The Guitarist David Coverdale Stole From David Lee Roth

There are only a few guitar players in the world that have been regarded as ‘individual players,’ along with being able to play with a band without problems. Slash, Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, and Brian May are a few of this unique list where they established a successful solo career, playing in their own style and contributing to any band they have performed with. Naturally, the demand for these guitarists has always been high, especially if a band wants to increase the quality of music.

It is also quite important to have a guitarist in the band that is not entirely following the band leader’s orders. Success usually comes from each member contributing their individual ideas and talents into forming great music. Hence, Steve Vai was one of those guitar players that has always been regarded as an individual player that has a great potential in influencing and rising any band’s quality.

Vai was first discovered by Frank Zappa, who hired him first as his transcriptionist and later remained to play for him from 1980 to 1983. His importance as a guitar player was later recognized by some of the biggest names of rock music industry, such as David Lee Roth and David Coverdale. While Vai was working with Roth, he was approached by Coverdale. The incident was later recalled by Whitesnake frontman as ‘stealing’ DLR’s guitarist to provide him a free space to express himself.

How Did David Lee Roth Discover Steve Vai?

In 1985, David Lee Roth quit Van Halen to kickstart his solo career when he came across Steve Vai. Vai was hired to work with DLR until 1989. The guitarist described his experience as not being ‘bigger than the rock and roll they were doing.’ He stated in an interview with iHeart in 2020 that the experience was fun which taught him how to play to a big audience and be entertaining for the fans.

His words to iHeart Radio about working with DLR:

“With David Lee Roth in the ’80s, it didn’t really get any bigger than the rock ‘n’ roll we were doing, and there was an element of fun and even a quirkiness to it. I was perfectly suited to the Roth gig, and I think that experience taught me how to translate what I do to a big audience — how to truly entertain in a rock band.”

David Coverdale’s Discovery Of Steve Vai

After Steve Vai gained the stage experience with Roth, David Coverdale snatched the guitarist as a hired gun knowing that his contribution would have a huge impact on his band Whitesnake. Vai’s experience with Whitesnake and Coverdale was more different than with DLR because apparently, Coverdale let him do whatever he wanted. It seems like Coverdale knew how to use such an individual power slightly better than Roth.

Here is what Vai said about working with Coverdale:

“David [Coverdale] was a prince! He had a lot of confidence in me and basically knew he needed to just let me do my thing. David knew what I was capable of and didn’t really interfere with what I wanted to do.”

What Did David Coverdale Say About ‘Stealing’ Steve Vai From David Lee Roth?

According to Coverdale, they did a very good thing by taking Vai away from Roth and making him shine since Roth couldn’t. In a 1989 interview, Coverdale stated that he didn’t understand why DLR wasn’t using the guitarist’s full potential and called Vai ‘the wizard of the instrument.’

Here are Coverdale’s words about Vai:

“We stole him from the David Lee Roth Band. Just so we give him an opportunity to shine and turn up his guitar and play. I could never understand why David would have such a wizard of the instrument in his band and not really utilize it. So now he shines within Whitesnake, thank God.

With Vai’s contributions, Whitesnake’s first album to feature the guitarist ‘Slip of the Tongue’ sold over one million in the US and reached Platinum. The album also reached number 10 on Billboard 200 chart, and Vai shone by being the full guitar contributor in the record. In 1990, the guitarist formed a band of his own with Devin Townsend, T.M. Stevens, and Terry Bozzio to venture onto other experiences in the music world.

Watch Coverdale’s 1989 interview below.