I feel compelled to write A few words about one of my very best friends, Jason Becker. Most of you know who he is, and know his story [We put Becker on our cover for the July 2012 issue]. Bob Ezrin had been slated to produce David Lee Roth’s 1991 album, A Little Ain’t Enough. For whatever reason, that didn’t work out, but before Ezrin left the project, he asked me if I’d be interested in teaching this new shredder guy some stuff about blues. The shredder was, of course, Jason, and he called a couple of days later to set up a time for his first lesson.
Before the lesson date, Jason sent over a couple of CDs of his band Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. I gave the CDs a listen, and I was not impressed. I was pretty fed up with shredding by that time, so I probably wasn’t listening with an open mind. All I could think was, “What the hell is going to happen at the lesson?” I was pretty apprehensive. Most of the shredders I had met were pretty arrogant, and I didn’t really have time for that.
When Jason arrived, I opened my door, and there stood a tall, skinny guy with a lot of hair and a guitar. I was living in a pretty small apartment in Hollywood then, so there was no place to hide—except maybe the bathroom. So I figured, “Let’s get to it.”
When he told me he was just 20 years old, I was a little impressed, as it was hard to believe he could play like that at 20. We started talking about the blues, and he said Stevie Ray Vaughan was his favorite player. That was music to my ears. We both began to relax, because we had found some common ground. I put on Albert King’s 1969 release, Years Gone By—not his best tone, perhaps, but some really beautiful playing. I told Jason, “This is where Stevie Ray got a lot of his blues.” Jason loved it, and from that moment on, I knew we were going to get along just fine.
We had several lessons, and it was very clear that not only was Jason an incredible and remarkable talent, but also that we were becoming fast friends. Later on, as Jason entered my apartment, I noticed he was limping. I jokingly asked if he had stubbed his toe. He said, “No. I don’t know why it’s doing that.” That sent a chill up my spine. He said he had an appointment with a doctor to find out what was up. After many doctors and many tests, Jason was diagnosed with ALS.