By Dweezil Zappa
From Dweezil Zappa World:
This guitar comes with a great story. Picture this if you will. It’s 1982 and the biggest rock band in the world is VAN HALEN. I was 12 years old and had only been playing guitar for 9 months. “Eruption” and the “Mean Street” intro were on a constant loop in my head. I was signed up to play at my school talent show. It was coming up in a week. I was going to play “Running With The Devil” with my little teenage rocking combo.
In the days before the show we received a phone call at our house from a guy claiming to be Edward Van Halen. My mom answered the phone and talked with him for a bit. She whispered to me, “This guy says he’s Eddie Van Halen, pick up the other phone and listen to see if you think it really is.” Of course I jumped for the other phone extension and quietly picked it up. I heard a gritty voice on the other end talking about wanting to come over and meet Frank Zappa. I had no reference of the sound of Edward Van Halen’s voice except for the possible long shot audio clip from “Unchained” where a voice is heard saying, “Come on Dave, give us a break.” I thought maybe that was Edward’s voice, or maybe it was Ted Templeman’s voice? It didn’t matter. I wanted it to be Edward Van Halen so I said to Gail, “It’s him… it has to be him!”
Frank picked up the phone and talked for a short time. He hung up the phone saying, “Okay I’ll see you in a few minutes.” 20 minutes later Edward Van Halen was at our house. He had a new guitar with him. A purple Kramer with a piece of tape covering the logo. Frank called Steve Vai and asked him to come over. What followed as the coolest night a 12 year old guitar player could ever imagine, or perhaps any guitar player. Edward Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Frank Zappa all passed around this new purple guitar. Occasionally I would fumble around on it as well.
Many things were played and discussed. It was amazing. Of course I asked Edward to play “Mean Street” and “Eruption”. He did and I got to watch it up close. The techniques he employed were burned into my brain forever. This jam session/discussion went on into the wee hours of the morning. somewhere around 3AM. I had a little league game at 7am. Even though I had pitched a no hitter the week before, I knew that night that baseball was no longer that important to me.
Anyway, getting back to the star guitar. On the day of the talent show I was heading to my sound check. We got another call from Edward. It was mentioned that I was playing “Runnin’ With The Devil” at my school talent show. He actually decided he wanted to see that. He came to the sound check at my school! ( That was insane…kids found out and bolted out of class to see if it was true. He was a super hero and he was right there at school) While I was playing 2 things happened. First He corrected a wrong chord that I was playing. He stood behind me and actually played the guitar while it was around my neck and showed me what I was doing wrong. The he said, “This guitar won’t stay in tune, let me get you another one.” He drove home and came back with the star guitar you see above!
At that time it looked quite different. It was originally a Kramer that was cream colored with an orange lightning bolt shooting across the middle. I played the show with that guitar and it did stay in tune better than my Strat. I offered it back to him but he told me I could keep it. I was amazed that he had done what he had done. I’m not sure he had any idea what kind of impact he had made on me.
He kept in touch with Frank a lot during that time. Frank mentioned that he was going to be recording me for fun soon and somehow Edward ended up in the producers seat. I honestly don’t remember how that went down. Maybe Frank asked him if he would like to do it or maybe Edward offered. Either way, a few weeks later we actually recorded “My Mother Is A Space Cadet” at the UMRK studio. I used that guitar for the recording sessions. Over time that guitar has had a few modifications. I stuck a whole bunch of weird rubber faces on it when I took it to Europe. I used it on stage that way when Frank invited me to play with him at the Hammersmith Odeon. A recording of that performance exists as does some home video shot by Thomas Nordegg, but I digress… The next thing that happened was the paint job.
I used the Van Halen painting method and taped off areas. I painted it the way you currently see it now. It’s had preamps installed and removed. It’s got a different neck than the original. It’s fallen off of Thomas Nordegg’s scooter into on coming traffic – WITHOUT being in a case! It has some nice scars from that experience.
Anyway it’s a big part of my youth and it always reminds me of the excitement of playing guitar.
In closing I would like to share with you that Edward Van Halen did another remarkable thing for me. Perhaps the most important act of kindness I’ve experienced in my life. He was the very first person to call our house when the news of Frank’s passing hit the media airwaves. It was around 5am. He called and offered to see if there was anything he could do for us and said he was free to spend some time with me over the next few days if I would like to do that. He probably has no idea how important that was to me, and I’ve never had the opportunity all these years later to properly thank him for that. It was the best possible thing to take my mind off of the grief I was experiencing at that time. (Let me tell you, that doesn’t go away either).