The story of how Dweezil Zappa ended up with Eddie Van Halen's Kramer "star" guitar is our favourite from Gibson TV's The Collection series yet. It's one of a number of incredible pieces he owns and it's well worth watching the full episode for more. But we had to hone in on how a 12-year-old Van Halen-obsessed Dweezil ended up getting a guitar from Eddie in 1982, and a Runnin' With The Devil lesson with his high school band. It's the stuff of dreams…
"It's pretty crazy," says Dweezil. "I was 12 years old and I had been playing guitar for seven, eight, nine months max, I don't remember exactly. But I was listening to only Fair Warning and Van Halen I, just on a loop, [I'd] switch from one to the other. I was listening to some Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads [too] like Diary Of A Madman and stuff like that. But one day out of nowhere the phone rang… my mom pickups it up and it's some guy purporting to be Edward Van Halen. Of course I want this person to be Edward Van Halen because that's the coolest thing ever.
"My dad ends up getting on the phone and they talk for a few minutes and then 15 minutes later he's at the house… he shows up at the house and at the bottom of the staircase there's some kind of lighting so he's backlit and he's coming up the stairs. He's carrying a guitar and it's not in a case. For me it was like he was backlit with a smoke machine and Mean Streets is already playing.
"So he's walking up the steps and and it turns out he's in the Women And Children First [album cover shoot] jumpsuit. He's got this guitar and it's a Kramer guitar, this is before he was talking about endorsing Kramer so there's a piece of tape over the headstock logo. And i't's a purple guitar with two humbuckers in it and without even really getting into the, 'Hi, how are?' kind of stuff it was, 'Ok, play eruption' because it was this amazing moment.
"Here was this guy I'd heard so much and never seen up close and when you see how somebody really does what they do; where they play it, what strings they're playing it on, that was burned into my mind. There was no way I'd ever forget exactly what he played. That was just the coolest experience until the next coolest experience that came a few weeks later…
Dweezil then proceeds to get his Kramer EVH signature guitar from the rack.
"Originally, 12 year old me was playing in a talent show at my school," he recalls to Agnesi. "I don't know exactly how this happened but Edward Van Halen came to my soundcheck and I'm playing Running With The Devil with my 12 year old buddies. I'm not only playing one chord wrong, but my guitar's not playing in tune.
"So Ed drives home, comes back with his guitar, which originally was cream coloured with an orange lightning bolt. He brings that guitar back, puts it on me and he says, "You're playing it wrong." He stands behind me, he counts it off with the kids and he does the pick slide, the whole thing. It was the craziest experience. And this is before MTV… you would have never known what rock stars looked like or sounded like unless you met them in this situation. You'd only have pictures in a magazine or what was on the album.
"After the show the next day, I called him and thanked him. I said that if you want to come and grab the guitar… [Eddie said] "Oh no you can keep that guitar". So I kept that guitar and I painted it, this was like my homage to the Schwinn bicycle painting of Van Halen-esque guitars. I painted it like this when I was 13."
The Kramer now features a Tom Anderson humbucker pickup that Dweezil screwed straight to the body, EVH-style. The guitar also features a 'corporate rock still sucks' sticker on the back, like the one Kurt Cobain used on his black Strat.
On the momentsofnote site, Dweezil also details the scrapes his Kramer has been in over the years…
"It’s had preamps installed and removed," he writes. "It’s got a different neck than the original. It’s fallen off of Thomas Nordegg’s scooter into on coming traffic – WITHOUT being in a case! It has some nice scars from that experience.
"Anyway it’s a big part of my youth and it always reminds me of the excitement of playing guitar."
As well as the generosity Eddie showed him as a child, Dweezil also shares an emotional memory in the video above of the late legend being the first person to call when Dweezil's father Frank Zappa passed away in 1993.
"When you have friends who step up and do something for you, it matters," says Dweezil. "But it was unexpected it would be him who would call me first."