The death of Eddie Van Halen on Tuesday had Carson Daly sharing his memories of the personal side of a guitar virtuoso whose riffs achieved mythical status with rock music fans.
Carson, who has long been a part of the music industry from his early days at KROQ in Los Angeles to MTV's "TRL" and now NBC's "The Voice," paid tribute on TODAY Wednesday to Van Halen, who died at 65 from cancer, according to a statement by his son, Wolfgang.
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"I love what Valerie wrote — God bless you Valerie — his impish grin," Carson said. "He had this mischievous grin about him with this high-wattage smile. If he walked in here and interacted with us, for the next six hours we'd all be telling everybody, 'Man, I met Eddie Van Halen today and he was the greatest guy.'"
He also came off as a laid-back presence despite his status as a rock legend.
"I met him at MTV a couple times," Carson said. "He walked in my dressing room, he'd light up a smoke, he'd grab my guitar. He gave me a guitar lesson."
Van Halen was born in Amsterdam and grew up in California, eventually forming Van Halen with brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass, and flamboyant frontman David Lee Roth on vocals.
Van Halen's pyrotechnic guitar solos were a staple of the band as they became one of the biggest acts in the world after releasing their first album in 1978, which included his epic guitar performance on "Eruption."
"Everybody had him in their top 10 (guitarists of all time)," Carson said. "Rolling Stone had him No. 8 of all time. I have him on the Mount Rushmore with Clapton and Hendrix and Jimmy Page. 'Eruption' is literally the best guitar solo of all time."
Van Halen's perfection of using the technique of tapping the guitar neck with two hands gave the band an innovative sound that was often imitated by other rock bands of the 1980s. He even received patents for three pieces of guitar technology he invented to help create that sound.
"And it was his style that made Eddie Van Halen different from everybody else," Carson said. "You saw his two hands on the (guitar) fret. It was the way he played."
In addition to 10 multiplatinum albums as part of Van Halen, the guitarist also famously created the riff on Michael Jackson's 1982 megahit "Beat It."
Carson recounted how Van Halen did it for free, playing the riff in exchange for a case of beer and some dance lessons from Jackson. At one point, he reworked the middle of the song while Jackson was taking a break.
"They played it, Michael loved it, and the rest is history," Carson said.
Van Halen's guitar playing was so explosive there were many moments where it was hard to separate reality from the myth.
"There's also a story that when they were recording that (riff for "Beat It") that a sound monitor speaker actually lit on fire as he was laying down that solo," Carson said. "I don't know if it's true, but I believe it."