A very exclusive limited edition of Eddie Van Halen’s ’79 Bumblebee guitar is now in production.
EVH unveiled the new ’79 Bumblebee tribute model at Summer NAMM over the weekend. The recreation of the historic black-and-yellow striped guitar celebrates the 40th anniversary of Van Halen II, and subsequent world tour. Only 50 instruments will be produced worldwide, featuring all the original’s specs.
“The ’79 Bumblebees that we’re making sound very much like how I always wanted the original to sound,” said Eddie Van Halen. “So it may have taken 40 years, but I now have everything I wanted back then — a bitchin’-looking guitar that plays and sounds great.”
During the process of recording 1979 album Van Halen II, Eddie Van Halen sought something fresh to play other than his original “Frankenstrat,” which at the time was being heavily copied by just about every major guitar company in the world.
Eddie had the idea to build a new guitar with an ash body and black-and-yellow-stripe paint job, with rear-loaded electronics so there would be no pickguard. While he tasked Wayne Charvel to cut the body, the maple neck was made by Lynn Ellsworth at Boogie Bodies with dot inlays on a maple fingerboard. Other features on the first-incarnation guitar (as pictured on Van Halen II) were a standard nut, single Mighty Mite humbucking pickup with transparent bobbins, single chrome volume knob, original Charvel six-screw brass tremolo bridge, and Schaller® tuning keys.
While pleased with the looks of the guitar, Eddie was less impressed with its tone and quickly began tinkering with it, as he was prone to do. He installed a new Boogie Bodies maple neck with a natural headstock, unfinished back (which he has always preferred) and 12″-radius dot-inlay maple fingerboard.
Next to go was the Mighty Mite pickup. After selecting a DiMarzio® Super Distortion humbucking pickup, he swapped out its ceramic magnet for an alnico 2 magnet from a Gibson® PAF. He rewound the pickup by hand, dipped it in paraffin wax and put copper tape around the windings.
Eddie also stripped out the original Charvel bridge, leaving its six screw holes behind. He instead outfitted the instrument with a prototype two-point Floyd Rose® bridge and locking nut with retainer bar, becoming the first professional rock guitarist to use a locking-nut tremolo system. He also swapped out the chrome volume knob with a Strat-style skirted “Tone” knob. After all these modifications, only the original body, striped paint job, screw-eye strap hooks and Schaller® tuners remained from the first version of the guitar.
“Bumblebee,” as it would come to be known by fans, debuted on the cover of the 1979 album Van Halen II and was heavily played by Eddie throughout the 1979 world tour.
Although Eddie continued to wrestle with the overall capabilities of the guitar, the black-with-yellow-stripes theme became insanely popular. Bumblebee remains a longtime favorite for Van Halen listeners everywhere.
In an eternal sign of deep respect, Eddie’s original Bumblebee guitar was buried alongside Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, who died tragically in 2004. Eddie was Dime’s main influence and Bumblebee was Dime’s all-time favorite guitar. 40 years later, EVH has meticulously recreated this wildly iconic guitar in the form of the 50-piece worldwide run of the ’79 Bumblebee.
The ’79 Bumblebee tribute model features all of the original specs, including an ash Strat® body, bolt-on birdseye maple neck with oiled back finish, straight 12” radius birdseye maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets, katalox dots and black side dots, and skirted Strat-style “Tone” volume knob.
True to Van Halen’s pickup recipe, the instrument has been outfitted with an EVH ’79 Bumblebee humbucking bridge pickup. EVH also matched the Bumblebee’s six screw holes, (hidden under the original prototype non-fine tuner locking tremolo bridge that EVH recreated just for this project), along with the original prototype locking nut. All hardware has been reliced, including the custom brass string retainer, screw-eye strap hooks, side output jack and original period-correct Schaller® tuning machines.
Its black-with-yellow-stripes paint job has also been reliced to match the wear and tear from his heavy year of touring in 1979, and the guitar is stylishly finished off with chrome hardware.
Notably, the back of the headstock of each guitar bears Eddie Van Halen’s signature, adding to the value and the once-in-a lifetime collector’s nature of this instrument.
Arriving in a custom-made Anvil® hardshell case, the package also includes ’70s-era Fender® Super Bullets strings, Van Halen ’70s tortoiseshell picks, an exclusive Bumblebee collector’s booklet, Young Guitar book Van Halen Live Tour in Japan 1978 & 1979, and several autographed items—a certificate of authenticity, 8”x10” 1979 concert photo of Eddie Van Halen and vinyl copy of Van Halen II.
’79 BUMBLEBEE SPECIFICATIONS
25.5” scale length
Ash Strat® body
Bolt-on birdseye maple neck with oiled back finish
12” radius birdseye maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets, katalox dots and black side dots
EVH ’79 Bumblebee bridge pickup
Skirted Strat®-style volume knob labeled “Tone”
Period-correct prototype non-fine tuner locking tremolo bridge system and prototype locking nut
Custom brass string retainer
Reliced chrome hardware
Screw-eye strap hooks
Period-correct Schaller® tuning keys with “S” engraved
Side output jack
Black-with-yellow-stripes hand-painted reliced finish
Licensed Fender® Strat® headstock
Back of the headstock signed by Eddie Van Halen
Custom-made Anvil® case
Signed Van Halen II vinyl
Signed 8”x10” 1979 concert photo of Eddie Van Halen playing Bumblebee
Signed Certificate of Authenticity
Exclusive Bumblebee Collector’s Booklet
Van Halen Live Tour in Japan 1978 & 1979 Young Guitar Book
Two packs of ’70s-era Fender® Super Bullets strings in recreated packaging
Van Halen ’70s tortoiseshell picks
There’s no official word on the price tag just yet, but one thing’s for sure: limited to just 50 instruments worldwide, this won’t come cheap. Quite an exclusive collectible!