Hotel California was the first Eagles album Joe Walsh played on. He helped write this song and "Life In The Fast Lane" for the album. "Pretty Maids All In A Row" features Walsh on piano and synthesiser rather than guitar, and was not typical of the Eagles sound. In a 1981 interview with the BBC, Walsh explained: "To make the Eagles really valid as a band, it was important that we co-write things and share things. 'Pretty Maids' is kind of a melancholy reflection on my life so far, and I think we tried to represent it as a statement that would be valid for people from our generation on life so far. Heroes, they come and go... Henley and Frey really thought that it was a good song, and meaningful, and helped me a lot in putting it together. I think the best thing to say is that it's a kind of melancholy observation on life that we hoped would be a valid statement for people from our generation." (This interview is available at Rock's Backpages.)
Walsh wrote this with Joe Vitale, who was his bandmate in a group called Barnstorm. After Walsh joined the Eagles, Vitale contributed to the group as a member of their touring band.