Jason Manning’s early musical training was exclusively classical.
But while he was studying Bach and Beethoven, he longed to play the rock and pop music he heard on the radio.
So, he taught himself how to pick out melodies by ear. One of the first nonclassical songs he figured out how to play was the Eagles’ classic ballad “Desperado.”
His current gig likely would delight that child at the piano who longed to rock out. Manning plays in 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience, a high quality tribute act honoring the California band behind giant hits such as “Hotel California,” “Take it Easy” and “Life in the Fast Lane.”
The band will perform Sunday at the Long’s Park Summer Music Series, the second of two tribute shows at the park this weekend. Corty Byron will perform a tribute to the Beatles Saturday night. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.
Manning studied piano until age 14, when he shifted his focus to athletics and chasing girls. When he started studying at Texas A&M University, Manning began playing a different instrument.
“Guitar came in college because, you know, it’s very, very difficult to get a piano in your dorm room at college,” Manning says.
By sophomore year, he and some friends formed Touch ’N Go, a cover band that was popular within the college circuit. They played a few Eagles songs such as “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Tequila Sunrise.”
“Now, we never played them exactly right, the correct way,” Manning says. “I had to go back and relearn them all, the correct way, once I started really diving in.”
That came once Manning moved to Nashville in 1995. During his 10 years there, he met a musician who was portraying Don Felder in the Eagles tribute band Tequila Sunrise. The band was looking for a new Glenn Frey, so he suggested Manning, who landed the role.
In 2008, the band’s leader, Paul Sidoti, got a gig for an up-and-coming country singer: Taylor Swift. He’s still performing with the now-superstar.
When Sidoti left, the remaining members changed the name to 7 Bridges. Three of the Tequila Sunrise members remain.
While the name changed, the in-depth approach to the Eagles discography didn’t. Manning and 7 Bridges draw from both the studio and live recordings in their presentation of the Eagles’ hits, and their reproductions aim to be as close as possible to the original band’s.
“When people come, they know they’re going to hear an exact replica of an Eagles concert,” Manning says.
Audiences will hear all the hits Sunday night at Long’s Park. Because the band has so many recognizable songs, filling a set is easy, Manning says. The band doesn’t venture too far into the solo albums of the members, besides “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh and occasionally “The Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley.
Manning’s favorite Eagles song is “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”
“It’s fantastic. … It puts you in a happy place no matter what,” Manning says.
Manning says the band takes entertaining and crowd engagement seriously, too. As the group’s Glenn Frey, he takes the lead as emcee. He also says audiences likely will notice that the band’s having a great time performing the songs, too.
“With the Eagles, it’s easy to do that because the music is so good,” Manning says. “You’re not locked into one genre of music. There’s multiple genres, and it appeals to multiple age groups. ... With the Eagles show, there’s something for everybody.”