Posted by

Mike Dow Mike Dow
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer

Share

Former Warner Bros. exec pays tribute to ‘shy, sensitive’ Eddie Van Halen

October 14, 2020
Rate this item
(0 votes)

One of the people responsible for helping launch Van Halen’s career says he is crushed that we will never again see a Van Halen live concert, following the death, at 65, of the band’s legendary guitarist, Eddie Van Halen.

In March 1978, 22-year-old Detroit-born Fred Meyers began a new position for Warner Bros. Records promoting the label’s artists to rock radio after four years of toughing it out as a lowly record company warehouse guy.

“They gave me the job,” he says, “because they were tired of seeing me interview for it.”

Meyers says it was a life-altering dream job, especially when he considers his very first assignment of promoting the now-classic debut album from Van Halen.

When I spoke with Meyers the day after the death of Eddie Van Halen, he was nearly in tears as he spoke about the virtuosic guitarist known for his outrageous and groundbreaking fiery fretwork, and remembered by Meyers as a shy and sensitive figure who often skipped aftershow parties to practice guitar in his hotel room.

Meyers ultimately worked with Van Halen for five years and promoted the band’s first five albums on Warner Bros. Records.

He has countless candid stories related to Van Halen and other artists with whom he worked closely, including Prince, Bob Marley and U2. Meyers shares his stories weekly on his Promotion-Man podcast with radio host LA Lloyd. New episodes appear every Sunday evening at promotion-man.com and wherever podcasts are available.

The Maine Edge: What are your first memories of interacting with the members of Van Halen?

Meyers: I was new to the label and so was Van Halen. We were all kind of fumbling our way through it, but they were so different. I was in my early 20s, the same age as the guys in the band. I was with them on their third concert date ever after signing with Warners. It was my job to get them a limo but nobody told me about the limo so I picked them up in my car, which was a 1969 Chevy Nova (laughs). I took Van Halen to McDonald’s so we could all get something to eat.

The Maine Edge: The first Van Halen LP is considered one of the all-time classic debut albums. How much work did you have to do in order to get airplay from rock radio?

Meyers: We had 23 promo reps around the country, and Warner Bros. told us all that we were going on a blitz which meant pack your bags for a week, you’re going to visit every rock and roll radio station in your territory, and turn them onto this brand new band called Van Halen.

Warner rush-released to us a red vinyl Van Halen EP, which is now quite a valuable collector’s item. One side had a Loony Tunes label and the other side featured the original Van Halen logo before the famous stylized ‘V.’

We visit all of the stations with this EP and the jocks would cue this vinyl up on the turntable and the first thing they heard was ‘Eruption.’ Anyone who heard that for the first time was like ‘What is that?’ and it followed with ‘You Really Got Me.’ ‘Jamie’s Cryin’’ was also on that EP along with ‘Runnin’ with the Devil.’

The Maine Edge: You had the privilege of seeing how they interacted away from cameras and microphones. Could you describe how Eddie’s personality differed from that of lead singer David Lee Roth at this point in their career?

Meyers: I remember David Lee Roth sitting with me in a bar and he told me that when he met the Van Halen brothers (Eddie and Van Halen drummer, Alex) he knew that Eddie was special. He said that his job as lead singer was to bring as much attention to the band as possible. He said he decided to become the Muhammad Ali of rock and roll. He said ‘You will either like me or hate me, but you’ll know who I am.’

Eddie, on the other hand, was very shy. Prince was like that too, and I spent a lot of time with him. He was totally outrageous onstage but offstage he was ridiculously shy. There is no question that Eddie was a genius. His virtuosic guitar skills were unparalleled and he will always be known as one of the greatest rock and roll guitar players ever but he had a shy, sensitive side.

The parties after the concerts were epic, especially once the band started really grooving and moving up to bigger arenas. There were midgets and fire-eaters and topless dancers and a ridiculous sound system, and food and booze and whatever you want. Eddie would opt out. He’d grab a 6-pack of beer and go to his hotel room to work on his guitar. He was obsessed with the sound of his guitar.

The Maine Edge: How did you hear the news about Eddie’s passing, and what did you think about when you heard it?

Meyers: I feel like I’m about to start crying because it’s still settling in. We all started together and we’ll always have that kind of relationship. I was in my car when I heard the news and I had to pull over. We had just recorded a podcast with the management of ZZ Top. Our producer texted ‘I have bad news’ and it really hit me. I immediately called some of my Warner Bros. alumni who also knew and worked closely with Van Halen, and we recorded a 2-hour radio show as a tribute to Eddie.

We will never see another Van Halen concert ever. That era is gone but we still have the music. I spent all of last night listening to Van Halen and I probably should have gone to bed earlier. As sad as I am that we’ll never get to see another Van Halen concert, I have to smile because when you saw Eddie grin, you couldn’t help but smile back. He had that wonderful, boyish grin about him, and I’m going to miss him.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 October 2020 08:11

Latest from Mike Dow

back to top