Billy Sheehan: "I was offered the Van Halen position as bassist three times"

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Any band would be lucky to have Billy Sheehan, and clearly Eddie Van Halen agreed as the bassist has revealed Van Halen approached him on three separate occasions despite Michael Anthony already occupying the low end spot in the lineup.

"I was offered the position as bassist three times through the years, and I consider it a great honor," Sheehan told The Metal Voice in a recent interview. "However, I am torn because I love Michael Anthony, and I think he is the best bass player for Van Halen. And as much as I would have love to do that, I want to see Michael in the band. I'm not sure why they asked me to join the band. Michael is an awesome player and singer and who knows what the situation was."

The three approaches cover a wide period of Van Halen's history. It began when Sheehan's band Talas opened for Van Halen in 1981. 

As much as I would have love to do that, I want to see Michael in the band

"The first time was the tour of Fair Warning," Sheehan recalled. "We talked about it then. Then I spoke about it with David Lee Roth, but I mostly spoke about it with Eddie Van Halen in Toronto, Canada. And then the second time was 1984. Eddie showed me the stage setup. We talked about it then. Then the last time was when I got together with Eddie and Alex Van Halen at their house."

More Billy Sheehan

Sheehan also revealed that he could be the only person to have played with every single member of Van Halen… with a slight technical caveat.

"I played with Dave. I did a show with Michael Anthony for a NAMM Show jam. I jammed with Eddie and Al at their house. I played with Sammy Hagar. I did a Who tribute tour with Gary Cherone. 

"And I never played with Wolfie — played music with him — but we did… Myself, Ed, Steve Lukather and Pat Torpey did a benefit show for Jason Becker in Chicago one year, and Ed was kind enough to offer me to fly home with him. 

"And he was with his son. And Ed wanted to sleep. So I played — he was a little tiny kid, Wolfgang — and we played some number games and letter games and drew pictures. So, technically, I played with him, but not music. But I love that band. I love all those guys."

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.