There are those who were made to play the guitar. Then there was Eddie Van Halen.
“Every time we saw him play, it was amazing. It’s like the guitar was made for him,” longtime Warner Bros. President Lenny Waronker recently told Billboard. “He just had so much control over the instrument. You could see two things going on: somebody in total command who’s gifted, and somebody who loved what he was doing.”
Waronker, who was Warner Bros. President from 1982 to 1994, was VP/Head of A&R when Van Halen signed with the label in 1977.
“When you sign an artist like Van Halen, what happens to the label — it’s a special thing,” Waronker said. “They got off to a quick start, and people started to realize they were cool. They weren’t just a rock band — they were beyond that.”
“Ted [Templeman, Warner Brothers VP/Staff Producer,] was the driving force, and Mo [Ostin, Warner Records CEO,] had an enormous amount of respect for Ted, who could tell Eddie had a real gift,” continued Waronker. “They signed Van Halen on the spot [after seeing them at the Starwood nightclub in West Hollywood].”
Waronker said watching Eddie perform won’t be the only thing he’ll miss.
“Eddie was special. As a person, you just felt good being around him,” said Waronker. “He had this glow, and that smile, man!”
Van Halen Talks About Being Discovered By Warner Bros. [London – 1978]:
Waronker also talked about what was a very well-publicized and turbulent time in Van Halen history: The time Sammy Hagar joined the band in 1985.
He said: “When [singer David Lee Roth left], I went to see Ed with the idea of possibly changing the name, but it was like talking to a kid: He looked at me and said, “That’s my name!” And I just shut up.”
“The closest I got to Eddie was during the breakup, getting the politics straightened out when Sammy [Hagar] joined the band,” continued Waronker. “Sammy was on Geffen Records. Eddie couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just say, ‘Sammy’s in the band — let’s go.’ It worked out, but it was messy for a while, and that was hard on him. I remember them playing the first record with Sammy and how enthusiastic he was.”
Waronker finished with his comments on the legacy Eddie will leave behind.
“Eddie was special,” he said. “His playing, his writing, his approach — all of that will live forever.”