Hello, again!

This week, please enjoy a guest article written by my cousin, Greg Rule!

Before moving to California and stumbling into a music career, I was a kid in Wichita who spent summers working at Crystal Lake Beach rocking out to fun-in-the-sun songs such as Van Halen’s Beautiful Girls and Dance the Night Away. When I eventually got to see Van Halen in concert at the Kansas Coliseum in 1981, I was hooked for life. Without a doubt, this was the most powerful and unique rock band I’d ever seen! Eddie’s guitar playing in particular was otherworldly.

Decades later, in 2015, I got called to work with Van Halen for their summer tour ... a “pinch me, I’m dreaming” gig. I’d been warned however that working with VH was “a tough room” and that I’d better keep my head down, mouth shut, and try not to get fired. The Van Halen brothers were a demanding duo, and rightfully so considering their accomplishments and stature in the rock world.

As it turned out, the tour was a great success and the brothers were absolutely wonderful to work with. When we finished the final show of the tour at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 4, 2015, we all hugged, high-fived, and said our goodbyes. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it would be Eddie’s farewell bow and Van Halen’s final show. I’m still in shock over his passing. My cousin Marty, also a fan, asked me to share some memories of Eddie.

Here are two fun ones from the 2015 tour:

After being hired for the tour, my first assignment was to spend a day at 5150 Studios with the three Van Halens (Alex, Eddie, and son Wolfgang) in a private rehearsal. 5150 is the legendary home studio on Eddie’s hilltop property in Los Angeles. My job was to manage and operate the keyboard tracks for the synth-heavy hits such as Jump and I’ll Wait. Since it was my first time going to 5150, I didn’t know what to expect schedule-wise. I decided to make a quick stop at Ralph’s grocery store at the bottom of the hill and pick up a bottle of water and a snack just in case the day ran long. As I was standing in line to pay, a thought popped into my mind: “Here I am just one mile from Eddie Van Halen’s home. I wonder if he ever comes down the hill and buys his own groceries?” Practically the instant that thought entered my mind, guess who came walking toward me in line? Yep, it was Eddie Van Halen himself. “See you up at the house,” he said smiling. I’ll never forget the cosmic timing of that.

Another memorable moment happened at our show in Kansas City (Bonner Springs) on July 22, 2015. It was a hot, humid summer night at the amphitheater and the insects were out en masse. When the show began, the stage lit up like the 4th of July and swarms of bugs descended. The band was so distracted swatting away pests, I’m amazed they could play as well as they did. Midway through Eddie’s guitar solo, he stopped suddenly. Commotion broke out onstage. We wondered if his guitar rig had gone down. Eventually Ed got on the microphone and informed the audience, “Sorry, there’s a BIG-ASS bug on my pedalboard!” The incident made headlines the next day on CNN as “The Bug That Stopped The Van Halen Concert.” I always thought if I ever bumped into Ed again in the future, I’d remind him of that hilarious showstopper in KC.

Sadly I never got that chance. Edward Lodewijk Van Halen passed away on October 6, 2020 at age 65. Rest in peace, dear EVH ... musical pioneer, legend, guitar hero, and, for me, a wonderful boss.

~ Greg Rule

Thanks for sharing your memories of Eddie with us, Greg!

Your friend in the garden,

Marty Johnson
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center