Eddie Van Halen’s Dragon Snake Guitar

After becoming disappointed with the sound of his old Destroyer, mostly due to the removal of a good portion of the body behind the bridge, Eddie wanted to make a new one for himself. So, he went to Charvel and ordered parts that resembled an Ibanez Destroyer, and assembled the guitar himself.

Not long after that, he got bored of the guitar and sent it out to a friend of his, Julian F. Sterry, who carved out the body to feature a dragon biting a snake. From that point on, the guitar became known as the “Dragon Snake”

It lost the tonality I want. Now, kids can’t tell — they can buy a DiMarzio pickup and stick it in anything and go, “Yeah, it’s rock and roll!” But it was that distinct little tone that I look for that was cut out of the guitar. Then I went to Charvel and bought the parts for a Destroyer with a vibrato. I got tired of playing it, and so I had a friend of mine carve a dragon biting a snake out of the Destroyer’s body.

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

Dragon Snake Originally

Originally, the guitar was finished in black and had what looked like a Danelectro neck fitted on it. It also had a single white-colored humbucker in the bridge position, and what looked like a gold-plated non-locking tremolo (see photo).

After the Mods

After Eddie had the body carved out, he fitted the original Boogie Bodies Frankenstein neck on it. This however didn’t last for long, and soon after, he replaced the neck with another Stratocaster style maple neck with the headstock painted black.

Dragon Snake with the original Boogie Bodies neck, circa 1979. Source: EVH GEAR FANS LIVE – Facebook

The consensus among the fans that research Eddie’s gear is that this neck originated from the Bumblebee guitar, then spent some time on the Frankenstein, and then ended up on the Dragon Snake.

This hypothesis is highly probable because this is the only neck from that period that still doesn’t have a locking nut fitted on it. When Eddie installed a Floyd Rose/locking nut on the Bumblebee, he installed a new neck on it and moved the black-headstock neck to the Frankie. Then once he installed a Floyd Rose on the Frankie, he once again installed a locking nut on a new neck, and the black-headstock neck ended up on the Dragon Snake.

The only slight problem is figuring out whether the Frankie and the Dragon Snake ever overlapped – whether the two guitars were ever used on the same date, at the time that they both had necks with black headstocks. This would obviously prove that there were two different black-headstock necks, but until such evidence surfaces, it’s highly probable that this was one same neck.

Usage

Eddie used this guitar on tour occasionally in 1979 and 1980. It was seen on March 23, 1979, at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California, and in a televised lip-sync performance of “Fools” for the Italian TV show “Superstar” (Rai2 TV) which aired on September 4, 1980. but was filmed earlier that year, in May.

Van Halen “Fools” @ Piper Club Rome Italy 1980

The Guitar Since the 80s

The story of what happened to this guitar since Eddie used it during those early years is for the most part unknown.

There are photos of it out there showing the neck split apart from the body, so it seems that Eddie broke it at some point. Interestingly, this neck has two holes on the backside, which would indicate that it had a locking nut installed on it. The problem with that is that Dragon Snake was never really seen with such a neck.

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