Guitars owned and played by Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton are heading to the auction block on February 27 in New York City.
The instruments are among approximately 300 guitars to be included in Guitars at Auction, presented by Guernsey’s auction house.
The Eddie Van Halen-owned 1982 Charvel guitar is a replica of the instrument featured on the back cover of the 1979 album Van Halen II. Van Halen built the original guitar in 1978 prior to the group’s European tour, using a body and neck purchased from Wayne Charvel and Lynn Ellsworth. Van Halen painted it in a yellow-and-black-striped motif and used it as his main guitar on subsequent tours through 1980.
Grover Jackson purchased the Charvel name in late 1978 and started producing Charvel brand guitars from a factory in San Dimas/Glendora, California. When the company started selling “Van Halen Model” guitars painted with Van Halen’s signature yellow-and-black-striped patterns to the general public without Eddie’s authorization in June 1979, his relationship with Jackson/Charvel began to sour, as he was not paid royalties. Charvel produced the “Van Halen Model” in very limited amounts (estimates are less than 100 guitars) through late 1982, when Van Halen filed a cease and desist order against the company.
Apparently, Van Halen personally ordered five guitars made by Charvel/Jackson in April 1982 before the cease and desist order was filed, or Grover Jackson gave the guitars to Van Halen as a peace offering. This instrument was one of those Charvel guitars. Allegedly, the guitars were built according to Eddie’s exacting specifications, including necks with the wide nut width and slim profile that he preferred. This guitar has a brass vintage Strat-style non-locking vibrato tailpiece, DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucking pickup, cream-colored pickup mounting ring (most other examples have black mounting rings), and a “butterfly” string tree for the high E and B strings, which Van Halen preferred for his stringing technique that kept his guitar in tune when using the vibrato. The body’s neck pocket is dated 4/27/82 in pencil and features the work order number #2149 in black marker, while the neck heel features work order #2150 in black marker.
The Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar is a three-tone sunburst Fender Stratocaster that the guitarist played as a member of Paul Ray and the Cobras in Austin, Texas, from 1975 to 1977. The guitar was manufactured circa 1966-67 and features many of Vaughan’s personal touches, including stickers that read SRV and Cobras, a neckplate etched with the words Stevie Ray Vaughan Dallas TX, and his signature in gold ink, dated ’90. The guitar comes with its case and paperwork inside it in Vaughan’s handwriting.
The Clapton guitar is a 2004 Martin Bellezza Bianca Prototype, built for him in 2004. It was the third of four prototypes for the 000-ECHF, a limited-edition model introduced in 2006 that was designed in collaboration by Clapton, Martin’s Dick Boak, and the Japanese fashion designer and music producer Hiroshi Fujiwara. Clapton appeared on NBC’s The Today Show on November 18, 2005 and performed “Back Home” with this guitar or one of the other three Bellezza Bianca prototypes.
In addition, the auction features a 1960s Bjarton 12-string guitar owned by Ringo Starr and occasionally played by his Beatles bandmate John Lennon. In the 1970s, Starr gave the guitar to Klaus Voormann, the Beatles’ longtime friend from their days playing in Hamburg in the early Sixties. Voormann designed the cover of the group’s 1966 album, Revolver, and played bass with Manfred Mann as well as with Plastic Ono Band, the group featuring Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.
Guernsey’s says the auction features the largest collection of guitars dating back to 1880. In addition to the models listed above it includes a guitar owned by Tony Mottola when he accompanied Frank Sinatra and more than three dozen guitar owned by George Benson.
Among the more unusual items in the collection are a pair of guitars with a connection to the infamous 1959 murder documented in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. They include a guitar used by murderer Perry Smith and the guitar played in the book’s 1967 film adaptation by actor Robert Blake, who portrayed Smith.