Skip to main content

Wolfgang Van Halen: The First Guitar My Dad Gave Me

Last week, Wolfgang Van Halen appeared on Sirius XM's The Howard Stern Show to promote "Distance," his first single under the Mammoth WVH banner.

During the interview – his first since the death of his father, Eddie Van Halen, last month – the Van Halen bassist also discussed Van Halen reunions that never came to pass, his father's illness, and his relationship with him. Along the way, Wolfgang also revealed the first guitar Eddie ever gifted to him, a Kramer 1984.

The back-up guitar to the iconic 5150 Eddie used in the "Panama" music video, it was given to Wolfgang as a Christmas gift accompanied by a Playboy card, a cheeky way for Eddie to say, “Play, boy!" 

Wolfgang also told Stern what it was like to have one of the greatest guitarists of all time as a teacher. As it turns out, Eddie's gifts for fretboard fireworks didn't exactly extend to instruction.

“I’d ask him how to play something and then he just proceeds to be Eddie Van Halen,” Wolfgang told Stern, laughing. “That’s a very tough bar to reach as a beginner, so it’s like, ‘Oh, OK…’”

"Distance," which is available now, is an open letter to Eddie, and features Wolfgang on vocals and on every instrument. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the song will go to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (opens in new tab). Eddie's favorite charity, it helps provide musical instruments to underfunded schools.

Jackson Maxwell
Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.