What: Playing Crossroads Where: Detroit, MI When: Summer 1984
One day a radio personality friend of mine called to ask me in his very low radio voice… “Do you wanna go backstage and see Van Halen?” WHAT!?! What is he thinking?! Does he actually have any friends that say, “No, I just wanna stay home and watch TV tonight.”? Seriously, come on!
So there we were, heading down to Cobo Hall, Detroit’s largest arena. We came in through the back door and walked directly into the main backstage dressing area, where David Lee Roth had hired topless dancers to dance on the tables. Mr. Roth was not very friendly, but I equated that to his soft surroundings.
We continued on our way down the back corridor, which had separate rooms on each side. We entered one on the left to see Eddie Van Halen sitting there playing guitar by himself. There were six or seven guitars and a couple little amps surrounded him. He was in his own world, staring off into space like guitar players do. My friend introduced me as a member of Bitter Sweet Alley, a Detroit band with the local hit “Time To Move.” Eddie couldn’t have been nicer. He said, “Wow, that’s fantastic! Pick up a guitar and let’s see what you got.”
At that moment I was scared shitless. I hesitated to reach for his famous red and white striped guitar, but he kind of nodded, so I grabbed it. I plugged in, and, thinking about something we both completely agree upon, I started playing Crossroads by Eric Clapton, which contains one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded. That famous Eddie Van Halen smile grew upon his face as he joined in. I took the first solo as I remembered it note for note. He took the second one, which was very close to the original, but he added a little Eddie flair to it. What a moment I’ll never forget! I could have gone on all night, but we were interrupted, as they were clearing the backstage area and getting ready to perform. He gave me a big brother hug and wished me luck.
Years later, I saw Eddie at a tradeshow. A record exec friend of mine offered to introduce me to him. I assumed he would never remember me from our quick encounter back in Detroit. However, when my friend introduced me, I mentioned Detroit, Cobo Hall, Crossroads… and he gave me that same, big Eddie smile and said, “Great to see you again!” My friend was like, “WTF, I didn’t know you knew him!” I said, “Oh yeah, we’re friends from way back.” 😂