Guest Blog: That Time I Met Eddie Van Halen
Dez Dickerson • Pavilion Entertainment • Nashville, Tennessee
Dez is a long-time friend of interlinc and youth ministry. In addition to his mainstream music career, he has worked with many Christian artists on multiple labels over the years. Check out his Pavilion Synergies site to see what he is up to currently.
For reasons only He can make clear, God has always taken me on an atypical path throughout my life. Sometimes, I feel as though I’ve lived the equivalent of 8 or 9 lives in the span of one. Some of it has been straight-up Forrest Gump amazing, and some of it frankly has been like being dragged through a keyhole backward. The Apostle Paul talked about having learned the secret in abounding and being abased – I believe there are things we have the opportunity to learn in both extremes and everything in between. In the same way, hard work puts the pleasure of a day off in perspective, the dangers, toils, and snares we encounter in life make the amazing moments that much more amazing.
I spent a good portion of my life (starting at age 14) playing in rock bands, touring the highways and byways, and playing anywhere they’d let us plug in. After almost 10 years of grinding in a series of bands throughout the northern tundra (from the home base of my native Minnesota), I found myself playing in a band with a young man from Minneapolis named Prince. In the 5 years I spent literally side by side with him, the ‘abounding’ part was off the chain. Even after leaving the band, the experiences I kind of ‘Gumped’ my way into and through were many and magical. The people that I met in the process were among often some of the biggest names in pop culture (or on their way to being…). One of those folks was Edward Van Halen.
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I had the inestimable pleasure of hanging with Eddie a number of years back when they were in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota to do a show at the old Civic Center. We were on the same label, Warner Bros (which was at its legendary peak at that time), and a good friend of mine at the label made arrangements for my wife and me to not only be ‘on the list’ for the show but made sure he got me connected with the band (which isn’t always the case when you’re ‘on the guest list plus 1’). After connecting with their road manager, rather than being taken to an anonymous green room, he took us straight to meet EVH.
Most folks don’t want to be bothered much pre-show, but he invited my wife and me to hang with him in his personal dressing room (which was set up with a mini-version of his onstage rig). He just offered us a beer (he had a full-sized picnic cooler full of them), then sat and had a relaxed, genuine conversation with us as though we were old friends (while simultaneously playing insane riffs most of the time). It was more like chilling at his house than a quasi meet and greet. He and Valerie Bertinelli had just gotten married at that time, and he talked a lot about how much he missed her. It was amazingly disarming because it was so real and such a point of human commonality – no matter how famous people may be (and both he and Valerie were incredibly famous at that point), we all experience and relate to the feeling of missing the ones we love. At one point, he stopped and handed me his guitar, which was momentarily an out of body experience. Once I got over the fact that he had just handed me THAT guitar, I proceeded to play a little bit. I was immediately struck by the fact that it sounded utterly, completely different in my hands. That’s always true from player to player, but in his case, that sound was so much his hands and his soul that it was astounding.
Eddie’s passing has hit hard for lots of folks. For many, Van Halen was the soundtrack of their youth. Only a handful of players reinvented how we play the instrument over the years- EVH was one of the few. There will never be another.