The instrumental members of VAN HALEN singer David Lee Roth's solo band were offered a new record deal, with Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, following their appearance in California earlier this year. The revelation was made by Soto during a recent interview with Eonmusic.
Guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette reunited on January 26 for a performance at "Ultimate NAMM Night" in Anaheim. They played two songs, with Soto standing in for David Lee Roth: the Sheehan-penned TALAS headbanger "Shy Boy" which appeared on Roth's "Eat 'Em And Smile" album, and a cover of QUEEN's "Tie Your Mother Down".
Speaking with Eonmusic, Soto said that Roth had been approached to perform with the four members of the band — Vai, Sheehan, Bissonette and keyboardist Brett Tuggle — at the event. The singer explained: "Initially, they did reach out to Dave and asked him if he wanted to do it, but he was in New York during that week, and he said he would have loved to have done it."
It was Roth's enthusiasm for the get-together that ultimately affected the song choices for the jam. Jeff continued: "From that, the guys, mainly Steve, they worried that if they ever wanted to put this thing together and actually make it work, by doing it with me and doing two David Lee Roth songs, he might say; 'Yeah, you know, you've kind of already done it, you don't need me to do it anymore,' kind of thing. So, it was by design that we removed 'Yankee Rose'."
According to Soto, the reaction to the two-song set was so positive that the one-off appearance had actually resulted in an offer from an undisclosed company to record a full album.
"The aftermath, it got so much press, it got so much notice," Jeff said. "We got to the point where a record company offered a deal for the 'Eat 'Em And Smile' band and myself fronting to do an album together. It got to that, but everybody's busy, and everybody's doing their thing, and I don't expect anytime soon that we're going to revisit that in a real way, but it was still a lot of fun to do."
The January 2019 surprise appearance came more than three years after Roth's aborted "Eat 'Em And Smile" reunion in Hollywood. The November 2015 show at the Lucky Strike Live, which was called off at the last minute by the fire marshal, would have marked the first time in 30 years that Roth joined Sheehan, Vai, Bissonette and Tuggle to perform some of the hits from the classic LP.
While fans were disappointed that the show was scrapped, Vai later told Ultimate Classic Rock that there was still hope the "Eat 'Em And Smile" musicians might reunite at a later date. "We tasted a little bit of the forbidden fruit there," Vai said. "We all decided that it would be nice, why not? It was a great era. It was a great record, we were a great band. So it's on the radar. It's just a matter of getting everybody's schedules to align. That's the tough part."
"Eat 'Em And Smile" was the first of two Roth albums to feature the duo of Vai and Sheehan on guitar and bass.
Billy said in a 2017 interview with Songfacts that he was "ready to go" if Roth ever decided to do some shows with the "Eat 'Em And Smile" band. "We have a great respect and love for Dave and what he did for us," he continued. "There's no secret undercurrent thing going on that I'm not talking about. The fact of the matter is it's Dave's call. If he chooses to do so, I couldn't be happier."
The photo above comes courtesy of Joe Schaeffer Photography and Jessica Chase of "Ultimate Jam Night".