Watching Billy Sheehan two-hand tapping on his bass, it’s hard to not think of Eddie Van Halen. It was a different guitarist, however, who inspired Sheehan to adopt this technique.
Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, The Winery Dogs) talked about the origins of his two-handed tapping during a recent interview with Matt Pinfield. Below is an excerpt from an Ultimate-Guitar article courtesy of Greg Prato:
Although there had been several guitarists who touched upon some form of two-handed tapping prior to 1978 – Steve Hackett, Ace Frehley, Brian May…heck, even a bloke named Vittorio Camardese! (click on each of their names to view video proof) – it was not until Eddie Van Halen came along that it truly became part of the rock guitar lexicon.
But one of the first – quite possibly the first – bassists to employ two-handed tapping (aka hammer-ons) into their style was Billy Sheehan. And while many assume it was EVH that inspired Sheehan to tap, during a recent interview with Matt Pinfield on 95.5 KLOS/New & Improved, the bass great explained it was not who many think (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar).
“On New Year’s Eve, Alice Cooper with ZZ Top opening up – I think it was 1974 – I saw Billy Gibbons go [mimics a hammer-on on his bass]. He hit a note with this hand. It’s common every day now. Everybody knows about it. It was the first time I ever saw it – somebody hit a note…a hammer-on. So, I got hammer-ons from Billy Gibbons. I went home, and I started doing it as a little bass player, a little kid in Buffalo, New York.”
When Sheehan hit the big-time (as a member of Talas, David Lee Roth, and Mr. Big) and would be asked in interviews about how he wound up with two hands on the fretboard, he was not shy to give the unexpected answer. “So, years later, every time someone would ask me in the press – as my career moved along a bit – ‘You must have got hammers-ons from Eddie Van Halen.’ I’d go, ‘Now, he’s the king…but I got it from Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top.’ In every interview they’d asked me, and I’d always give Billy Gibbons credit.”