Vince Gill stunned fans when he joined the Eagles in 2017, but the move wasn't as unprecedented as it might have seemed at the time. Gill had longstanding ties to the group, and had even collaborated with Eagles maestro Don Henley prior to joining the legendary band.

Henley traveled to Nashville to record his Cass County album in 2015, marking his first concerted foray into country music. He enlisted a string of country all-stars for various tracks on the project, including Gill,  Merle HaggardMiranda LambertAshley Monroe and Dolly Parton.

Henley invited Gill to participate in a track titled "No, Thank You," which he wrote as somewhat of an homage to one of his own musical heroes, Buck Owens. It's an influence that Gill shared, as it turns out.

"I thought, 'Who would be great to sing and play guitar on this?' And so I called up my friend Vince Gill, and I said, 'Vince, I got a song here that's kind of a tribute to Buck Owens, and I need somebody to sing the high harmony part,'" Henley recalled to Taste of Country.

"And he said, 'Well, you've come to the right place, because when I was growing up, [Buck Owens guitarist and harmony singer] Don Rich was my hero. I always wanted to be Don Rich,'" Henley states.

"I said, 'Well, get on down here to the studio, then, and bring your guitar with you.' So he came down, he played rhythm guitar on that track, and then he sang that part perfectly, put all the little vocal inflections — you can hear the bent notes and stuff, just like Don Rich would have done it. I was so tickled and so pleased with that."

Eagles singer and guitarist Glenn Frey died in January of 2016, just months after Henley released Cass County, and Henley said at the time the Eagles would probably not continue in his absence. He changed his mind once Frey's son, Deacon, became involved with the group, and Henley invited Gill to become part of the lineup after the country legend helped tribute the Eagles at the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors alongside Ringo StarrBob SegerSteve Vai and Kings of Leon, with a performance of "Life in the Fast Lane."

Gill and Deacon Frey subsequently joined surviving Eagles Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh on July 15, 2017, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the first concert featuring their new lineup, and they have toured with the band off and on ever since.

Gill had connections to the Eagles even prior to his collaboration with Henley. He scored his first hit with "Let Me Love You Tonight" in 1980 as the lead singer in Pure Prairie League, a group that had an Eagles vibe. He also covered “I Can’t Tell You Why” for Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles in 1993.

See Photos From the Eagles' First Gigs Without Glenn Frey

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