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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Tanner Yordan
Tanner Yordan
2 months 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.