Being the son of a legendary musician has its perks. If you’re Dweezil Zappa, the oldest son to experimental guitar god Frank Zappa, it means that other guitar gods can casually drop by your house or show up to your middle school band’s gig.
When discussing his guitar collection with Gibson TV, Zappa pulls out an axe with a distinctive paint job and explains his special relationship with the guitar’s original owner, Eddie Van Halen. “I was 12 years old. I had been playing guitar for maybe eight, nine months max… but I was listening only to Fair Warning and Van Halen I. That was just on a loop.” As it turned out, Zappa’s fandom of Van Halen was a two-way street, as Eddie was eager to meet Frank.
“One day, out of nowhere, the phone rang,” Dweezil recalls. “Pick up the house line and… it’s some guy purporting to be Eddie Van Halen.” Zappa promptly got his father. “My dad ends up getting on the phone. They talk for a few minutes, and then fifteen minutes later, he’s at the house.” Van Halen didn’t show up empty-handed either. “He’s backlit, and he’s coming up the stairs. And he’s carrying a guitar, and it’s not in a case.” The young Zappa’s imagination immediately went wild. “To me, it was like he was backlit with a smoke machine and ‘Mean Street’ is already playing.”
Dweezil and Eddie established a connection, and a few weeks later, Zappa was playing in a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition when he got a surprise. “Twelve-year-old me was playing in a talent show at my school. I don’t know exactly how this happened, I had nothing to do with arranging this, but Edward Van Halen came to my soundcheck.”
“I’m playing ‘Runnin with the Devil’ with my twelve-year-old buddies. I’m not only playing one chord wrong, but my guitar’s not staying in tune. And so Ed drives home, comes back with this guitar… and he puts it on me, says ‘You’re playing it wrong’, stands behind me… and he counts it off with the kids. He does the pick slide, the whole thing, and it was the craziest experience.”
Van Halen left before Zappa’s band played, leaving Dweezil with a brand new Kramer guitar. “I called him and thanked him. I said, ‘Hey, if you want to come grab the guitar…’. [Van Halen said] ‘Oh no, you can keep that guitar.’” Zappa ended up painting the guitar similar to Van Halen’s Frankenstrat design and kept the guitar as a tribute to his mentor and idol.