Live music is back, but for roadies and crews, the pandemic’s toll may be irreversible

Tom Weber’s job was to take care of the most famous electric guitar in rock ‘n’ roll. 

Since 2006, Weber, 63, was Eddie Van Halen’s personal guitar tech, tending to the hard-rock titan’s red, white and black “Frankenstrat,” which sired the riffs to “Eruption,” “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Panama,” among countless classic headbangers. The Kentucky-based Weber kept it humming through the band’s final tour in 2015, and worked with Eddie until his death last October. Weber had big gigs lined up for Reba McEntire and Journey that year, and a planned run of stadium shows with Poison, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard.

Fifteen months into the pandemic, though, Weber hasn’t found any significant work — in guitars or otherwise — to tide him over. He admits that he’s soon likely to lose his home, his guitar repair shop and everything he’s built over decades in rock without consistent tours to return to.

“I put my house into forbearance because there’s no way we’re going back to work soon,” Weber said. “No one is hiring a 63-year-old guitar tech after this. I know people who have killed themselves, who are losing homes, families, everything. I’ve heard colleagues say that with life insurance, they’re more valuable to their families dead than alive.”