How A Randy Meisner Imposter Got Away With It For A Decade

By the time the late 1970s rolled around, legendary rockers Eagles (no "the") had released back-to-back hit albums, year after year. From 1972 to 1975 the band's catalogue grew with hits like "Desperado," "One of These Nights," "Take It Easy," and the latter's oppositely themed "Take It to the Limit." Fortunately for audiences — and unfortunately for the band — bassist Randy Meisner did exactly that every time they played that final song. Meisner's nervousness about hitting the high, high notes in "Take It to the Limit" reached a head as the band was forced in the '70s into playing sets of the same songs show after show, as Far Out Magazine outlines. This, plus the incessant squabbles and power plays in the band, led Meisner to jump ship. From his 1977 departure all the way to the present Eagles have carried on with Timothy Schmit, leaving Meisner with the hits and memories of the band's formative years.

But plenty of other fans from that era remembered Meisner. Or rather, they knew his name but not his face. In a time far predating modernity's incessant online image deluge, sometimes all a fan had to go on to recognize a musician was a few low-res photos in music magazines. This opened up the opportunity for Lewis Peter Morgan to step into the gap and straight-up pretend to be Meisner, especially because Meisner was so averse to public scrutiny. Morgan conned and grifted for over a decade, and was finally caught in 1998.  

Meisner was the perfect target

Randy Meisner wasn't the first Eagle that Lewis Peter Morgan tried to impersonate. And to be clear, when we say "impersonate" we don't mean that he was playing gigs in Meisner's name. In fact, as one grifted guitar maker says on Ultimate Classic Rock, Morgan "couldn't play for s***." He could, however, talk the talk. Like a true con artist, Morgan rattled off facts and named dropped Joe Walsh this, James Taylor that, smoothly enough that folks bought his schtick. Even so, Morgan couldn't pull off an impersonation of someone as well-known as Don Henley. He tried during the 1980s and got arrested. After making $50,000 bail he vanished and reappeared years later impersonating Meisner.

As it turns out, Meisner was the perfect choice. He was not only private but experienced substance abuse and health issues after fading away from Eagles in the '70s, per Ultimate Classic Rock. He all but vanished from the public. This, plus the lack of older, post-Eagles photos, left things open for Morgan to operate. Morgan typically targeted people for dinners out, got them to give him money or buy things for him, and then disappeared. One 29-year-old woman racked up a $3,000 credit card bill paying for "shopping sprees," car rentals, and Las Vegas casino excursions on the pretense that they were in love. She even gave Morgan one last $20 when she dropped him off at the airport on a fake Eagles-related business trip. He never returned.

The conman is caught

Randy Meisner knew about Lewis Peter Morgan years before Morgan got caught. As the Meisner tribute site Hearts on Fire catalogs, Meisner in 1997 said, "God I want to get this guy. It's been eight years of this." He commented on how "slick" Morgan was, and also how "pretty darn ugly" he was. By then, Morgan had grifted his way to free, multi-thousand-dollar custom guitars and basses which he sold to fuel his gambling addiction. Other photos on Hearts on Fire show him posing for photos with unwitting people in malls and at parties.

Morgan's luck impersonating Meisner eventually ran out in 1998 when he flubbed a con, as Ultimate Classic Rock explains. An Eagles fan bought one of Morgan's conned basses from a pawn shop — one of the basses that Morgan had signed in Meisner's name. For whatever reason, Morgan left a perfect trail of evidence for the authorities: He'd signed the sale in his real name, given his real address, and even fingerprinted it. 

And yet in the end, Morgan might have conned the judicial system, as well. For all his crimes, which stretched back to 1963, he received a mere 16-month prison sentence. Hearts on Fire shows what appears to be a recent picture of him sitting at a poker table in Reno, Nevada. He's apparently given up the Eagles grift, but now claims to be a Vietnam "marine intel" veteran with "the record for the most amount of sniper kills" who lives in Switzerland.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.