Dean Founder Explains What Made Eddie Van Halen Better Than Joe Bonamassa and Malmsteen, Names All-Time Favorite Guitar Player

Loudwire recently sat down with Dean Zelinsky, a big figure in the guitar world and the founder of Dean Guitars. During the chat, they discussed all things related to the instrument and what one needs to have to be an “iconic” guitar player. He explained:

“The real answer is songs! Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix — all great players but reached iconic status due to their hit songs. Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Bonamassa…great players, but no hit songs.”

“If you go to a Yngwie show, he plays for about 500 guitar players. When you would go to see Eddie, there would also be about 500 guitar players, then another 25,000 fans behind them.”

Eddie Van Halen - Catherine ( 5150 Studio )

“Young guitar players need to realize practicing day and night in your bedroom is not going to get you across the finish line. If you become the world’s greatest guitar player ‘in your bedroom,’ you’re only about 10 percent of the way there.”

“You need to work harder at being a rock star. That includes putting together a great band, writing great songs and working tenaciously to promote your band to greatness. “

Elsewhere in the chat, he was also asked to bring up his all-time favorite guitar player to which he responded:

“My all-time favorite is Johnny Winter. Incredible player with a signature voice. Johnny had licks like no other player. He could play endless solos without repeating a riff.”

Johnny Winter- "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" Backstage Jam 1971 (Reelin' In The Years Archive)

“I have heard people pick up a guitar and play like many great players, Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn… But never seen anybody pick up a guitar and play like Johnny. We got to be friends toward the end of his career, and he played my guitars.”

“Johnny’s records didn’t do him justice…you had to see him live. I saw him at the Chicago Amphitheatre when I was 16 and it was life changing. I honestly don’t think there would have been a Dean Guitars if it wasn’t for Johnny Winter.”

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Zelinsky founded Dean guitars back in 1977. His guitars were found in the hands of many guitar legends, including Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Dimebag Darrell, Michael Schenker, Michael Angelo Batio, Adrian Smith, and many others. In 1997, Dean was acquired by Armadillo Enterprises and Zelinsky parted ways with the company in 2008. He also founded DBZ guitars in 2012.

Photos: Alberto Cabello (Joe Bonamassa (Black Country Communion) – 5880505158), Anirudh Koul (Eddie Van Halen 2007-11-10), Alterna2 (Yngwie Malmsteen 5)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.