Eddie Van Halen’s 1969 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
Eddie’s father Jan purchased this guitar for Eddie on August 15, 1969. It was likely his second electric guitar chronologically looking.
Based on the photos, the guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with two P-90 single-coil pickups. Based on the serial number shown in the receipt above, it was made in 1969, but sometimes you’ll that Eddie referred to it as a ’68.
The 1969 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop featured, as said, two white P-90 pickups, a white pickguard, one-piece mahogany neck and body, rosewood fretboard, Kluston tuner, and a Tune-o-Matic bridge. As we’ll see, Eddie’s guitar didn’t remain in this original state for long.
By the time Eddie was first photographed with the guitar, he already made some major modifications to it. Starting from the least intricate one – he removed the original pickguard and the white pickup cover on the P-90 in the neck position.
But, more importantly, we see that he completely got rid of the bridge P-90 and installed a full-sized humbucker instead. This required some modifications to the body – carving out the pickup pocket, since a humbucker pickup would be larger than an P-90.
That was the first guitar I experimented with. It originally had P-90 soap bar pickups, but I put a humbucker in the bridge. When we used to play at the Starwood and Whisky, people tripped at the sound I was getting from that guitar. They couldn’t see the humbucker on the bridge because my hand was covering itEddie Van Halen Shares the Guitars Behind His Quest for Tone
It is assumed that this guitar was Eddie’s main for at least a few years from 1969 to around 1975, up until it was allegedly stolen and replaced with an Ibanez Flying V. [The true origins and evolution of Eddie Van Halen’s legendary Frankenstein guitar – this source is now locked behind a paywall].
It is interesting to think that the guitar could still be out there, and furthermore, it could be easily traced back to Eddie since we have the serial number (539381). So if someone happens to have a Goldtop from 1969 with a custom humbucker in the bridge position, be sure to check the back of the headstock. Also, be sure to get in touch, we won’t snitch.
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This was actually Ed’s third electric guitar. In between the Les Paul and the Teisco, he owned a Univox Custom 12-string with a semi-hollow body similar to an ES-335. There are two photos of Ed playing the guitar at a party. Ed bought it from Lafayette Electronics in 1968, and he removed the upper octave strings to convert it into a six-string.
Ed told me that this was the beginning of his experiments with guitars during an interview I did with him at the Fender Corona California factory in 2008, which was mostly about the new EVH Wolfgang model. The entire interview was professionally filmed for Fender, but only about 15 minutes of the conversation was publicly released (it’s on YouTube somewhere). The story of the Univox and a few quotes from Ed about the guitar are in my book Eruption – Conversations with Eddie Van Halen on pages 19 and 31.
Ed traded in the Univox Custom when he got the 69 Les Paul.
Thanks for sharing the knowledge Chris, and I’m glad you stumbled upon the website. I’ve read numerous articles by you when researching for this list, and I hope I did you justice by linking to them.
Gonna add the Univox in the upcoming days, and hopefully find your book somewhere here in Europe.