The death of Eddie Van Halen rocked the music world last year when the news broke that he’d passed away, aged 65. However, few people felt the agonising grief of his loss more than ZZ Top’s guitarist Billy Gibbons.
Gibbons had the privilege of getting on board with Van Halen’s supremacy from early years in the band’s career. In his eyes, Eddie was always the group’s jewel in their crown, which gave them their magnetism. From the first moment he caught the guitarist in action, they started a friendship that would last right until the end.
Remarkably, the two guitarists didn’t bond over their love of rock music, but bizarrely it was their shared adoration of Mexican cuisine that brought them together. Speaking to Eddie Trunk, Gibbons painfully remarked: “He and I got together because we both discovered we had a passion for Mexican food. And after his passing, there’s not a day that goes by when I can dip into a bowl of hot sauce, and it’s kind of a revisit of fond recollections of being able to hang out together. It’s something else.”
Gibbons also discussed the moment he became aware of Van Halen and the mesmerising first time he caught one of their shows. He revealed: “Oh my goodness, I knew him well from the very first record, and he was actually, as it came to pass, I discoverneighbourhe was a neighbor, very close to the house back in Los Angeles.”
Adding: “And I first heard the word, ‘Hey, man, there’s a guy that plays some interesting guitar riffs, maybe you should get together,’ only to discover that sitting in the record bin was the first Van Halen record. They had already picked up steam, and fortunately, I was able to go out and catch a live show, and that blew my mind. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, these guys have got it going on.’ I miss him dearly.”
Gibbons has nothing but love for Van Halen, and his unique, spellbinding technique is something that the ZZ Top founder will always cherish with eternal fondness. “He was always ready to deliver,” Gibbons noted with praise. “Even [with] the most ferocious riffs and with that technique, it was really gratifying to be in front of a guy that genuinely appreciated and enjoyed every single moment.
“Eddie’s technical prowess is nearly unsurpassed,” he added. “When it comes [to the] hammer-on [style], he’s one of the guys that not only did it best, but did it fast, he did it furiously. And I know that we’re gonna miss hearing some of that hammer-on stuff from Eddie V. What a great player. What a great guy.”
While Gibbons’ admiration for Van Halen as a guitarist is colossal, the only thing that eclipsed it is the infinite esteem he holds him in as a person. These comments speak volumes about the sort of human Eddie was, and the universal reaction from everybody who knew him shows just how sorely missed he remains.