Happy Birthday you Guitar God, you! Eddie Van Halen was born today in 1955.
How are we celebrating here at FM96?
You’ll have a chance to guess 7 different EVH riffs in order for School of Rock today at 4:15pm for a family 4-pack of London Lightning tickets. Today’s 5 @ 5 theme is #GuitarGods so feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet @FM96Rocks using that hashtag of call 519.643.9696
His story begins in Pasadena – an LA suburb of white picket-fences, tree-lined streets, and good schools. How’d Eddie & his brother Alex get there? By steam ship, from Holland.
Father Jan Van Halen was a prisoner of war until the Nazis discovered he was an amazing saxophone player and clarinet player. They ordered him to play in their orchestra and toured anywhere in Europe that had been occupied by Germany. Jan lived in Indonesia on a 6-week radio band contract before leaving for Amsterdam where Eugenia and Jan had their boys.
Post-war Jan was a jazz musician. Alex was born May 8th 1953 and Edward was born January 26th, 1955. They both took Piano lessons when Edward was 5 and Alex was 7 – mom couldn’t afford a babysitter which meant spending lots of time with Dad at gigs. Letters from relatives in California encouraged the Van Halens to move to North America for the “American Life.”
February 1962 they left Holland with a few suitcases, $15 and a piano – which they played on the boat – a trade for their nine-day boat ride. Alex & Eddie both took Violin lessons in elementary / high school, Alex did so well he played in the Pasadena All City Orchestra!
“Mom had this grandiose idea of us becoming concert pianists” Alex once told the LA Times. The routine from Mom was always “If you want to play guitar, you have to practice piano first.” 30 minutes a day, no matter what. “I had this Russian piano teacher who couldn’t speak a word of English and he would just sit there with a ruler ready to slap my face if I made a mistake” – Eddie told Guitar Player Magazine.
Instrument Swap: There was some friction in the VH household – Alex wasn’t getting any better at guitar and could be found playing his brother’s kit when he wasn’t home. They realized they wanted to switch and play each other’s instruments. Eddie tried to keep up with Clapton while listening to Cream records and Alex tried to keep up with Ginger Baker.
A friend, Dana Anderson, met Eddie on the first day of 7th grade in fall of 1967 – they played guitar together often. In August 1968 they picked up, Cream Wheels of Fire after hearing a few songs on the radio and spent some time with the guitar and amp figuring out how to play Crossroads. Here’s a quote from friend, Dana Anderson: “He listened to it the first time through, diddling here and there. By the second time he was basically playing along with it.”
Eddie: “To me, a guitar sounds like a saxophone. My father plays sax and clarinet and I guess that’s part of it.”
When father Jan was playing nightclubs, the intermission act for a polka band…was the Van Halen brothers with their friend Jim, who Eddie had taught guitar. One time Jan was down a drummer and let Alex sub in with this band…
Eddie is a superhuman guitar player… The Minions movie even did a little tribute to one of his most famous solos!
One of the minion characters – Stuart – is handed a guitar and told it is a “super mega ukulele.” He plays a few notes before launching into Van Halen’s groundbreaking solo and driving the crowd wild.
Learn some of Eddie’s most iconic riffs yourself: