Tech Kevin Dugan Talks His 30-Year History With Van Halen …

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April 4, 2021 at 12:26 pm Quote #63872


Tech Kevin Dugan Talks His 30-Year History With Van Halen, Shares Stories of Nightmare Gigs and Memories of Eddie Van Halen

Looking back on his long career in the music industry.
Posted 2021-04-03 12:46:46

For 30 years, Kevin “Dugie” Dugan traveled the world with Van Halen as Michael Anthony’s bass tech and worked with dozens of other bands along the way. He is one of the first inductees to the Roadie Hall of Fame. In this exclusive interview, I called up Dugie via Skype to discuss the ups and downs of Van Halen, address some of the most famous rumors online about the band and its history. Dugie lifts the veil on the music industry and gives a compelling look behind the scenes of what it takes to bring some of the biggest shows to some of the biggest stages in the world.

Q: Hey Dugie! How’s it going?

It’s going good, I see you have a bunch of guitars there. Do you have a favorite?

Q: I’m kind of a Stratocaster fan. I have quite a few of those. Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rory Gallagher… a Strat is a fine instrument. It gets the job done.

I knew Rory. Once I was on the road, I ran into him all the time. You know what was really cool, he was road managed by his brother named Donald and he called me up — we were touring Europe with Bon Jovi and between Van Halen and Bon Jovi, we sold out Wembley Stadium — 86,000 seats, we sold it out in about 12 minutes. So Donald called me and asked if I was still with Van Halen and he asked if it would be possible to bring Rory to the show because he would really like to meet and possibly play a bit with Edward. So, I talked to Edward and he said ‘Fuck yeah! Bring him in the tune up room!’ But unfortunately, it broke my heart, Rory died a few days before that.

Q: You started your tech career when you were 17. How did you get into that business?

Well when I was 17, my band had opened up this thing in Cleveland called Teen Fair for the James Gang — Joe Walsh’s band. It wasn’t actually his band. Everyone always says it was his band, but it was actually the drummer’s band — Jimmy Fox — he was “James”. At Teen Fair, everybody had to use the same gear and there were maybe 10 or 12 bands a day playing the stage. The equipment was provided by music stores in town. The night before we played, the last band that played, the drummer thought it would be really cool to stab his drumsticks through the tom-tom heads. The local music store refused to pay for new ones saying it wasn’t their fault the guy did that. The James Gang guys were saying ‘that’s bullshit, were going to use our own drums’. Anyway, I badgered the guy from the music store and Jimmy Fox was standing close by, watching me, and I got the guy to agree to go to the music store and get new heads and I told him I’d change them.

So Jimmy Fox came up to me and said, ‘man, I watched you do that. That was great. Our road crew couldn’t even get them to do that! Who are you?’ so I told him I was in the band playing two slots before them. So he ended up taking my number and called me about a year and a half later and said his tech took ill and asked me to come fill in for him. I was a junior in high school, but it was summertime. So I did that, then I went back a couple years later with Tommy Bolin, after Joe [Walsh] left the band. I had met Tommy in Colorado when he was with a band called Zephyr. Tommy taught me a lot because I was just becoming a guitar tech. So that was the first time I ever went on the road.

I was also working in Ohio for a band called Rainbow Canyon. One of the guys who put the band together, he was one of my mentors, his name is Buddy Maver. He was in a couple successful recording acts, but none never really broke out, so he put this band together and it was five guys and they were all lead singers. So we got signed to Capitol, we went out to Caribou Ranch in Colorado, Jim Guercio’s studio, and made a record. They were being pushed by Capitol as ‘the next Beatles’ and then they had a shift in management and a new president came in. A lot of times when they do that, they clean house and that’s what they did.

So Rainbow’s album got thrown out. They actually had a two-album deal, so they sent them the buyout money for the second album and said they weren’t interested anymore. It was really a drag, but by working with this band, we’d play every Monday night at a club in Cleveland called the Cleveland Agora — you wouldn’t believe the concerts they’d have there. That’s where I met Rory [Gallagher], RUSH would come down and play two or three times a year, Frampton, after he left Humble Pie, so I was playing pool and drinking beer with these guys all the time. King Crimson — the only club date they did on their first American Tour was at that club. Of course, the owner oversold the show. The fire marshal came by, and instead of shutting it down, he told the manager to get him a good seat. So I would work there. We owned half the PA and the club owner owned the other half. So we’d leave the PA set up and we’d do the Monday night concert and then Tuesday we’d take our PA and lighting rig, to Toledo and do the same concert in Toledo.

I’ll tell you a funny story — the opening act for Rory Gallagher on their first tour was a band from New York called KISS, and they would finish a song and all you’d hear is ‘Boooo! Get Rory! Fuck You!’ they got booed off the stage! Three months later they came back and sold out Public Hall for two nights in a row. They broke that big, that quick.

So I worked at the Agora for a couple years and the next big band out of Cleveland that I worked for was called The Raspberries which is where Eric Carmen came from. Eric had asked me if I wanted to go with him because he was starting his solo career, but the guitar player was a wonderful friend of mine name Wally Bryson. I said I wanted to help Wally put a band together. So we put a band together and went out to LA, it was really tough going and we had a falling out. A couple years later, Wally’s wife got us back together and we mended fences. But once I was in LA and Wally and I parted ways, I started working around and getting to know people.

In the early years, I worked for the Beach Boys for a little bit. I had met them on tour with The Raspberries. Then through this company called Flag Systems, which is how I met Michael Anthony a few years later, that company builds cabinets and sound systems, I ended up hooking up with a lot of black acts like Stanley Clarke, George Duke, and stuff like that. Then this gal I dated who worked at the Agora back in Cleveland, her roommate was the assistant road manager for Fleetwood Mac. Anyways, I got an offer to work for Bob Welch, and for years, I was Bob’s main guy. His guitar player was a guitar player out of Cleveland who now lives in Nashville, named Todd Sharpe, who’s incredible.

Todd has his own amp line now. I met Todd when he was 11, and I was 13 — we were in a battle of the bands and his band won, we came in second. Todd was 11 but he was shredding. When he was 16 his band opened up for Hall & Oats, and they told him, ‘when we come back next year, have your bags packed because we’re taking you on the road.’ And they did. From there, he never looked back. He went on to work with so many different people, like Bob Welch, and Mick Fleetwood on his solo projects, Rod Stewart…

So I was with Bob Welch when he was in Fleetwood Mac and then when he left the band he was still managed by their management company by Mick Fleetwood, a gal from Warner Bros. named Gabrielle Aras, and their road manager John Courage. Anyways, if you ever see Spinal Tap, the road manager is a British comedian named Tony Hendra and he was friends with John Courage, and he based that entire character off him. He did a really good job too, because when I watch the movie I think, ‘that’s JC’. He carries a cricket bat around in the movie, but JC actually used to carry a baseball bat. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple years ago. So after Fleetwood Mac….

Q: This was in the 70s? Mid-70s?

Yeah, the 70s. Then the Flag guys called me up and asked if I had a resume. I said no, they told me to hand-write one and they’d get their secretary to type it out. They told me Van Halen’s bass player was looking for a tech. Turns out they didn’t have time to type it up, so I hand wrote a resume in pencil, they sent it to Michael like that. I was embarrassed as hell. Anyway, I got a call to go meet Michael and audition for the job. There were six guys there and three of us were named Kevin.

I actually jumped right into it. I was told not to go backstage, and the guy mixing front of the house was another one of my mentors — Roy Synder. He said ‘hey son, what are you doing out here, go back there…’ This was at a showcase four days before they were going on the road for Fair Warning and they were playing in front of maybe 1000 people. I said I was told not to go backstage, or I’ll be kicked out. Well, he called back there and said he was sending me back. [Michael Anthony's] tech had been hired away by Black Sabbath, they actually hired him on as their road manager, so he took the gig, obviously, because it was a lot more money and they leased him a car and all this stuff.

So the guy who was taking care of [Michael] was a guy from Flag Systems and he didn’t know anything about guitars, he was just there to set up and tear down the gear. So I jumped into it and started teching. And he tells me, ‘Michael tunes those before the show so don’t touch the guitars.’ I said I’m not going to hand him a bass that I’m not certain is in tune. So Michael comes back and goes, ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ I said, ‘I got this.’ He says, ‘Do you know how these transmitters work?’ I said, ‘…In my sleep. Here’s your drink, here’s your towel. You better get out there, I think they’re waiting for you.’ He checks the bass and he goes out and comes back, grabs me and yells in my ear, ‘you better know what the fuck you’re doing!’.

So when it was over, they called everyone up and told them they wouldn’t leave us hanging, they’d let us know by tomorrow who got the job. I was the last one to be called up. It was the only time in my life I had a real job and I had to go to work at 3AM. So I was like, ‘hey guys I gotta go, tell Michael it was nice to meet him’ and I hear a voice from behind me going, ‘So, you don’t want the gig or what?’ and it was Michael. That was 40 years ago. Since that day, Michael is my number one priority. He’s not just an incredible boss, he’s a wonderful friend and the nicest rockstar in the business. He’s a gem in a field of rock. He’s the best.

You know, in the Van Halen days, we’d do rehearsals for six or seven weeks — full rehearsals with 82 guys. The first week of rehearsals he’d be going around asking everyone’s name and what they do and trying to get to know everyone and invite them over to bass world to do a shot of Jack [Daniels]. During rehearsals, he would take everyone out for dinner twice — during the second week, during a night off, he’d take everybody out — 80 guys! And he’d pick up the tab. Then, at the end of rehearsals, he’d take everybody out again and say “order whatever you want and whatever you want to drink…” he’s just the nicest, most down-to-earth guy and the most incredible singer. He’s under-rated as a bass player. He plays a ton of different instruments too.

Q: Most of the time, techs bounce around from gig to gig. You’ve been with him for 40 years…that’s crazy!

Yeah, 40 years! I think I had the record in the business. Maybe the only guy who’s been with somebody as long as I have is Paul McCartney’s guy, and Mike Manning, who’s worked for Satriani for a long time, but not as long as I’ve been with Michael. Actually, when we aren’t working, I’d go out with other people too. I worked as a stage manager and a production manager. I worked for bands like Coal Chamber and Stryper. I was the production manager on their first major tour. Those guys are great. I joke, I say it’s the first time I ever had to hire a bible tech! I’m not making fun of them — they’re an incredible band and they’re one of the heaviest metal bands I’ve ever heard. I worked for The Cult… Here’s the thing, I did 30 years with Van Halen and a lot of the 80s bands opened up for Van Halen. Michael and I would always go and introduce ourselves to them. Michael would take a bottle of Jack and give it to them at the first show. I was always nice to them, so a lot of the time, I’d get calls from those guys asking me to come out with them. So I worked for Ratt a lot, Poison — I was Poison’s crew chief and I was Bobby Dall’s bass tech and Bret Michaels’ guitar tech for five tours. Great White… a lot of other bands that I’m missing. But a lot of the 80s hair bands got their shot opening up for Van Halen so I ended up working for a lot of them.

Q: Now, the last time I saw Michael play was with Sammy [Hagar] at Moondance Jam…

Was that the one where we had to move indoors?

Q: Yeah! [Backstory here is that Sammy was supposed to play the Main Stage, but it's an outdoor festival and it rained like crazy and there was lightning, so they had to shut it down. Across the festival grounds, there was a little "Saloon Stage" that local bands would play on between Main Stage acts. If I had to guess the capacity, I'd say maybe 800 or so. But they had big garage door on the wall furthest from the stage. Sammy, who got paid anyway since it was a cancellation, basically said, fuck it, we want to play anyway and moved to the Saloon Stage, where they played to the most packed venue I've ever seen.]

Yeah, well, we grabbed some guitars and a couple heads and went over there. Sammy said he wanted to play. He’d already gotten paid, no matter what — it had rained so hard they cancelled the rest of the night. We were headlining that night. I’ve done Moondance a lot. I did it with Ratt, I think. I did it with Lita Ford a couple times, I did it with Sammy, I think, three times. But that was a unique show. It was funny, Michael came running up on stage and I hand him his bass, he kicks off his flip-flops and says, ‘man, this is like back in the old days back playing in the bar!’ He played the whole show barefoot. He said ‘give me a shot of tequila! Let’s go!’ But yeah, Sammy came to play. He said, ‘I don’t wanna go back to the hotel’ It was great because they changed up the setlist. Sammy started calling out tunes they hadn’t played in a long time. Like, ‘let’s see what we remember’. It was really cool.

Q: How did you get hooked up with Lita Ford?

I ran into Lita again because of the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. She was coming out of retirement and she was going out on the road. She remembered I used to have a production company, but I had disbanded it. She asked if I still had my company and I told her I didn’t, but she asked me if I had a tech in mind who could do everything but would work really cheap, because she was on a shoestring budget. I said, ‘I have good news and bad news… techs that do everything aren’t cheap.’ She said ‘what’s the good news?’ I said, ‘I’m going to do this tour with you.’ It was Lita, Poison, and Def Leppard and it was in arenas. She said, ‘I can’t fucking afford you’. I said, ‘I don’t talk to artists about the money.’ So what I did was, I called her manager and told him he needed to come up in price since I was doing everything and I would come down a little bit. He says he didn’t know where he’d find the money. By that time, I had already worked it all out. I said, I just came off doing six years with Poison. I was the crew chief. They’re the middle act but they have a semi. I don’t have much gear and if I can stack it correctly, I can get all Lita’s gear on their truck. Think about it. I’m on the bus with the band, you don’t have to rent a truck, hire a driver, pay for hotel rooms, the gear will be on Poison’s truck, it’ll be at the dock everyday.’ He says ‘how the hell do you think you’re going to pull that off?’ I said, ‘ I already did. It’s a done deal. I talked to the Poison guys.’ He asked how much it was going to cost. I said ‘nothing, I just have to show them how to load their truck again, so we did the deal that way.’ So I worked for Lita from 2012 until 2018. Lita and I were really close — she’s like a sister to me. The reason I stopped working with her was that I had to do everything and once I got into my 60s, sometimes we’d have to drive all night and work all day, she just didn’t have a budget to hire somebody else. The physicality of that at my age was just too much. It wasn’t about the money. Every once in a while, I’ll go out and work with her.

Q: You mentioned Spinal Tap a while back. What was the most “Spinal Tap” thing you’ve ever seen on tour?

There are a lot of them, but the one that comes to mind was the US Festival. It was the only time Michael was ever on a cable. When we’re jamming with someone or something, sometimes he’ll just tell me to put him on a cable. But most of the time, he likes the freedom of having a wireless. But back then, when we were playing those big stages, it’s the only time he was ever on a cable was when he would do his bass solo. His solo would start out on a bass synthesizer. At the beginning of 1984, the album, that’s the beginning of Michael’s solo. We had written that and worked it out on a Roland Bass Synthesizer. Edward liked it so much that he made it the intro to the 1984 album.

Anyway, the bass synthesizer has a 46-pin cable input. So I had to get a special one made that was 50 feet long. Van Halen’s normal stage was 46 feet wide. So when we played the US Festival, it was 68 feet wide… so Michael’s cues for the beginning parts of the solo were at his mic, his second cue was center stage, then his third cue to do it was Edward’s mic, on the far side of the stage. So he goes out to start the solo and he’s on stage by himself in front of 500,000 people. Neither one of us thought about the fact that the stage was that much wider. When he would play the part, he would lift the bass up in the air and be very theatrical. So when he gets to Edward’s mic, I look over and I see the cable is off the ground, stretched out and when he lifted the bass up, he yanked the whole fucking housing out — there were bare wires hanging- the whole 46 pin housing came out of the bass and it went dead silent. Michael is on stage by himself, so he throws the bass and it comes down and sheers three of the tuning pegs off.

Then for the next part of the solo – the drum tech would come out and put his regular bass on a wireless on the edge of the drum riser. The gag was that Michael would throw the bass down and pretend he was jumping on it and I would hit an A/B box and I’d be playing a bass through a fuzz tone making racket as if he were really jumping on it. So now he’s on stage by himself, totally dead in the water. It all happened really quick and the audience thought it was part of the show… I could see he was kind of lost, so I ran out on stage and grabbed him and said “go to the next part of the solo, but act pissed at me right now. Push me!” He goes, “what?!?” I said, “Push me!” and I kind of hit him on the shoulder. And he shoves me. I started to run back, I turned around and gave him the finger. But I see he’s running over to get his other bass to do the next part of the solo. I ran back and grabbed him again and said “wait until I get back to switch to the bass [so I can make the fuzz noises]” and he said “oh yeah, right!”. I told him to take a swing at me, so he did, and I ran back, switched over so he could throw the bass down and pretend to jump on it and everything.

We finish the solo and everything. It was funny because his wife was on the side of the stage when I ran back there and she says, “you know, I really liked you too, damnit!” [she thought it was a real fight]. He came off stage and hugged me and said, “thank you, man! I was drawing a blank. You were so on the game”. It’s all on film. It’s kind of hard to find because Showtime filmed the whole festival for a special. We were headlining. The band got paid more than anybody had every been paid, in entertainment, for that. But anyways they edited it down to about 20 minutes. But yeah, that was a very Spinal Tap moment.

Q: As far as signature basses go, Michael has a pretty interesting one. The Jack Daniels bass. What’s the story with how that came to be?

Ok, in the old days, the band had their own bus. It was a really nice bus. Sometimes if it was a really long drive — a submarine ride is what techs call that… if we had two days to get somewhere, the band would fly and the bus driver and his woman, who was our wardrobe changer, Joe and Denise, they would just drive the bus. Michael decided he didn’t want to fly so he told me after the show, grab your golf clubs and grab a bag. I think we had three days off, so we were hoping to get there with time to play golf. Anyways, he invited me to come with him on the band bus. I remember I brought “Retrospective”, by Buffalo Springfield with me and we were sitting there, drinking Jack Daniels and smoking hash…oops… Michael wasn’t smoking hash, I was [wink wink].

We were listening to Buffalo Springfield. He said, “I want you to start thinking of how we can build a custom bass that will be associated with just me. It doesn’t have to be fantastic, but just something where people will see it and immediately think of me. We just have to come up with some sort of a theme.” He’s telling me this as he’s handing me a bottle of Jack and I say, “that’s it!” He says, “what do you mean?” I said we’ll build a bass that’s shaped like a bottle of Jack Daniels. Everyone knows you drink Jack, its perfect. He thought it was the stupidest idea he ever heard. He kept making fun of me. The next day, I brought it up again, and he said “that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. But I tell ya what… it’s your baby, you run with it.” There was another guy on our crew named Dave Jellison who was a bass player. I think he was the first bass player for Ratt, when they were starting out, actually, when they were in San Diego and they were called Rat Salad. He became a lighting guy – nowadays he’s a TV producer who does a lot of commercials. He’s a really knowledgeable guy and he worked at Charvel when he wasn’t on tour.

So he and I started to work this thing out. We kind of co-designed it. The first thing I did is I went to Jack Daniels and I told them the whole idea and asked for permission. So we made this handshake deal that we would never produce more than three of them without their permission. We ended up becoming Tennessee Squires. Anyways, we got the bass built and the first time Michael ever used it was when we shot the “Panama” video.

In the video, the guys are flying through the air on cables. When Michael was hanging on the wire, the union guys were using big poles to move the guys around and get them swinging and everything. They put three huge dings in it on day one! But we’ve made three of them over the years. The first one is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is cool because I’m from Cleveland… so, I guess I made it in there. The second one was built by James Tyler Guitars in North Hollywood and that one is in Michael’s warehouse. The third one was built by the guy who has been building Michael’s guitars for the majority of his career, he’s now the head engineer at Fender, his name is John Gaudesi. He built it while he was at Yamaha, so it’s a Yamaha built product, but that’s the one we use on tour to this day.

Q: What’s up with the pickups on those?

The first one, that’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we didn’t want any pickups to obliterate the artwork on the body. So we used a Zeta violin system which has a pickup in the bridge under each string and each pickup goes to a master volume. So when you’d play through an amp, you had to adjust each string’s volume until they were equal. The second one with James Tyler, we put a pickup in the body and painted over it and that sounded a lot better. This was originally going to be something that Michael only played on one or two songs and he ended up playing the first one for about a third of the show — this was in 1984. So the second one had a piezo pickup and a pickup in the body. Then the third one that John Gaudesi built had a high output pickup on the body. Another thing is that all three guitars are strung from the top to the bottom. The tuning pegs are on the bottom, underneath the bridge, under a plate.

Q: What has been the most challenging or interesting piece of gear you’ve worked with through the years?

Without a doubt, the guitar I learned the most from is Lita Ford’s doubleneck — the B.C. Rich doubleneck. It’s one of a kind. When they made it for her, they made it at 8/10 scale, because she’s so tiny. They only made one. When somebody bought out BC Rich and brought them back to life a while back, I told Lita she should get it duplicated because it’s worth a fortune and its dangerous to take on the road. Two of her original six string BC Rich guitars had got broken on the road — the original BC Rich Bitch and the red one. Anyways, even though they were endorsing her, they wanted $5000 to make another one. So to this day, she still takes that doubleneck out on the road and it’s the original one. But that doubleneck, on the 12 string, the heavy gauge strings tune at the bottom, like on Michael’s bass. And the other six tune at the headstock.

When I first started working for Lita, I couldn’t do most of the rehearsals because I was out with Chickenfoot, so I had Edward [Van Halen]‘s old tech Rudy Leiren do it and then when I came in, I had two days before we went out on tour. But it was about three weeks into the tour before I could strip that guitar down and put it back together, so I did. I stripped it down, adjusted the necks, restrung it, and like I said, I learned more from that guitar… I finally had a chance to intonate it — both necks. I put it at the back of the truck, and I got up super early and when Poison offloaded their gear, I set it up on my workbox and worked on it. When Lita woke up, I brought it out to the bus and told her to play it, and she was freaking out. She said it played like a brand-new guitar. It took me FIVE HOURS but I went through it completely.

One interesting thing about Lita is she learned to play on guitars she got when she was really young — I think The Runaways started when she was 16 or 17. So she didn’t have a guitar tech or money to have a guitar shop set stuff up, so she learned to play with her action up really high. She loves that. She likes her guitars to have the action set up really high. There were a couple times I had to leave to go do things with Michael and I’d have these guitar techs fill in for me. Both times, it was Poison’s guitar techs and I told both of them, when you change strings, do not lower the action. You’re going to look at it and think something happened during transportation and its wrong… it’s not. That’s how she likes it. Both guys, both times, they lowered the action — I stressed it to both of them and they both looked at it and thought “there’s no way this can be right”… but yeah, I love Lita and I love the way she plays, she’s one of the few players I know where people look at her action and go, “what the fuck?!?”

Q: Did you ever tech for Eddie? Did you ever work on the Frankenstrat?

No. I was never Edward’s tech. The only time I ever “teched” for him was during the shoot for “Jump” and I just handed him guitars, because his tech was sick and couldn’t be there. I tuned his guitars a couple times in the studio. I never really worked on his guitars.

Q: This was before that guitar became this iconic thing… some of us tend to think that the guitar was always iconic and had its own limo or something.

No, because like you said, it wasn’t iconic back then. It didn’t become iconic until the mid-80s or later. By the 90s it was a legendary guitar. Just to get it right, he would work on it and modify it. Like, why is there a quarter screwed in underneath the bridge? Well, he did it to get it just the way he wanted it — it kind of evolved like that. I remember in the old days, before everyone had endorsements and stuff like that, before we had a budget, Edwards’s original tech Rudy Leiren, my wonderful friend, he used to carry around a hot plate and little metal pan and he would take Edward’s strings and he would boil them and dry them off and put them back on so they would get a little elasticity back. I remember that and eventually, Edward got an endorsement and they didn’t have to do that anymore. I had never seen anyone do that before. I forget who told Edward about that, but that was the first time I saw that trick. It did work, but you could only do it once or twice.

Q: I know people who have heard that about Eddie and would buy new packs of strings and boil them, because they heard that Eddie did it.

No, you don’t need to do it with new ones. They’re kind of missing out on why he did it. It was after two or three shows… it was done because of their budget and because he didn’t have an endorsement yet.

Q: What is your fondest memory of Eddie?

Well, a few times, I ended up playing bodyguard for him and Valerie at NAMM and stuff after Michael would go home. I’ll tell ya a great one…it was very weird. This is not my favorite memory but… watching him work was incredible. One time I was coming to meet him to play bodyguard for him. His second tech, named Zeke Clark [who works with Kenny Chesney now...] threw together this rack just to do this thing at NAMM. One of the things they were doing was Edward was going to jam with some people, but before the jam, he was going to do this guitar battle with this guy who, it turns out, was a friend of mine. He was a comedian named Michael Winslow — he was the guy from Police Academy who made all the sound effects. I was really good friends with Michael. Anyways Edward was supposed to have a guitar battle with Michael Winslow. So Kramer had made Michael this guitar that had a painting of Hendrix on it, but it had a mic stand that came out of it so he was going to battle Eddie, using his sound effects.

Well, this rack that Zeke had put together, he put the main input power amp at stage level. It was just a small stage and the rack ended up right at the top of the stairs. There were all these people and hanger-ons hanging out at the top of the stairs and I was trying to get security to move those people out of there. One guy turned around to leave and he kicked the rack and he kicked the plug sideways, of course the amp shorted out and fried. There was no spare and Edward didn’t have another amp, so Edward grabbed Michael Winslow and said “you gotta cover me!” so they worked it out where they did this battle, but Winslow would do sound effects for both parts! It was so funny.

There was a lot of good memories. Watching Edward in the studio and seeing how songs change from one thing to another and then becoming hit. I was the only tech that was there when Sammy came in to audition with the band for two days and I remember Edward played him some of the stuff they were working on and he plays “Summer Nights” and Sammy started scatting to it and writing lyrics down and it sounded so close to what ended up on the record — it was pretty phenomenal to watch.

Another really touching thing I’ll tell ya, is that when my daughter was really young she came home one day and she says “I told my friends that you work for Van Halen and you know Eddie Van Halen and that you’ve met him. And they don’t believe me.” I said, two things — first, they’re not really your friends if they’re saying that, and two, we’ll show them. So I told Edward that and I said when we play San Diego, I’d like to bring my daughter and get a picture with you. He said when you get the picture developed, bring it back and let me sign it so she can bring it to school. So he did and that was very cool that he did that.

He was always very friendly and giving to people. He was always very shy. At first, he hated it when people would call him the best and all that. He was a very humble guy back then. Him and his brother couldn’t even speak English when they came here from Holland — they came from nowhere and they worked their way up and become this big success.

Q: What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I can think of two things. One, I was the fourth person to ever be nominated and voted into the Roadie Hall of Fame, which is not connected to the Rock Hall but we’re trying to get the Rock Hall of Fame to adopt it, because what is rock and roll without road crews? But I was the fourth one and that was 15 years ago or so. Actually, the guy who introduced me was an old Cleveland (Stuart Ross) and its funny because he was the only guy to ever fire me from a gig. The reason was because this band didn’t want to pay us over the holidays which I thought was really jive. I’m not even going to mention who the band was… But that induction was a pretty cool thing.

The second thing that comes to mind is that I spent 16 years as the production manager for the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. One reason that I was so good at it was that most of the counselors were guys from 80s bands that I had toured with. When I would do the camp, I didn’t drink, I was the first one up and the last one to bed. I usually only got about three hours of sleep.

Anyways, we started taking the camps on the road — I forget where we were, but the crew and I were coming into a hotel and it was a lot of the crew, the counselors, and the campers who were doing the camp who would all be staying at the same hotel. I think it was in Nashville, but we were exhausted — there had been a show that day. There was an opening party, then a show the first day, the second day is a jam night with pizza and beer and the counselors would get up and jam with the campers. Then the third and fourth days are live shows. When we were in LA, we’d play at the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley, where they have a kick ass stage and kick ass gear. Then the last night, we’d play the Whiskey. It was pretty cool for these campers to get to play at the Whiskey, especially if we got guests to play with them like Judas Priest or Zakk Wylde or Cheap Trick. But one of my proudest moments, we came back from the last gig and walked into the hotel into the area where they have continental breakfast and Gary Hoey was in there with a lot of the campers, drinking and partying because it was the last night of the Camp. I was driving the rental van, so I dropped my crew off and went to park the van.

When I came back into the hotel, Gary would do this at a lot of the camps he would do — when I would walk in, he would whistle, and everybody would stop and he’d say “let’s hear it for Dugie!”. Well this particular night, I looked over and my whole crew was standing on tables and we had a running joke about Dead Poets Society…and they were all standing on tables going “Captain My Captain!” which might not mean anything to anybody else but I was speechless, I had to turn and walk away because I started crying. It was one of the proudest moments in my career because it came from my crew and they knew how much I busted my ass and how much I represented them all the time. It’s something I’ll never forget. To this day, when any of them calls me or texts me, they still say “Captain, my Captain”. It’s a pretty nice memory.

Q: What’s next for you? Will you continue working for Michael?

I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t work for Michael until he stops playing. As far as the road goes, I’m 68. I’ve talked to Michael about this, just because of the physicality of it, I want to make it out on the road until I’m 70. When I’m 70, I want to retire from the road, but not from working — I still want to manage Michael’s warehouse and work on stuff and, whoever his road tech becomes, I want to work with them and train them in. I mean, my first touring gig, I was 17. That was 50 years ago… 53 years on the road is a pretty good run. That’s all I wanted to do — I wanted to travel and meet people. I’ve been around the world many times. By the way, my favorite place in the world to visit is Japan. I’ve been to Japan 23 times. I love Japan. Its cool that I go there in peace because my father was in the Navy and he went there in war. He was part of the cleanup crew they sent into Hiroshima three months after the bomb.

I’ve been to Europe 8 or 9 times, but because of weird circumstances, I’ve still never been to Ireland. My name is Dugan, I’m Irish, and I’ve never been to Ireland. Something weird would always happen and it would get cancelled. It was ridiculous. I think there were at least five different times that I was scheduled to go there but for one reason or another, it didn’t happen. There were a couple times with Van Halen, one time with Lita, I can’t remember the other times. But that hurts me.

Q: I heard a rumor about your Fleetwood years. I heard a quote from you that, “Fleetwood Mac made the Van Halen guys look like nuns”…

Yeah, you know that came from a Van Halen interview where someone said “you’ve been with Van Halen so long, you must have seen a lot of drug stuff…” and I said “I was in the Fleetwood Mac for five years and in their heyday, they made Van Halen look like nuns.” But that’s the truth. Fleetwood Mac did more blow than any other band I’ve ever seen in my life, man. Everybody in the band did blow except for Lindsey [Buckingham]. Lindsey wasn’t a blow guy. He had this Hawaiian sticky weed. He would smoke it and everybody in the room would get high from one joint. But that’s true. I didn’t just work for Bob, I would also worked for some of the other acts they managed like Danny Duma who is no longer with us, but I handled him with Todd Sharpe. Todd was a big part of the Fleetwood camp — he did that African album The Visitor with Mick. He went to Africa with them. He was Christine McVie’s musical director and co-wrote a lot of stuff with her.

Above my desk I have a picture of Bob Welsh, me, and John McVie, and a picture of me and Rory Gallagher, and a picture of me with Peter Frampton, and a picture of me and Dave Mason. The one with Dave Mason was taken on my 21st birthday at the bar under the Angora and me and Dave Mason are both fucking wasted. So years later, Michael and Sammy were doing a Christmas show in Las Angeles. Dave Mason was on the bill and his managers came up in a panic because they took his guitar somewhere and there was a misunderstanding and whoever set the guitar up put a set of 11s on his guitar when he normally plays 9s. So they saw me open my workbox and its filled with strings. They explained to me what happened and asked me to change the strings and set up his guitar for 9s. I said sure. Before I left the house, I had grabbed that picture of me and Dave Mason on the off-chance I’d run into him. So I changed the stings and I’m sitting in Michael and Sammy’s dressing room — they weren’t even there yet and all of the sudden this guy walks in and its Dave Mason — I didn’t recognize him — he had gone bald and didn’t have a hat on and stuff. So I gave him the guitar and he was happy with it. He was trying to give me money and I told him I didn’t want any money. He tried to buy me a bottle of booze. I said, I’m fine, seriously. He’s like come on man, you really saved my ass. I said wait a minute, I just thought of something, so I grabbed that picture and had him sign it. The picture was taken in 1973. He laughed and said, “wow, this is a picture of two much younger men.” But he signed the picture for me.

I also got Frampton to sign the picture I had taken with him. We were doing that same Christmas show a couple years back and Peter Frampton was on the show with us. Greg Bissonette, Ringo [Starr]‘s drummer, is on one side, Jason Bonham is on the other and Michael’s bass rig is in the middle and Frampton and Steve Lukather were there and they were working out this amazing version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” it was amazing. Anyways, when they got done, Paul Rodgers and Joe Perry came in to rehearse their part of the show. So there was nobody playing, everyone was just standing around talking. So I took the picture out and brought it up to Peter and I said, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, but this picture is from a long time ago at the Cleveland Agora, and would you sign it for me?” I took the picture out and showed him and he goes, “You motherfucker!!!” the room stops dead and I go, “what?” and he says, “fuck you, you motherfucker! Everybody, look at this. I hate him! He’s still got his hair!” he started laughing and he hugged me. Everyone in the room, including myself, though he was going to punch me. But he signed it and that was cool.

Q: I heard a story one time about the time that Diamond Dave met your mother…

In 1981, nobody knew I was from Cleveland, and we had over 80 crew people. So on any given night off, three quarters of those people were at the bar. So we were in Cleveland and my mom ran the blood donor center at the hospital and she would take blood for open heart surgery. Surgeries were at 5am so she would have to get in there at about 2:30am and draw blood so they’d have enough blood for surgery. So I told her to come out before work and bring a change of clothes with you. We were staying at this really famous rock and roll hotel that’s not there anymore, called Swingos but it was cool — and there was a five-star restaurant in there. So I took my mom to dinner there and after dinner, she was kind enough to buy me an after-dinner drink. So we walk from the restaurant across the hall to the bar, and we sit in a couple open seats at the bar. So everyone sees me come in with my mom, and my mom was a gorgeous woman and she was probably in her mid-50s at the time. So my mom tells me to order a drink and she would be right back, so she leaves, everybody is pointing and looking. Our wardrobe lady comes up to me and she’s like, “Hey Dugie, what’s the deal? That old broad is gorgeous but she’s old enough to be your mother!” Just then my mom comes walking back up and I say “Hey Denise, I’d like to meet this old broad, it’s my mom.” So she goes back to the crew and tells everybody “it is his mother!”

Just then Diamond Dave comes in the side door and struts in and goes over to the crew, who were sitting at tables and everybody is still talking about it. So he does the strut all the way around the bar, comes up behind me and slaps me on the back and says, “hey kid, I understand this beautiful woman is your mother.” He turns to her and says “how are you doing, Ms. Dugan?” which wasn’t her name because she had been married several times… but before I could say anything my mom turns around and says, “oh, hello, what do you do? Are you on Kevin’s crew? Do you know the band?”. I go, “mom, Dave is the frontman…” And Dave says, “yeah, I entertain. I’m the singer…I’m Diamond David Lee Roth.” she goes, “oh, that’s nice.” Then she grabs his hair and says “you’re such a nice-looking boy, but you need to do something with this mess you call your hair…” So Dave looks at me and goes, “So Kev, you’re from here in Cleveland, right? So you should be able to get a job pretty quick after tonight…” and then laughs his ass off and says “We love Kev. Now I know why!” and Dave struts off, every bit of the rock star he is. That was pretty damn funny. My mom was hoot, boy. I remember when I introduced her to Bob Welch, she said, “you’re the first rockstar I’ve ever met. Other than local people like Eric Carmen…” But she was a wonderful woman. She lived to be 88 years old. I’d always fly to Phoenix and play penuchle with her. People would always ask me, “why are you going to Phoenix all the time? Is it a big party area or something?” and I’d say “nah, I play penuchle until 9pm and then we watch M.A.S.H.”

Q: Van Halen is one of these bands that have so many myths and rumors circulating online. Are there any myths you’d like to set straight? …I have a list.

Ok, ask me some of them.

Q: Ok, were David Coverdale and/or Daryll Hall ever approached to audition for the band?

No. Not to the best of my knowledge. I know a lot of people claimed that they were considered for the band and maybe their name was kicked around. I’ll tell you another one that bothers me is when people say in 1982 that Edward called up Gene Simmons and begged him to join KISS. That never happened. Gene called Edward and asked him if he would consider [joining KISS]. Gene said, “we’re so tired of Ace’s bullshit.” I remember Edward’s reply to that was “I have my own band, and we’re doing great. We’re out-selling you. Why would I want to quit my band to join your band?” I was there. Edward never called Gene to ask him to join KISS. It was the other way around. Gene called Edward, and Edward said Fuck no. That’s a rumor that always bugged me.

As far as the auditions, when Dave left the band, the two people they had auditioned, they had called Eric Martin and then the thing happened with Claudio, and Sam was in. Then when Sam left, Gary Cherone got in the door immediately because the band was being managed by his manager, who was a guy named Ray Cluff, and that was a done deal. I loved Gary. I made a wonderful friend, he’s just the most wonderful man, but it was a bad choice for Van Halen. He was still an incredible singer, but it was doomed from the get-go and when things went south, Edward blamed it all on him, which was so wrong. Anyways, what other rumors do you have?

Q: Was Michael approached for any reunion shows? There was talk that there were reunion plans in place…

There were, last year. Michael talked to Eddie Trunk about it. Actually, it was Wolfgang’s idea and I give Wolfgang so much credit for it. I had been saying for years, they need to do a tour with both Dave and Sam and bring Gary Cherone out on the encore. Wolf had this idea, because he was working on a solo record. So he was going to be the opening act and he wanted to call up Michael personally and tell him about it. But Van Halen’s management ended up calling Michael about it and asked him if he would be interested in doing this — it was just in the beginning stages of coming together, and Michael said, “of course”. But yeah, that was like two years ago they started those talks and then Edward’s health took a turn for the worse and it never happened. But that was true.

Q: The 2002 Tour with Sammy and David, there were rumors that there was animosity between the two camps because Michael was playing with Sammy and not playing with Roth.

Actually, I wasn’t on that tour because I was out with Poison. That tour was selling out on the first leg, but after a while, it started to level out. At one point, Michael had been doing guest spots, and whenever Michael would be there, they’d advertise it and ticket sales would increase so much that Live Nation actually approached Michael and offered him his own deal where he would play for 1/3 of Sammy’s show and then if there was an encore where they jammed, he would come and do that. They were supposed to do that [encore jam] and every night, David would say “we’ll do it tomorrow”. He never wanted to go do the encore with Sam and Michael.

Q: I heard a rumor recently from Wolfgang that David Lee Roth had a weird hatred of beach balls… apparently at the last show, they, as a joke, released a bunch of beach balls because they knew Dave hated them.

I have no idea about that. I know a lot of performers don’t like beachballs because kids throw them up on stage and they’ll hit the mic stand and knock the mic into somebody’s teeth. I’ve seen it happened. Sammy’s bass player Mona [Gnader], who I also teched for, I saw her get her tooth chipped once. I saw it happen to Bob Welch, with a beach ball. But I don’t know anything about David hating beach balls.

Q: We all know the whole thing about the M&Ms…who’s idea was that? That was kind of a stroke of genius, really.

Well that was before my time, when they wrote that into the rider. I don’t know if that was Eddie Anderson’s idea or what. I’m going to have to ask Rudy who it was that came up with that. I loved it. When I first started with the band, the M&M thing was getting kind of famous, so I would see a lot of promoters who would use that to promote the show. What they would do is they would get a chick with big boobs and a really tiny bikini and they’d show her with a big bowl of M&Ms as if she was separating them, preparing for the imminent arrival of Van Halen. I always thought that was really smart.

Q: How often would you catch promoters who didn’t read the contract?

Oh yeah, we used to catch them all the time, and believe me, if they didn’t [separate the M&Ms], the band would destroy the dressing room. In 1981, they were still in full destructo mode — right up until ’84 I saw that happen. I saw them destroy dressing rooms and the catalyst that would start it would be the promoter not separating the M&Ms. Its like Eddie Anderson says in the Van Halen movie, if they didn’t read the rider, then how do we know they read anything else — they might not have the lights right or something else.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between being a tech in 1980 and being a tech today?

The biggest difference is the technology. Guitar techs are ten times more knowledgeable nowadays than they were back then. There was a time where a tech would just set up the gear -back in the 70s — those were roadies. When we started to have guitar techs, that’s when you’d have to know how to work on a guitar and set it up and change strings and all that stuff. Technology been a big change too — lights, sound, backline, all that stuff has moved forward so much.

Q: What’s one tool you wouldn’t want to tour without?

This might sound stupid but the first thing that came to my mind is a good guitar boat [a guitar boat is a guitar rack] — not like the ones you have behind you, but a solid guitar boat. Like with Lita, that double neck was so thick that you’d need to put that guitar flat against it. Having the right tools is essential. I have 5 or 6 sets of tools. I have a couple fly bags and a couple I keep at my house, and then I have a whole set I keep on the road. I have a work box that always stays with Michael’s gear unless I’m doing a bus tour with another band.

Q: Anytime I do these interviews, I always ask guys about their “nightmare gigs”…

One tour, we tried out Mesa Boogie and we took their stuff on the road. I think it was Monsters of Rock [1988]. In Japan, I had a nightmare, it was the only time that Michael didn’t do his solo because his gear was malfunctioning. Personally, I think someone was sabotaging the cabs. They were saying that the pressure from the cabinets was blowing the cables out, but why would it only happen that one night? But Michael kept going offline and I’d look, and his wireless would be good — ultimately I’d find that all his speakers were unplugged and I’d have to go climb under the stage because the speakers were built into the stage. I’m pretty sure I know who was doing it too… but I’m not going to go into that. But that was the worst gig ever, definitely.

Q: When Michael left Van Halen, why did you decide to leave with him? Was there an option for you to stay with Van Halen?

Yes. They asked me if I wanted to stay, of course there was never a doubt about what I would do. When they fired Michael, and Michael had to read about it in Rolling Stone, because we hadn’t been working for a long time. Edward said his son was going to be the new bass player in the band. When they started putting rehearsals together, I got a call from the production manager and he asked me if I’d be interested in staying, he said “the brothers would like you to stay” and I said no. My allegiance was to Michael and that’s why I left.

I love Van Halen. It had nothing to do with Wolfgang — he’s a great guy and very talented. I mean look at his record — he played everything on that and the tribute he did for his father brought the world to tears. But I left to be with Michael — we left and within a couple months we were putting Chickenfoot together. That was a phenomenal band! Chad and Sammy and Joe and Michael…wow! That was magic — one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen in my life.

Q: What’s up with that anyway? Is that something that’s going to continue at some point?

Hopefully. It’s a matter of getting everyone’s schedules to line up. Chad has the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joe has his solo career. I wish they’d do another record and another tour. One funny thing about Chickenfoot was when we started, I was in awe of Satriani and I figured I’d eventually get to know him, but the first week of rehearsals, I kept my distance because I didn’t want to come off as an annoying fan. But after five days or so of rehearsals, Satriani waited until there was no one around and he came up to me and says, “Hey man, can I talk to you?” I said sure. He says “Are we ok? Do you have a problem with me? ” I was taken back, and I said, “not at all…why?” he said it seemed like I was avoiding him. So I explained to him that I just didn’t want to come off as… like you see some young techs who want to become an artist’s best friend and I told him I just never wanted to come off like that to him. He was super cool about it and he goes, “don’t worry about that. We’re all family here.” Man, from that point on, I was so comfortable around him and he’s just the most warm, talented, wonderful, talented guy and he’s so down to earth. He taught Vai how to play so you know how good he is. Vai is another phenomenal human being. When he did the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, guys usually give a little speech, and the third time that Steve did it, he did this talk that had very little to do with music — it was about life but it was one of the coolest motivational speeches I’ve ever heard.

Q: So, before Eddie’s passing, did he and Michael mend fences?

Well, I think Edward was going to, I don’t think it ever really happened. There was nothing for Michael to mend. But I don’t think he ever really got to. That’s why Wolfgang wanted to be the one to call Michael and tell him about the reunion tour, because Wolfgang understood the situation. Michael always took the high road, no matter what.

Q: Even Sammy stood up for Michael regarding how he was treated.

You know, when Edward did that interview with Billboard, along with saying that he taught Michael how to play and that he was a better singer, he claimed that back in 1976 or 1977 after Michael joined the band, he would use a video camera to video rehearsals and he would go watch them to learn how to play and he did that until we kicked him out of the band… when Sammy heard that, Sammy called in his film crew from his TV show and had them put out that statement on the internet, I thought that was really cool that Sam came to Michael’s defense like that.

Q: Van Halen was pretty much a family band there at the end…

It was. You’ve probably never seen Alex jam with anyone, ever. Alex said he never wants to play with anyone but Edward. There were all these rumors that they were going to go out on tour and Wolfgang was going to take Edward’s place, and it was Wolfgang who said that was such a bunch of bullshit and he wished people would stop making shit up. But you’d never get Alex to go out any play with anyone else, especially now that Edward has passed. You never see a tape of Alex Van Halen ever going out to any public thing and jamming with anyone — Edward would do that, but not Alex. He said he grew up playing with his brother and that the only person he’d ever want to play with.

Q: There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that gets interpreted a number of ways. So it becomes difficult to see through the smoke, sometimes. I appreciate you guiding us through some of it.

I have a recommendation for anyone who wants to learn a little more about the music industry and a little bit more about Van Halen, check out Ted Templeton’s book. It’s phenomenal. It’s an incredible book about what it’s like to be a producer, how he eventually became the incredible multi-platinum producer that he is. Look at all the people he’s produced, Carly Simon, Van Morrison, Van Halen, the Doobie Brothers, the list goes on. I read a lot of rock and roll books and its one of the best books I’ve ever read.

There are a lot of people out there who get producer credit on records and they couldn’t produce their way out of a paper bag. I was working on a record with a band one time and the bass player is a great guy, was doing overdubs and pickups in the studio. This young producer, who was the latest hip thing, he was telling the bass player after about 10 minutes of playing, “you need to change your strings because they’re wore out.” Michael used to have me keep old strings and sometimes we’d put them on his bass to get the right sound. That guy didn’t know what he was talking about – he was just wasting time and money. So I told the bass player that, and he said, “this guy has six platinum and gold records, how many do you have?” I said, “32. Well… 30 gold and platinum records and two gold singles… I’m just saying…you asked me…” But that was one of the stupidest things I had ever heard in the business — when I told Michael, he laughed his ass off. He said you can’t even break in a set of strings in 10 minutes! But Ted Templeton knows his stuff and he lays it out really elegantly in that book. Everyone should check that out.

Q: Before we go, I gotta hear the story about Mick Jagger… you mentioned it the other day, but I never heard the full story.

Ok, so at the end of 1981, we were done touring — we finished up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That afternoon, we get a notice that the Rolling Stones were booking a show at the Orange Bowl and I forget who was in the middle of the bill, but Henry Paul from The Outlaws had gone solo and he was opening, then there was someone else on the bill and then the Stones. The first day sold out and the second day, they had sold less than 10,000 tickets. The Stones had been saying all along that they needed to get a band in underneath them to cushion it. I think the other band that was supposed to play pulled out or something. Anyways, they asked Van Halen to play. The second day sold out immediately when they put it on sale. So here we were playing with the Stones.

Backstage, the guys from the Stones used to love to wear capezio shoes, Mick and Keith did anyway. They would be running around stage and the stage had these two huge ramps on it. They had three stages that they would leapfrog around the country. When they would put the stages together, they’d have to touch up the paint on the ramps and they were painted with a special paint that had sand mixed in so it would keep them from sliding and falling on their ass.

So it comes time for Michael to do his solo and once again, the stage is a lot wider than we were used to in the arenas. So Michael had taken his bass off and he would throw it — the solo would change, but we would always do that gag. Remember when David Lee Roth would do that jump off the drum riser and do to toe touch and he’d land on the stage? Well, that a really far drop, like 15 feet. So, under the mylar, we had a big mat underneath it, so that he would land on a mat. So when Michael would do his solo, he’d take the bass off and he’d throw it down on the mat and then he’d pretend to jump on it as I made the noises like we talked about earlier. Well, at the last second, he goes to throw it and he realizes that it’s a little further away than he’s used to so he threw it a little harder than usual. So the bass hits the mat, bounces off the drum riser and back over his head and lands on the ramp behind him, face down. So the bass is sliding down this ramp with grip sand on it and I could hear the strings popping. Michael looks at me like “what the fuck!?!” he was supposed to go jump on the guitar. So I should have a spare set of strings sitting out and I didn’t. I admit, that was a mistake. When something like this happens, you learn, and you never do it again.

So I grabbed another bass, went out on stage, threw it down on the mat and flipped him off. So he went and “jumped” on that bass. So went out and gave him his third bass to do the next couple songs and told him I’m going to need a couple songs to change strings and he did the rest of the solo. Like I said, I didn’t have a set of strings there, so I ran back to my workbox and I see Bill Graham, the promoter, and he’s leaning on my workbox talking to some other guy. So I yell, “Bill! Get out of the way!!!” Bill jumps out of the way and I grab the door of my workbox and throw it open and the other guy he was talking to, the door hits him in the chest, and he flies back on his ass about five feet. I yell, “sorry!” grabbed the strings, ran back out, changed strings and got Michael his number one bass back.

Then I went back and found Bill Graham and apologized to him. I said, “where’s your friend? I’d like to apologize to him too.” He says, “you didn’t see who that was? Don’t worry about it. We were in your way.” Then I turn around and I see the guy and he’s got a big floppy hat on and its Mick Jagger. Michael comes off stage and I’m not sure how he found out so quickly but the first thing he says is, “you knocked Mick Jagger on his ass?!?”

Years later, after I worked with Thin Lizzy, I got to know a tech named Jim Barber, who is a great guitar player and a great tech. He was in The Law with Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page and he’s teched for Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck — he’s recorded with them, he’s recorded with the Stones, so he was doing one of Mick’s solo tours and he was staying with me while they were recording. So I went to LAX to pick him up and there’s a limo and a couple vans for all the gear he flew in.

So I started helping go back and forth and grab gear and put it in the van, and everytime I’m walking past this limo. At one point the brought Mick out and put him in the limo. I didn’t know this at the time, but Jim Barber had set all this up. But he’s standing there with the road manager and they open the door to the limo, blocking my path and they push me into the limo and slam the door shut and Mick Jagger is sitting there by himself and he looks at me and he goes, “I understand we’ve met before. I really want to thank you for letting Jim stay at your house…” I’m sitting there thinking “what the fuck!?!” he goes, “you know, we’ve reached out to Eddie and Michael and please try to convince Michael to play on my record for one or two songs, that would be wonderful” I said, “Sure, absolutely.” He says with a smile, “thank you so much and again, I really appreciate it.” And he proceeds to invite me to dinner with him and Dave Stewart, who was producing the record.

Then he says, “well thank you again for letting Jim stay at your house and please remember to talk to Michael about the record…oh, and one more thing I’ve got to mention…” all of the sudden, his facial expression changed and he lunged at me, grabbed me by my shirt and pulls me towards him and says, “if you ever knock me on my ass again, I’ll have you killed!” I was horrified! Then he starts laughing and says, “I can’t keep a straight face…” and he rolls the window down and there were 10 people outside laughing and saying, “we got you!!” that was pretty funny. The fact that Jim got Mick to do that is something else.

You know the hat that he wears in the video for “Undercover For The Night”? That white fedora? That’s what he was wearing and he took the hat off in his room and went to the bar as we were bringing luggage and gear into his room — we were setting up a recording station where he could do demos if he wanted to. Anyways, I kept putting the fedora on and Jim would freak out. Jim is a British guy — he’s got a band called The Barbarians and they’re amazing. He sounds a lot like Beck because he used to play with him. By the way, Jeff Beck is my favorite guitar player – him and Hendrix and Edward.

Pete Townshend is another one of my favorites and he’s not a shredder or anything, but he plays such efficient rhythm and leads. It’s just the way he writes. I’m a big Who fan, they’re my favorite all time live band — I’ve seen them like 28 times.

*Photo Credit on the old photos from the 1980s goes to Neil Zlozower. Check out his book here. It’s got a bunch of photos from Van Halen’s early days.

April 10, 2021 at 5:36 am Quote #63903

Chris UK

Great read, thanks Ron!


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