Vito Bratta recounts emotional meeting with Eddie Van Halen: "I was touched enough to where I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom, and cry"

Vito Bratta (left) and Eddie Van Halen perform onstage
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Guitar World recently sat down for a rare, exclusive interview with Vito Bratta, whose electric guitar heroics with White Lion in the '80s made him a legend, for a chat about the guitarists who shaped his sound.

One of the names that came up in the discussion was Eddie Van Halen, to whom Bratta was often – in less than favorable terms – compared in his early days. As annoying as they were to the White Lion guitarist at the time, however, those comparisons did end up making the one in-person meeting he had with Van Halen a rather cathartic one.

Van Halen, Bratta tells GW, was indeed a significant influence on his development as a guitarist – in his words, "the image of what I thought of when I thought about being a guitar player in a rock band."

"The thing that struck me most about Eddie Van Halen when he came out was that here was literally everything that I had been chasing wrapped up in one guy," Bratta explains. 

"He had the melody, the tone, the picking, the rapid-fire stuff, and he had the look of being a guitar player. He was the image of what I thought of when I thought about being a guitar player in a rock band. And it was all wrapped up in one person. It was unfathomable to me then, and it still is today."

Eddie Van Halen performs with Van Halen in Chicago, Illinois on March 15, 1986

Eddie Van Halen performs with Van Halen in Chicago, Illinois on March 15, 1986 (Image credit: Paul Natkin/WireImage)

His admiration of Van Halen aside, though, Bratta was, understandably, less than thrilled when accusations of stealing Van Halen's style were lobbed in his direction upon White Lion's commercial breakthrough in the mid-1980s.

"Once I became established with White Lion in the ‘80s, I got a lot of shit from people who said I was aping his style," Bratta says. "That was all bullshit. It got to the point where I met Eddie once, and I asked him, ‘Does it freak you out that I play like you?’ I thought that because it had been drilled into my head by magazines and stuff." 

Van Halen, Bratta tells GW, was dismissive of the notion that the latter player was merely an EVH clone.

"Now, I’m not the type to use Eddie’s name for whatever – especially since he passed away – but I will say that Eddie complimented me, and that he didn’t agree," Bratta shares.

"What I will say is that when I talked to Eddie, he didn’t agree. I got to meet him once when he came into the studio during the recording of [White Lion's 1991 album] Mane Attraction. He came in, and he was sitting on my 5150 amp. I was blown away. Here I am, standing in the studio, watching Eddie Van Halen sitting on my amp, jamming out on guitar. 

"Eddie said a lot of nice things to me that day," Bratta went on, "and I’ll take them to my grave, but I’ll tell you this, I was touched enough to where I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom, and cry. That might make me sound like a dick, but after being told I sounded like him, that I was copying him, and all this shit, it meant a lot to hear that he liked what I did, and that he respected it."

Though Bratta would leave White Lion – and the music business entirely – shortly after the release of Mane Attraction, he remains one of the most highly-regarded guitarists of his era. 

Keep an eye out for our full interview with him in the coming days...

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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