Eddie Van Halen’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Eddie bought this guitar sometime around 1980 from Norman Harrison, nowadays better known as Norm from Norm’s Rare Guitars. According to Eddie, he bought two Les Paul, but whenever he was photographed with his guitar collection in those days, there was ever only one – so we’ll focus on that one.

I bought a ’59 Les Paul Standard, which is a beautiful guitar – I don’t even want to tell you how much I paid for it. For the person who wants it, the price doesn’t matter. Like other people will say, “Oh, what a fool. You got ripped off.” Well, I spent ten grand on both of ’em, but they’re beautiful guitars. I got them from a guy named Norman Harris. This stuff wasn’t even in his shop; it’s so nice, he was afraid to let any punk kid touch it. One has beautiful flame maple top. 

“Eddie Talks Guitars: 1979” (from the “Van Halen Tapes 1978-82”) By: Jas Obrecht

The guitar was first seen on the “pickaxe” photo of Eddie with his guitar, taken sometime before the release of the 1980 album, Women and Children First. At that point, it was completely stock.

Neck Pickup Removed

The next time that Eddie appeared with the guitar, on September 6, 1980, at the Roklahoma festival, the neck pickup was missing. The pickup could’ve ended up in any of Eddie’s guitars, especially if considering the fact that none of these pickup changes were permanent. Eddie would change pickups basically on a daily basis.

Bumblebee seems like the most likely candidate since it had a white humbucker with a white mounting ring, and that would be a perfect fit for the pickup that is missing from the guitar. But, Eddie stated that he assembled the Bumblebee pickup by himself, using parts from a Gibson PAF and a DiMarzio humbucker, so this hypothesis seems unlikely. (read more about Bumblebee)

Eddie playing the 1959 Les Paul at the Roklahoma festival, without the neck pickup.
Eddie playing the 1959 Les Paul at the Roklahoma festival, without the neck pickup.

It’s unknown what happened to this guitar after the Roklohoma festival. It could be that Eddie reassembled it and keep it safe as an investment, or it could be that he sold it at some point. As always, if you happen to know more, post it in the comments.

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jay
jay
7 months ago

Ah – the story of these 2 Les Pauls is in the book Confessions of a Vintage Guitar Dealer by Norman Harris. Never mentioning the name, he tells a story of a young guitarist who was really great buying the 58 and the flamey 59 and then a few years later, telling Norm the 58 didn’t have original pickups. He wanted to be compensated for the difference in the accrued price of the guitar because it didn’t have the originals – Norm says it’s one of the first thing he checks so he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Then he saw this photograph with the pickup missing, which, of course, would show the guitar was altered by Eddie and therefore that is what ruined the value of the guitar.

Tanner Yordan
Tanner Yordan
1 year ago

The Les Paul he took on the 1980 tour was actually the 1958 les paul he bought at the same time as the ’59. The ’59 is seen in the pickaxe photo, but the studio photos from around the same time shows the ’58, along with all of the live photos from the tour. In many photos, you can tell it is the ’58 because of the lack of flame that the ’59 had.

Stevo
Stevo
11 months ago
Reply to  Tanner Yordan

do you know which tracks, if any, used the ’58 on WACF?

Tanner Yordan
Tanner Yordan
11 months ago
Reply to  Stevo

As of right now, it is percieved that the only track to feature it was the overdubbed guitar on “And the Cradle Will Rock”. Other non-tremolo tracks on the album are most likely Chris Holmes’ Ibanez Destroyer. You can tell when eddie is playing a Destroyer typically because of the way he solos. He had a level of comfort on the Destroyer/Flying V’s that are unmistakable.

Stevo
Stevo
11 months ago
Reply to  Tanner Yordan

Exactly…the Destroyer tracks are unmistakable as well as the ones with Bumblebee having the Floyd tailpiece. This pic is confusing as the Destroyer looks different…any idea why? The Les Paul looks to be the ’58?

https://imgur.com/a/VzQ2boO

Tanner Yordan
Tanner Yordan
11 months ago
Reply to  Stevo

Eddie messed with the controls and pickup of the Destroyer. What about it looks different to you? I might have an explanation.

The LP in those studio pics is definitely the ‘58, missing a bridge pickup also. Some say the chrome bridge pickup is in the Destroyer to the left, but others say it might have made it’s way into the Frankenstein for the “Loss of control” video. We’ll never know.