Eddie Van Halen’s Bumblebee “Van Halen II”

Eddie made this guitar sometime before the release of the Van Halen II album in 1979. He was first seen with it during the photoshoots for the album cover.

According to Eddie, he assembled the guitar by himself, using parts from Charvel. He custom ordered a body that could have the pickup mounted from behind, which would eliminate the need for a pickguard.

I made the yellow-and-black Strat. It has an ash body by Charvel. It was my idea to have it rear-loaded so I wouldn’t have to have a pickguard, and Charvel routed it for me.

“Young Wizard of Power Rock” By: Jas Obrecht, Guitar Player (April 1980)
Eddie Van Halen with the Bumblee on the back of the Van Halen II album.

Not Finished in Time for Van Halen II?

There’s a lot of speculation out there on the subject of whether Eddie used this guitar in the studio for the Van Halen II album. From Eddie’s statements, it sounds like he barely managed to fully assemble it for the photoshoot, so obviously, he didn’t have it during the studio sessions.

I had just finished slapping it together and painting it when they shot the album cover, and just stuck some garbage pickup in it to look like a complete guitar. The pickup that’s on the photo is not really what I use — I had just finished slapping it together and painting it when they shot the album cover, and just stuck some garbage pickup in it to look like a complete guitar.

“Young Wizard of Power Rock” By: Jas Obrecht, Guitar Player (April 1980)

But, in a different interview, it sounds as though the guitar could’ve been used on the album, but it just wasn’t painted at that point. Below is an interview from 1979, and Eddie talks about the guitar in the past tense – he notes that that’s not what he “used” – meaning that he could be referring to the album sessions.

That’s the guitar on the second album cover. The pickup that’s in the picture is not really what I used. When we did the photo session for the album cover, I just finished painting it and slapping it together, and I just stuck some garbage pickup in there I wasn’t actually playing, just so it looked like a complete guitar. But I’ve tried a bunch of different pickups in there.

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

But, it seems more likely that he’s just talking about the guitars that he used on tour. Overall, it seems more probably that the Bumblebee wasn’t used to record any tracks on Van Halen II.

Specs, Mods, Changes

When the guitar was first assembled in 1979, it had a Charvel neck with the headstock painted black. In the photos from the Van Halen II booklet, the Charvel logo was still visible, but it seems that soon after, Eddie removed it.

At that point, it also had just a random pickup in it, which soon after Eddie replaced first with a “zebra” humbucker, and later with a fully black one. Also, that first incarnation of the Bumblebee had a standard Strat-style tremolo bridge, possibly a brass one.

Eddie with the early version of Bumblebeee.
Eddie with the early version of Bumblebee.

During the 1979 World Vacation tour, the Bumblebee had a different neck on it, without the black headstock. This was most likely a brand new neck picked up from Boogie Bodies, as it doesn’t match up with the shape of the original Frankenstein neck – which would be the first candidate.

And now I’ve bought a couple of necks from Boogie Bodies, which I refretted with larger frets – I’m pretty sure they’re Gibsons. I don’t know. I hate the way people do fret jobs. I do it real simple. I just sand down with some 100 wet or dry – that dark stuff – and then I use some steel wool. I like real rounded frets. I hate ’em flat, you know

Eddie Talks Guitars: 1979″ (from the “Van Halen Tapes 1978-82”) By: Jas Obrecht
Bumblebee vs Frankie’s neck.

The reason for this neck swap was that Eddie had to install a Floyd Rose locking nut on it, and he probably didn’t wanna sacrifice the black-headstock neck. So, instead, he decided to fit it on the Frankenstein guitar, and later on on the Dragon Snake.

It’s also worth noting here that this was the first guitar that Eddie had a Floyd Rose on. He apparently liked it, as by 1980, he also installed one on the Frankenstein.

Embed from Getty Images

During the 1979 tour, the guitar had a white humbucker in it, with a black plastic shroud. Eddie assembled this pickup by himself, using a PAF magnet, DiMarzio bobbins and casing, and brand new copper wire. The pickup was also dipped in paraffin wax, which according to Eddie, cuts out the feedback.

A DiMarzio with a P.A.F. magnet, rewound with copper tape around the windings. Well, I dipped it in paraffin before I put the copper tape on. But DiMarzio plastic is real cheap. I mean, you have to be really careful. It looks like a wrinkled prune, actually, but it still works [Laughs.] It’s real cheap stuff. But old P.A.F.’s, you can just throw them in there and let ’em soak it up. Doesn’t matter how hot it gets – doesn’t melt. But DiMarzio’s, God! If you blink, all of a sudden your pickup’s ruined.

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

From 1980 onwards, the Bumblebee was seen very occasionally. On one such occasion, filmed at Eddie’s home sometime in the mid-80s, Bumblebee was seen with a brand new neck on it

Eddie playing the Bumblebee guitar at home, circa mid-1980.

Buried alongside Dimebag Darrell

This guitar was buried alongside Dimebag Darrell, who was according to his own words, a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen.

My heroes were Eddie Van Halen – especially after Van Halen I, II, III, and IV – Randy Rhoads, Ace Frehley and dudes like that. My brother played drums and we jammed in the garage and started writing our own stuff.

Dimebag Darrell

As far as the story behind this – Eddie had met Dimebag only for a few weeks before his tragic death. According to Dime’s girlfriend, Rita Haney, Dime had at some point made an offer to buy one of Eddie’s guitars for $30,000. But, Eddie declined and said that instead, he’d make a special guitar for him.

When the family was organizing Dimebag’s public memorial, Eddie apparently called and asked whether there was something he could do to help. Rita suggested that he could piece up a guitar. But, Eddie thought of a better idea, and instead brought the original Bumblebee that he made in 1979 – as that was Dimebag’s favorite guitar of Eddie’s.

We’d met him just a few eeks earlier for the first time, and Dime was ready to cutom him a 30,000 check that night for one of this striped guitar, but Eddie told him he’d do one special for him. So I asked him if he’d stripe up a guitar for Darrell. He said, “one of the red, white, and black ones?” And I said, “No – Darrell always said that the yellow and black was your toughest gutiar!”

When he came for the funeral, he brought his original yellow and black from 1979. He said, “And original should have an original.:

Rita Haney
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