It was Dec. 3, 2007, at Seattle's Key Arena, along the first leg of the North American tour that found Van Halen reunited with David Lee Roth since the frontman's departure in the spring of 1985. As the keyboards swelled to introduce his band's biggest hit single chart-topper "Jump," as much command as title a shirtless, grinning Eddie Van Halen bounded onto to the stage for one last time wielding The Guitar.
You know the one. The red EVH Charvel Art Series Guitar, striped black and white, that looked every inch like the Frankenstrat he made and made essential, revered, iconic during Van Halen's ascension from house-party entertainers to arena-rock heroes. This one was made in 2007, to Eddie's specs, especially for this reunion jaunt, which proved to be the band's highest-grossing tour in its storied history.
Shortly after the 25-song show, described in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "a knockout," Eddie signed the instrument, noting in the inscription when and where it had been played. And then it made its way to the hands of the consignor. And now, it finds its way to auction.
Eddie Van Halen's 2007 EVH Charvel Art Series Guitar, which comes with the EVH case and a certificate of authenticity signed by Eddie, is a centerpiece of Heritage Auction
's Nov. 14 Entertainment & Music Memorabilia event, just as it will be the heart of any collection in which the instrument ultimately finds itself.
"Eddie made the world want to play guitar in a different way," says Garry Shrum, Heritage Auctions' Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia. "Like the rest of the world, we were shocked and heartbroken when the news broke about Eddie's untimely passing, and now, more than ever, auctioning off one of the guitars he helped create for that special tour is something of which we are extraordinarily proud."
Upon Van Halen's death from cancer on Oct. 6, at the age of 65, critic Chris Vognar wrote on Twitter: "Go easy, Eddie. You made the guitar sound like something you invented." That wasn't the hyperbole of an admirer: Eddie, who always looked like he was having more fun than anyone who ever played the instrument, famously made his own guitars dating back to childhood days in Pasadena, because "if something doesn't do what you want it to," he once wrote in Popular Mechanics, "there's always a way to fix it."
And guitars didn't do what Eddie wanted them to do. Their necks were too round and too slippery when covered with sweat. Whammy bars never stayed in tune. Volume knobs were hard to control. Pick-ups too often squealed. And so, for almost his entire life, he fixed and fiddled and, with two patents to his name, became one of the world's most famous designers of guitars, never more so than when in 1974 and '75 he designed what became known as the Frankenstrat.
"I wanted a Fender vibrato and a Stratocaster body style with a humbucker in it, and it did not exist," he told Musician's Friend in 2017. "People looked at me like I was crazy when I said that's what I want. Where could I go to have someone make me one? Well, no one would, so I built one myself."
Van Halen's is not the only musician-made guitar in the November event.
Also bound for the auction block is a massive guitar built by original Misfits bassist Jerry Only and his brother, Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, for the legendary punk band's farewell show at Detroit's Greystone Hall on October 29, 1983. And massive isn't an overstatement: This bat-shaped beast is nearly six feet long, three feet wide at the base and almost two inches thick.
The Halloween concert wasn't meant to be a goodbye. But by late 1983 the relationship between the brothers and frontman Glenn Danzig had become so fraught that Danzig announced from the stage the band was no more. That lineup wouldn't play another show together until 2016's Riot Fest.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this guitar is that it wasn't meant to survive that night in Detroit. The brothers made it to destroy it.
"Thankfully," says Shrum, "it wasn't."
In fact, the brothers kept it for years, finally gifting it to vocalist Myke Itzazone of the Goth-rock band Empire Hideous when he served briefly as the Misfits' lead singer during European and South American tours 1998. Letters of authenticity from Itzazone (better known these days as Myke Hideous) accompany the guitar.
The Nov. 14 event also includes a guitar once owned by Duane Allman: a sunburst-orange 1966 Fender Coronado II, which, according to the letters of provenance, traded hands multiple times first for a Les Paul, then a boat. The guitar's owners after Allman worked at Bibb Music Center in Macon, Ga., where Allman, Otis Redding, Buddy Green and so many others were customers.
This auction also includes several guitars autographed by pop, rock and blues legends, including but not limited to:
A Stevie Ray Vaughan-Signed Fender Stratocaster
A Gibson Lucille Electric Guitar autographed by B.B. King
A black Fender acoustic signed by Johnny Cash
A Takamine G Series acoustic autographed by the Eagles, including the late Glenn Frey
A Fender Squire Telecaster bearing the signatures of Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, Moe Tucker and John Cale
An Epiphone SG signed by The Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, with an affixed backstage pass signed by the late John Entwistle
And a Hofner bass signed by, of course, Sir Paul McCartney