A Quick EVH-Ernie Ball Music Man History

With the ending of EVH's relationship with Kramer in 1990, more than a handful of guitar companies including Fender, Steinberger, and Ernie Ball Music Man vied for a deal with the best and most-celebrated guitar player on the planet. EBMM already had a foot in the door with the popular 5150 strings, but the manufacturer's original offering to EVH - a red, white & black-striped Silhouette with a single humbucker, Floyd Rose, and black hardware - wasn't what EVH had in mind.

From the May 1991 issue of Guitar Player magazine:
"A bunch of companies wanted Eddie. We started with a Silhouette-based guitar, and we made the same mistake that maybe the others made at first. We built a one-humbucker (body) with a Floyd Rose and stripes and figured that Eddie would be dazzled. Guess what? He wasn't." - Sterling Ball
NOTE: Evidently EVH replaced the stock humbucker in the striped Silhouette for a blue DiMarzio-Steve Blucher "Tone Zone" prototype while testing pickups for the eventual EVH model. Apparently Blucher used color-coded humbuckers so EVH could easily tell them apart while swapping them out and providing feedback.
DiMarzio - Remembering Van Halen

EVH worked with the Ernie Ball team to build an axe with entirely new looks and functionality - the Tele-Les Paul hybrid body, the 4x2 headstock, basswood body with a figured maple top, neck humbucker - and not the beaten-up, hot-rodded Strat. One of the first EBMM prototypes was an all basswood body without the maple cap, and it seems to have had an unfinished body with an Axis neck (the EVH model was initially supposed to be called the Axis). I really wonder if EVH took that basswood body guitar and painted it up himself, which could explain where the non-factory striped EBMM EVH in the Poundcake video came from ... hmmmm. EVH also received an EBMM with a Les Paul Junior-style, wrap-around tail piece sometime during 1990-91. There was even an unfinished SSH Axis body that looks to be another 1990 prototype.

Van Halen's main EBMM during his years with the manufacturer (1990-95) was the translucent gold (amber) model (he placed a 5150 decal by the Floyd Rose-licensed Gotoh/Music Man tremolo on this guitar during the '93 Live: Right Here, Right Now tour). EVH used other colors, of course, and even had a pair of custom EBMM baritone-guitar doublenecks made (purple and red), which enabled him to play Spanked live. There were two known striped versions - one used in the '91 Poundcake video and another featured later that year in the Runaround music video. Note that the Poundcake guitar seems to be "garage-painted", while the Runaround axe has crisp lines and a professionally applied gloss. So the EVH EBMM guitar was used on the 1991 For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993), and Balance (1995) albums and corresponding tours.

During the '95 Balance tour, Van Halen stopped using the EBMM and began using his Peavey Wolfgang prototype. Ernie Ball Music Man stopped manufacturing the/shipping the EVH models in September 1995, but the model lived on through the EBMM Axis (3-way switch moved close to the volume) and the Japanese-assembled Axis EX (no EVH signature decal on the headstock).
Ernie Ball Music Man Projects

back to the BEHIND THE GUITARS page