“Every time I saw a pretty girl in San Diego, I'd make another verse and put her in the song,” says native San Diegan Jack Tempchin of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” one of three songs he wrote for the Eagles. “I finished that song on Washington Boulevard in the parking lot of the der Weinerschnitzel.”
The track became one of the marquis tracks on the top-selling album of all-time, The Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 1. Tempchin was a staple of the late-'60s/early-'70s San Diego folk scene. He played venues like the Heritage Coffeehouse in Mission Beach (where Tom Waits worked the door) and the Candy Company on El Cajon Boulevard, where he struck up a lifelong friendship with Glenn Frey.
“[Glenn] and J.D. Souther were a duo,” Tempchin recalls. “Every time they came to San Diego they'd stay at my house on Spencer Street and Park Boulevard. It was just a big hippie pad. We had a candle factory that my brother and me had in the garage. There was music running day and night.”
Frey, who played in Linda Rondstadt's band at the time, lived in an apartment in Los Angeles; Jackson Browne lived downstairs.
“I would just go hang around there and go to the Troubador coffeehouse,” Tempchin recalls. “I was staying at Jackson Browne's house and Glenn came over and said he had formed a band with the guys [in Rondstadt's band].”
The band, of course, was the Eagles. Tempchin had written “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and Frey had presented the song to Don Henley and the others.
“He came back the next day with a version of them doing it,” he says. “It was really great. A couple days later I went and saw the band... I heard Don Henley sing ‘You Don't Miss Your Water Till Your Well Runs Dry' while he was playing the drums, and I just said, ‘Who is this guy?!' It was just the most unbelievable band.”
The Eagles were quickly signed to Asylum Records and flew to London to record. Upon returning, Frey came down to Tempchin's house.
“All the friends came around and he played us the first Eagles album,” Tempchin recounts in a reverent tone. “First he played ‘Take it Easy.' Then ‘Witchy Woman.' Then ‘Easy Feeling.' And at that point I was thinking to myself, ‘Well, these are three of the best recordings I've ever heard in my life.' It turned out everybody else thought so, too.”
The songs Tempchin wrote for the Eagles-primarily “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone”-mark his biggest success. When the band broke up, he wrote “Smugglers Blues” and “You Belong to the City” for Frey, and the two collaborated for most of Frey's solo material.
“Some people have all the gifts, and some people have parts,” Tempchin says. “[Glenn] could take my songs and make them into these fantastic records.”
Tempchin had his own band-the Funky Kings, who were signed by Clive Davis to Arista in 1976. Their song “Slow Dancing” reached No. 60 on the Billboard charts. But it was Johnny Rivers' version that skyrocketed. Though he's had success as a performer-touring with Emmylou Harris, Chicago, Ringo Starr and others-Tempchin is content that he's known more as a songwriter.
“I always really liked that,” he says. “Although I love to perform, I always thought of myself as a songwriter. It's a huge compliment when someone else does your song because they like it.”
Among those who liked his songs enough to cover them: George Jones (“Someone That I Used to Know”), Emmylou Harris (“White Shoes” and “One More Chance”), Patty Loveless (“To Feel That Way at All”) and too many others to name. Jay-Z and Coolio recently featurd his songs in their work.
Currently, Tempchin lives in Encinitas and plays every Tuesday at the Calypso Café on Highway 101. Casual diners likely hear him sing the lines “And I found out, a long time ago...” and think it's a cover tune. Little do they know.