’s EF360GF is about as genuine as they come. It quickly became and remains one of Takamine’s most popular models. Glenn took great pride in its quality and authenticity... and for everyone at Takamine Guitars, it didn’t get any better than that. Between 1992 and his tragic passing in 2016, Glenn and Number One would team up for over 800 Eagles concerts around the world. That sacred six-string has continued to appear during Eagles shows in the talented hands of his eldest son, Deacon.
Deacon Frey Photo © Greg Brodsky/BestClassicBands.com; used with permission