Brothers take Van Wilson beyond Van Halen

Published May 28 2012
Updated May 28 2012

The Wilson brothers — actor Patrick, PR guru Paul and Fox 13 anchor Mark — are unfairly handsome, smooth, successful. It's a bit much, right? But if it makes you feel better, let it be known that, underneath the GQ gloss, they're really just slobbering fan boys who'd trade in all their ridiculous luck just to rub elbows with Eddie Van Halen.

The Wilsons' gushy passion for all things Van Halen has become a charming local phenomenon, an all-smiles cover band that's become much more. They call themselves Van Wilson, playing the random gig when crowded schedules allow. Or at least they used to call themselves that. Mark, who's no stranger to breaking major news, has a scoop. They're changing their name to...

The Wilson Van! (It's weird, we dig it.) They'll be bringing their new name, and new material, to the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on Saturday for a fundraiser benefiting Paws for Patriots, which provides guide dogs for disabled veterans.

"The whole Van Wilson thing started out as a joke, it was just kind of accidental," says Mark, 42, the group's fast-fingered guitarist. "But as we move forward, doing more things for charity, we're trying to be careful not to be just another Van Halen cover band. So we're going with a totally different name."

As an '80s kid, Mark worshiped Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and the Hot for Teacher gang: listening to them, playing like them, even learning how to design his own guitars. One of those homemade beauties, a reimagined Gibson Les Paul, will be live-auctioned off at the show.

Although Paul is the frontman, and Patrick is the Hollywood heartthrob — blind Navy vet and smooth bassist Eric Kallal will also join in the fun — Mark will do his best to delight the guitar wonks. He's an encyclopedia of shredders, so I couldn't resist asking for his five favorite guitarists and their signature songs:

Eddie Van Halen, the ultimate guitar hero, Hear About It Later and Mean Street

"I can't pick one song, so I pick two. So many people think Eddie's only about speed and noise. But there's so much heart and feel and soul in his playing. And blues, a lot of blues."

Stevie Ray Vaughn, Texas blues-rocker who died in a helicopter crash at age 35, Stang's Swang

"To this day, I honestly feel guilty for not discovering him sooner. It wasn't until he died that I got the wake-up call. My 2 cents? Stevie was the guy. He could absolutely do it all."

Joe Satriani, smooth-pated guitar-for-hire in supergroup Chickenfoot, If I Could Fly

"He's a technical master — maybe a little too perfect. I like running to his music a lot. It's too bad that Joe is so tempered in Chickenfoot. They should just find moments to say, 'Okay, Joe, you take it from here.' "

Nuno Bettencourt, Portugese secret weapon of '80s hair band Extreme, It's a Monster

"Nuno is everything that the '80s stand for! He's the real deal. I've seen him quite a few times. When he does It's a Monster live, I've never seen anyone shred with such precision — all without looking!"

Brad Paisley, country superstar and old-school picker, Cliffs of Rock City

"I didn't like Brad at first, but I eventually realized he's probably one of the most talented people in the entire business. He's found a way to parody country music but at the same time write songs that mean something. I think what he might be missing is 'edge.' He's just a really nice guy. He wants nothing more than to put on a great show."

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.