CLEVELAND, Ohio – At one point in the late 1960s and early '70s, Glenn Freyand JD Souther were roommates in Southern California, and their downstairs neighbor was a guy named Jackson Browne.
"We were all broke, and three of us lived within 50 feet of each other for a year," said Souther in a call from his Tennessee home.
"Then Jackson moved away and I moved to a house across the courtyard.''
He needed a new house because he had a new live-in girlfriend, a lady named Linda Ronstadt.
"We were so close we were together all the time," said Souther, who will be at the Music Box Supper Club on Saturday. Eventually, as they began to make money, they all moved up into ritzier hills of California, but that didn't stop the collaborations or the friendships.
"We could all get to each other's houses without having to encounter a stoplight," he said.
Frey and a Texas drummer named Don Henley ended up in Ronstadt's touring band. She was poised to ask them to join her permanently when they came to her and said they wanted their own group, which we now know as the Eagles.
Now let's think about this: Linda Ronstadt? Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Jackson Browne? Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Don Henley and Glenn Frey? Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. The common denominator? JD Souther.
JD Souther? NOT Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. And that doesn't bother him at all, Souther said.
"I haven't played much rock 'n' roll,'' he said. "I'm in the Songwriters Hall of Fame,'' and that's the one that matters to him.
Souther, who co-wrote the Eagles' "Best of My Love,'' "New Kid in Town,'' "Heartache Tonight'' and "How Long,'' was known as one of the "architects of the California sound.''
"I don't know what that means,'' Souther said, laughing. "It's got to be a compliment. I'm a result of every influence I ever heard, from 'Turandot' by Puccini, and the first song I ever heard my dad singing around the house was a Johnny Mercer song called 'Dream,' and now I've been inducted into Mercer's club [he was part of the Class of 2013 Songwriter Hall of Fame], and that was such a nice moment.''
Souther, who actually began his career as a jazz drummer and tenor sax player, and only picked up the guitar when he couldn't find work, said he's got a new CD coming out in March."It's a good deal more cinematic, and a little bigger sound,'' he said. "It's pretty raw emotionally, and the melodies sound a bit complex and broad on first listen.
"It's the best bunch of songs I've ever put together,'' he said.Of course, that's not just his word. That comes from his former girlfriend – and still confidante – Ronstadt.
"The first person I played this for was Linda, and I'm tickled that she liked it,'' he said.
Just like the old days.Souther's Saturday stop at the Music Box will be his second Cleveland gig in less than a month. He was part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Music Masters tribute to the Everly Brothers in October.
He has a great history with the brothers, as Phil Everly sang on some of his records, and Phil's widow, Patti, is a friend.
"I thought it was a lot of fun,'' said Souther. "The shock of the evening was we got Donald to sing on 'Bye Bye Love.' Graham [Nash] had him in a bear hug and said, 'You're going to sing the next bridge.' ''
The original plan was for Souther to sing that bridge – Everly wasn't even scheduled to be onstage – but when Don's voice rang clear and true on the familiar "I'm through with romance,'' the night turned electric.