- Fabio Nosotti/CORBIS
Van Halen's death, which followed a lengthy battle with cancer, was announced on Twitter by his son Wolfgang.
Before the LA-based act became one of the biggest arena draws of the '80s, it was among the hard rock up-and-comers Jack Orbin's Stone City Attractions brought to town to play venues including the Convention Center Arena and Sunken Garden Theatre.
Legend has it a young and hungry Van Halen blew the drug-addled Black Sabbath off the stage during a 1978 tour stop in the Alamo City. The veteran British act parted ways with lead singer Ozzy Osbourne the following night in El Paso.
Art Villarreal, guitarist for revered local metal act SA Slayer, remembers repeatedly spinning Van Halen releases when he was honing his chops as a high schooler, marveling at the axeman's innovative use of sounds and dizzying technique.
"There were just a few albums I'd spin when I was in my formative years of playing, and one of them was that second Van Halen album," he said.
Van Halen outlasted three lead singers and led his band through decades of recording and touring. Villarreal described the guitarist as a rare trifecta: an instrumental virtuoso, a hit-making songwriter and a bona fide rockstar.
"He continued to be the standard bearer for rock guitar," Villarreal said. "He dominated the '80s. I mean, I'd put his influence up there with Hendrix."
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