Steve Lukather recalled the moment he first spoke to Jimmy Page – after being convinced the Led Zeppelin legend actually wanted to talk to Eddie Van Halen.

The moment took place in the early ‘90s when Page was being honored at a Hollywood event. Toto guitarist Lukather had arrived with his friend Van Halen; a number of other well-known guitarists were also among the invited guests.

“I showed up at the event with Ed, and there’s Jimmy graciously greeting everyone,” Lukather told Innerviews recently. “Jimmy points at me with his finger and motions to come over. I’m thinking ‘Oh, he’s pointing at Ed.’ I look at Ed and go, ‘Hey, Jimmy wants to talk to you.’ Then Jimmy goes, ‘No, no, no’ and points at me … and said ‘Steve Lukather, come here.’ So, I’m going up to talk to Jimmy, who just called me by my name. I was very excited about that. It took me aback.”

It turned out Page had a message to pass. “Jimmy said, ‘I just want to say something to you,'" Lukather recalled. "I said, ‘Jesus, Jimmy, what?’ He goes, ‘I read an article in which you said maybe if you hadn’t been a studio musician, more people would have taken you seriously as a guitar player. Me and John Paul Jones were studio musicians back in the ‘60s. All these guys out here, they don’t know what that means. You should be really proud of that.’ I gave him a hug and said, ‘Can I tell people you said that?’ He laughed and said yes. He was one of the nicest people ever to me and one of my biggest heroes.”

Another attendee at the event was Christopher Guest, known for playing the role of guitarist Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap. “I had just worked with Jeff Beck on a project and heard Chris patterned some of Nigel’s look and persona on Beck,” Lukather said. “But Chris didn’t break character during the event.” That soon changed. “I leaned over to him and said, ‘I want you to know Beck cracked up and loved that you based your character on him.’ Chris looked at me and said, ‘He wasn’t mad?’ And he totally broke character.

“I said, ‘No, he thought it was great.’ Chris goes, ‘Oh God, I was worried he was going to be pissed off I was making fun of him.’ I said, ‘No, man, he gets the joke, totally, and thought it was great.’"

The exchange led to Lukather being hired as producer for Spinal Tap’s 1992 album, Break Like the Wind. “They had the right producer for the right band!” he laughed. “It was amazing. We went for it. I’m still friends with all the Spinal Tap guys.”

 

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