'Gotta Keep Things Moving...'For David Lee Roth lightening struck twice when he tapped guitar virtuoso Steve Vai for his first full-length solo album, 1986’s Eat ‘em and Smile.
Following a decade alongside Eddie Van Halen, anything less would have seemed as if Diamond Dave were just settling for what he could get. Instead, he dove into his solo career with a big splash, introducing to the world one of the few guitarists who could arguably out-Van Halen Eddie Van Halen.
Steve Vai had, of course, been around for years before DLR brought him on board: He’d been working with Frank Zappa since 1979 and was often credited on Zappa’s albums as performing “stunt guitar” or “impossible guitar parts.”
Vai left as Zappa’s fulltime guitar player in the early 80s, releasing a solo album and serving a short time as Yngwie Malmsteen’s replacement in Alcatrazz. Then, in 1985, he made the career move that would catapult him onto rock’s world stage.
In an old interview with the DLR Army fansite, Vai reminisced about how he ended up joining forces with Diamond Dave. Billy Sheehan, who would play bass on Eat ‘em and Smile, recommended Vai to Dave. “I’ll never forget,” Vai said. “I was in the shower, covered in soap, and a call came in: ‘Hey, this is Dave Roth, man!’ I was like, ‘No, it's not!’ He said, ‘Yeah man, we’re putting a group together.’”
Eat ‘em and Smile came out to mostly positive reviews. Critics agreed the album was fun in the style of the early Van Halen albums and was actually better than the slick pop rock coming from Dave’s old band mates. Some even called it the “real” follow-up to 1984.