Peace in a bottle
It only takes a brief online search to reach an undeniable conclusion: Jack Tempchin is quite at peace with having written “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”
The songwriter who penned the Eagles’ 1972 hit posts on his website an image of the lyrics’ original, handwritten draft — complete with notes in the upper-left corner indicative of a fledgling songwriter’s bills, listing prices for paint, heat and electrical wiring.
Another section of the website, titled “My Peaceful Easy Feeling,” displays stories from fans about how the country-rock ballad affected their lives. Tempchin, like a proud papa cradling his bundle of joy, notes in the page’s introduction that he “solely composed” the tune and that the original lyric sheet appears at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
In short, Tempchin seems intoxicated to have written such a modern classic. And now that a Southern California winery has a brand named “Peaceful Easy Feeling” ... well, some punch lines just write themselves.
Those who enjoy “Peaceful Easy Feeling” in both its musical and fermented forms may stop by April 3 at the Wine Gallery in Laguna Beach, where Tempchin will perform with a small band and bottles will be for sale. As for Tempchin’s set list, he has one tune lined up for sure.
“I’m not a guy that goes and shows up and doesn’t do my hit song,” the Encinitas resident said with a laugh by phone last week. “I’m not that guy.”
That’s not to say that Tempchin is a one-hit wonder. Along with “Peaceful,” he co-wrote “Already Gone,” “The Girl from Yesterday” and other Eagles tracks, and contributed material for Tanya Tucker (“Somebody Trying to Tell You Something”), Johnny Rivers (“Slow Dancin’ [Swayin’ to the Music]”), George Jones (“Someone that You Used to Know”) and many more.
Still, when Tempchin found himself talking about potential rock-themed wines one day with Michael Langdon, the wine and spirits buyer at Whole Foods Market in Encinitas, it didn’t take long to pick a title. South Coast Winery, based in nearby Temecula, had already named a line after Warrant’s song “I Saw Red,” and when Tempchin expressed interest in a “Peaceful” offering, Langdon phoned his contacts and made it happen.
The winery debuted Tempchin’s label last spring with a batch of red; a Chardonnay is planned for release later this year. In the meantime, the songwriter has been playing the circuit — the grocery store circuit, that is — to promote the wine, sometimes strumming his guitar amid stacks of bananas.
In the words of Brenda Ruocco, the director of wholesale operations for South Coast Winery, “That song reaches so many people.”
‘I’ve got this band’
Before the Eagles packed stadiums, before their first greatest-hits compilation passed the 40-million sales mark, they were “this band.” At least, that’s how Tempchin first heard of them.
The San Diego native had known Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey for years before the group formed in the early 1970s. One day, while Tempchin was staying at the Los Angeles home of singer-songwriter Jackson Browne and seeking a break in the record industry, Frey stopped by to visit and heard “Peaceful” for the first time.
“I made a cassette tape right there for him,” Tempchin said. “And then he came back the next day and said, ‘I’ve got this band. We’ve been together eight days, and we worked up your song.’”
“Peaceful,” the third single from the band’s self-titled debut album, performed only modestly on the charts, peaking at No. 22 on Billboard. Within a few years, though, it appeared on “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975),” which has vied with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for the title of best-selling album in U.S. history, and its refrain (“‘Cause I got a peaceful easy feeling / and I know you won’t let me down / ‘cause I’m already standing on the ground”) should be hummable for anyone who listens to oldies radio.
So how did Tempchin come up with the song? The origins of “Peaceful,” as those budgetary notes jotted in the manuscript’s corner suggest, were humble.
“I had a gig out in El Centro, California, and I ended up sleeping at the club on the floor because the girl I thought was going to take me to her house changed her mind, you know,” he said. “And so I couldn’t sleep. I just wrote the song on the back of a flier that I had.”
Later, Tempchin fleshed out the lyrics after observing women at a distance — including one who sported turquoise earrings at a street fair in Old Town San Diego and inspired the song’s opening line, “I like the way your sparkling earrings lay.”
Tempchin hasn’t tallied up how much his Eagles hits have earned over the years, but then, he has no interest in lounging at home and collecting royalty checks. After a brief 1970s spell with the group the Funky Kings, the songwriter toured extensively and recorded more than half a dozen solo albums.
One of those discs, 2012’s “Live from Tales at the Tavern,” sported a cover painting by the songwriter’s wife, Sheryl. That image became the label art for the “Peaceful” bottle.
Take it to the limit
So how good is the wine? Customer reviews on South Coast Winery’s website were uniformly positive, with comments ranging from “Truly easy feeling” to “Can’t wait until I can buy it here in Utah.”
Meanwhile, Tempchin, in a San Diego Reader story, gave it perhaps the most important endorsement of all: “Glenn Frey said it was good.”
The songwriter admits he’s not a wine expert. When he and Langdon sought a brand to feature the “Peaceful” name, he held a party at his house and invited several people to give their input.
“It’s a no-hangover wine, I’m pretty sure,” Tempchin said. “And I’ve been told it goes great with chili dogs or hamburgers.”
When it comes to Laguna Beach culture, though, Tempchin is a scholar. In the past, he’s played at the Marine Room Tavern and Sandpiper Lounge, and Richard Stekol of the Laguna-based band Honk will accompany him at the Wine Gallery (singer-songwriter Shawn Jones will also perform). KX 93.5 FM, the show’s co-sponsor, will broadcast the performance live during the First Thursdays Art Walk.
Two days later, Tempchin has another performance scheduled at the spot where his wine journey began: the Whole Foods in Encinitas. The songwriter shops regularly at the supermarket and, by his manager’s count, drew about 200 people when he launched the wine there.
Does Tempchin have another potential wine among his song titles? Langdon, delving into the Eagles catalog again, has an idea.
“Ready for this?” he said. “I have Jack in stitches. I said, ‘Jack, your next bottle, it’s empty — and we just call it “Already Gone.”’"
If You Go
What: Concert and wine tasting with Jack Tempchin, Richard Stekol and Shawn Jones
Where: Wine Gallery, 1833 South Coast Hwy., No. 110, Laguna Beach
When: 6 p.m. April 3
Information: (949) 715-8744 or https://www.tempchin.com
What other songs are wine-worthy?
The title “Peaceful Easy Feeling” sounds like it was tailor-made for a wine label. How about other pop tunes? The Coastline Pilot took a Facebook poll and got a few ideas from readers:
“California Dreamin’,” the Mamas and the Papas
—Michele Marr, Huntington Beach
“Heartattack and Vine,” Tom Waits
—Hannah Wehr, Redwood City
“Ripple,” the Grateful Dead
—Billy Folsom, Costa Mesa
“Arianne,” Aaron Neville
—Peggy Dobreer, Los Angeles
“Crown of Creation,” Jefferson Airplane
—Jeff Miller, Lake Forest
“Take It Easy,” the Eagles
—Greg Srisavasdi, Calabasas
“Purple Haze,” the Jimi Hendrix Experience
—Ricki Mandeville, Huntington Beach