“My hero gave me one of his guitars... that was a time I'll never forget”: John 5 on being gifted a guitar by Eddie Van Halen

John 5's EVH Strat (left), John 5 holds his EVH Strat
(Image credit: Future)

John 5 owns many guitars. The Michigan-born guitarist is a self-confessed Telecaster addict – he owns over 100 – and through his stints with David Lee Roth, Rob Zombie, and now Mötley Crüe, he’s accumulated a war chest of six strings, but little hold as much significance as his EVH Strat

He features in the latest issue of Guitar Player, talking about some of the standouts from his dizzying collection. That includes his “Goldie” Tele, a guitar he played so much Fender said it posed a health risk.  

But away from his Tele obsession lies a guitar that holds immense personal value to him: A Charvel EVH Art Series in Black / White.  

“This is a guitar Eddie Van Halen gave to me when these guitars first came out, and I was just absolutely blown away that he did it,” he says. “My hero gave me one of his guitars, and he was so proud of it as well. That was a time I'll never forget. I cherish this guitar.” 

The series, released by Charvel in 2004 as part of its 25th-anniversary celebrations, saw each guitar hand-painted, played, and signed by the late guitar icon before hitting the market. 

It comprises a basswood, Strat-style body, bolt-on maple neck with a 22-fret maple fretboard, and a Floyd Rose tremolo complete with Eddie's innovative Drop-D Tuna system. 

Van Halen perform at Lewisham Odeon in London on May 27, 1978

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Its specs are rounded out by a single humbucker, black pickguard, and a white top hat-style Tone knob, meaning there's a notable absence of a Volume control. 

Speaking to Guitar World last year, John 5 listed Van Halen as the most influential player in shaping his sound.  

“My number one is like a lot of other people's number one, and that's Eddie Van Halen,” he said. “He's a player who fits what [the category of] genius. 'Oh, that guy can play' isn’t genius to me. I think genius is something I can't see. 

I was just obsessed with his playing. Thank god we had Eddie Van Halen

John 5

“Eddie created something that changed the world forever – it's very hard to explain, but it's just so unbelievable. He did that with his songwriting, amazing guitar playing, inventions, and designs, too. I was just obsessed with his playing, like all the other guitar players in the world. Thank god we had Eddie Van Halen, that's for sure.” 

John 5 has previously given Guitar Player readers his top 5 tips for beginner, and veteran, guitarists, which included an anecdote on how he ended up playing for Van Halen frontman Roth. 

“When I was just getting going, I called David Lee Roth’s people out of the blue,” he recalled.

“I wanted to further my career, so I got a number and called because I thought, ‘Maybe they’re looking for some music.’ It worked out, and that turned into a 30-year friendship.”

In late 2020, two Art Series guitars played onstage by Van Halen sold for over $370,000 at auction, but when it comes to personal value, John 5's EVH Strat is surely priceless. 

To pick up the July issue of Guitar Player – which features John 5 discussing his most prized guitars, and the events that have shaped his life and music – head on over to Magazines Direct

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.