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Turns out Billy Sheehan was offered the Van Halen bass player slot three separate times

(Image credit: Gonzales Photo/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Eddie Van Halen has had issues with former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony over the years, which eventually resulted in his being ousted from the band in 2006 and replaced with Eddie’s son, Wolfgang.

But way before Wolfie took up the four-string mantle, Eddie apparently had his eye on another player – bass wizard Billy Sheehan, who over the years has played with everyone from Talas, Mr. Big and the Winery Dogs to Sons of Apollo, Niacin and, of course, David Lee Roth in his post-Van Halen, Eat ‘Em and Smile and Skyscraper days.

Regarding his Van Halen experience, Sheehan recounted to the Metal Voice (opens in new tab), "I was offered the position as bassist three times through the years, and I consider it a great, great honor.

“However, I am torn because I love Michael Anthony, and I think he is the best bass player for Van Halen. And as much as I would have loved to do that, I want to see Michael in the band. I'm not even sure why they asked me to join the band. Michael is an awesome player and a great singer and who knows what the situation was."

He continued, "The first time, I think it was the Fair Warning [ tour in 1981]. "We talked about it then. Then I spoke about it with David Lee Roth, but I mostly spoke about it with Eddie Van Halen in Toronto, Canada. And then the second time was 1984. Eddie showed me the stage setup. We talked about it then. Then the last time was when I got together with Eddie and Alex Van Halen at their house."

While Sheehan never did find himself in the Van Halen hot seat, he did reveal that he has played, in one form or another, with every member of the band – almost.

"I played with Dave. I did a show with Michael Anthony for a NAMM show jam. I jammed with Eddie and Al at their house. I played with Sammy Hagar. I did a Who tribute tour with Gary Cherone,” he said. 

"And I never played with Wolfie – played music with him – but myself, Ed, Steve Lukather and Pat Torpey did a benefit show for Jason Becker in Chicago one year, and Ed was kind enough to offer to fly home with him.  And he was with his son. And Ed wanted to sleep. So I played – he was a little tiny kid, Wolfgang – and we played some number games and letter games and drew pictures. So, technically, I played with him, but not music. But I love that band. I love all those guys."

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Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.