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One man's kings of six-strings

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

Their 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! They'll be bringing their new name, and new material, to the State Theatre 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," says Mark, 42, the group's guitarist. "But as we move forward, doing more things for charity, we're trying to be careful not to be 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 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

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

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 wakeup call. My 2 cents? Stevie was the guy. He could absolutely do it all."

Joe Satriani

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

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

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."

The Wilson Van

The group formerly known as Van Wilson performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at the State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $20-$25. (727) 895-3045.

One man's kings of six-strings 05/25/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 25, 2012 9:32am]

    

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