Something very special happened on this day in 1996. 18 years before the “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral and drew attention to ALS, Eddie Van Halen assembled a band for an eight-hour benefit concert for his good friend Jason Becker—the guitar wunderkind diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease one week after joining David Lee Roth’s band in 1989. We’ve got video and photos from this special concert, which took place at the Riviera Theater in Chicago, IL, on November 17, 1996.
Decked out in matching black berets and wife-beater undershirts, the so-called Lou Brutus Experience included Eddie Van Halen on guitar, his close friend Steve Lukather from Toto on guitar and vocals, Roth sideman Billy Sheehan on bass, and Pat Torpey from Mr. Big on drums. They played “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris, “Little Wing” by Hendrix, “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, the Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy,” and a unique dual-guitar version of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The ridiculous level of musical chops onstage playing three-chord rock songs was like hiring Michelin chefs to make popcorn for a slumber party.
The band’s name was chosen during a radio interview the day before at Chicago’s WRCX 103.5 (hosted by Lou Brutus). Callers were encouraged to phone in their band name suggestions, with Edward wanting “something sick, but fun.” Suggested names included Four Play, Bad Ass Barnyard Animals, and Delicious Vomit.
Edward’s appearance began with a televised plea for donations to charity on Jason’s behalf that had originally been broadcast at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon on 9/01/96 – 9/02/96. Becker, who contracted the disease in 1989 and started feeling symptoms shortly before his work on David Lee Roth’s A Little Ain’t Enough album, was confined to a wheelchair and was not present for the event.
As the band took the stage at this former movie theater, Edward kicked things off with a brief rendition of the Munsters theme before launching into “Wipeout.”
The night before the ALS Benefit, the Lou Brutus Experience made an appearance at the Chicago Hard Rock Cafe, where Edward donated one of Jason’s guitars to be hung on display.
Other performers on the bill included Marty Friedman, Tony McAlpine, Zakk Wylde, Richie Kotzen, and Vinnie Moore.
Songs performed by The Lou Brutus Experience:
• Good Times, Bad Times
• Little Wing
• Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love
• She’s So Heavy
Video of the performance can be viewed above.
Earlier this year, Eddie donated to ALS.