Jerry Cantrell recalls playing the worst show of his life in front of Eddie Van Halen: “I couldn’t wait until the gig was over”

Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains
(Image credit: Tina Korhonen/Future)

Gibson TV, the US guitar giant’s online TV network, has officially released the latest episode of Icons, featuring Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

The 75-minute video is a fascinating insight into the electric guitar player’s long and storied career, but one moment in particular wraps up his highest and lowest points in one fateful gig - Alice in Chains’ first night opening up for Van Halen back in 1991.

“First time I met Ed Van Halen, I was getting ready to open for his band,” Cantrell recalls. “He’s standing in my pit, with Valerie [Bertinelli, Van Halen’s then-wife] right next to him and [son] Wolfie in her arms. He’s got his guitar on, and he’s just playing scales, and he’s like, ‘Hey dude! What’s up?’ I’m like, ‘Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?’

“I was so fucking nervous, so I came over and said hi to him. He’s like, ‘Oh man, you’re gonna be fine!’ And I think it was probably the worst show I ever played in my life, because I could not stop thinking, ‘He’s right there.’ I just couldn’t focus, and I couldn’t wait until the gig was over.

“After that, I was fine, but that first gig was nerve-racking, because I just could not get out of my head that Eddie Van Halen was looking at me, and we’re playing in front of Van Halen.

“But we ended up being really good friends, and they kept asking us to do more and more legs, and I think we ended up spending maybe six months with those guys. We did a leg, and they were like, ‘Hey, do another one, hey, do another one!’”

The documentary spans the entirety of Cantrell’s career in music, from his origins with the guitar, the development of the Seattle band’s inimitable sound, and Alice in Chains’ tragedy and triumphant rebirth.

Cantrell also goes on to discuss his long-running friendship with Van Halen and how Eddie once filled his entire garage with his signature gear - plus the story of how he was reunited with his missing Goldtop Wolfgang.

Previous episodes of Icons have featured Tony Iommi and Bob Rock.

You can watch the full episode above, and find more info on Gibson TV over at

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.