For over 100 years, the NAMM Show has been the destination when it comes to exciting and innovative new product releases in the world of musical instruments. Artist endorsements, collaborations and brand partnerships mean you never know who might show up to promote a new line or model, no matter how big the name is.
And that's exactly what happened on January 18th 1996, when Eddie Van Halen rocked up to the Peavey booth to help launch the EVH Wolfgang signature guitar. "I'm so happy with the equipment, it's ridiculous," says Van Halen as he takes to the stage at the start of the fan-shot clip.
Previous successful collaborations with Kramer and Ernie Ball Music Man had delivered equally iconic signature instruments. So when it was reported that Van Halen was once again a free agent in 1995, all eyes were on him regarding his next move. Ultimately, he would develop a new guitar with Peavey, a brand with which he already had a strong relationship dating back to the early '90s, partnering with them on the original 5150 tube amplifier.
While demoing the new six-string, EVH performed snippets from Van Halen classics such as Amsterdam and (the then-unreleased) Humans Being. At one point in the clip, Van Halen treats those in attendance to a rendition of 316 from the band's 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. An instrumental famously written for his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, as he confirms to those in attendance, "This is my son's song, man. This is going to make me cry." It's a fitting choice, considering the new guitar was also named in part after Wolfie.
Van Halen had composed the piece while he and Valerie Bertinelli were expecting the birth of Wolfgang, resting the guitar on his wife's stomach as he played. Van Halen explains: "It's kind of a funny story; here's my brother who had a baby before Valerie [Bertinelli] and I did. He would play this little jingle for him, and when he was born, he screamed! He hated it."
Clearly now questioning the whole endeavor, he happily goes on to confirm, "When [Wolfgang] was born, I played it for him, and he loved it."
Famous for his attention to detail and hands-on approach to the design of instruments that bear his name, Van Halen was even confident enough to invite an audience member to share the stage with him and try out the rig. "Anyone want to come up and play? This is the shit right here," says Van Halen.
Eagle-eyed fans may have spotted numerous prototypes fit for road testing during Van Halen's live shows in support of the previous year's release, Balance. However, in the days before cameraphones, images of these in action don't appear to exist. He would use the new signature model before its official release during the band's August 1995 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, however, performing Not Enough.
1996 would prove to be an eventful year for Van Halen — as well as a new partnership with Peavey — his band would technically have three different singers within 12 months, firing Hagar in spring, reuniting with David Lee Roth for new music in the summer, before ultimately bringing in Gary Cherone for a project that would eventually culminate in Van Halen III two years later.
Eddie Van Halen's partnership with Peavey would last until 2004, when he would launch the EVH brand under the Fender umbrella.
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The Editor in chief of Guitar Interactive since 2017, Jonathan has written online articles for Guitar World, Guitar Player and Guitar Aficionado over the last decade. He has interviewed hundreds of music's finest, including Slash, Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett and Steve Vai, to name a few. Jonathan's not a bad player either, occasionally doing gear reviews, session work and online lessons for Lick Library.
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