On Tuesday, Oct. 6, the world lost one of its greatest guitarist when Eddie Van Halen passed away. Now, one of Eddie’s biggest fans – country superstar Kenny Chesney – has reflected on performing with his childhood hero.
Chesney, 52, posted a moving tribute to Eddie on Twitter after his death. The famous country singer emphasized the time Eddie and his older brother, Alex, joined Chesney and his band on stage at one of their Los Angeles stadium shows. Chesney called the occasion “one of the highlights of my touring life.”
In a PEOPLE interview, the country musician expanded on playing a show with his childhood guitar hero.
“It was one of those moments that every kid who dreams about rock music dreams of,” Chesney explained about the experience. “It was so alive, so in the moment, and both Van Halen brothers [Eddie and Alex] played like it was their show, their fans.”
He said all of the musicians on stage couldn’t contain their excitement to be joined by the Van Halen brothers. In addition, he said the crowd was just as excited to witness the special moment.
“They just brought it and every single person onstage was losing their mind,” Chesney continued. “The audience loved it and so did Eddie and Alex. They were so generous with their time.”
Chesney Reflects on the First Time He Heard Van Halen
Chesney will always remember the once in a lifetime experience of performing with Van Halen. However, he has not forgotten the first time he heard Eddie’s staggering guitar come through the speakers.
“I first heard Eddie Van Halen’s guitar coming out of my friend David Farmer’s garage after football practice. And it tore my world open,” Chesney recalls of the initial moment hearing Van Halen. “You never forget the first time you heard it and it sets a bar for life.”
In addition, the country music star vividly remembers the first time Eddie Van Halen called him on the phone. The singer was stunned when Van Halen’s manager asked if it was alright for Eddie to give him a ring.
“You can imagine how I felt having (Van Halen band manager) Irving Azoff ask, ‘Is it alright if Eddie Van Halen gives you a call?'” Chesney told PEOPLE in the interview. “And then looking down a little bit later to see that 818 area code and thinking, ‘That’s Eddie Van Halen!'”
Chesney says the two musicians clicked immediately and that it felt like they had known each other for years.
“I answered and he sounds just like you’d think. But, then he falls into talking to you about music, life, road life, and all these things,” Chesney explained. “It’s like you’ve always been friends and he knows your life and he understands.”
When the Van Halen brothers agreed to play with Chesney at his band’s L.A. show, the country artist couldn’t have been more thrilled. During the concert, the late guitar genius and his brother Alex performed one of Van Halen’s biggest hits: “Jump.” The brother’s played a few more of their classics, as well, and everyone in attendance loved every minute of the special night.