The performance took place at the National Association of Music Merchants convention. The NAMM show (as it’s often called) has historically been the largest trade event for music products, with more than 100,000 people attending annually. Held in Anaheim, Calif. – less than 30 miles from Los Angeles – the convention regularly welcomes many of rock’s biggest names, making appearances, giving demonstrations and generally supporting the various companies they endorse or are aligned with.
For the ‘87 show, Eddie was supporting Kramer, the guitar company with whom he’d signed an endorsement deal in ‘81. The rocker famously used Kramer models throughout the decade, including the Rockinger tremolo and 5150 Baretta.
“There was a big buzz going around that Eddie would be appearing,” recalled Vintage Music Images photographer David Plastik, who captured the picture above. When the rocker jumped on stage for a demonstration, he invited some friends to join him.
“All of this happened by surprise,” Plastik noted, adding that Eddie “also jammed with Steve Stevens and Tim Bogert.” Still, the biggest surprise was Winslow, the comedian best-known as Larvell Jones a.k.a. the human sound machine from Police Academy. Winslow and Van Halen traded riffs, with Eddie wailing on his axe while Winslow provided impressively realistic guitar-like vocals. “They were dueling,” Plastik recalled, “with Eddie playing a lick and Michael voicing it back.”
Though the duet was brief, it got the attention of MTV, who featured a clip of the performance during their music news segment. “If you find it kind of hard to tell who is doing what there, apparently that’s the point,” joked host Mark Goodman.
Though the NAMM appearance was the only known collaboration between the comedian and the Van Halen guitarist, it wasn’t Winslow’s only foray into rock. The actor has used his unique skills to cover other classic artists over the years, including an impressive rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
Watch Eddie Van Halen Jam with ‘Police Academy”s Michael Winslow