After Eddie used the Fender Stratocaster, he was dissatisfied with what he was hearing in terms of sound. Obviously, although he was a fan of both the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster, Eddie was looking for something completely unique compared to those straight-off-the-rack guitars. So after doing some research, he settled on using a Gibson ES-335 for some time.
This is the third main guitar Ed used before building the classic Frankenstrat
Now the Gibson ES-335 is basically a semi-acoustic Gibson with a Bigsby Vibrato tailpiece. The key problem with this guitar is that although Ed would have, once again, liked the sound of this guitar, much like he enjoyed the sound of a Gibson Les Paul, he found the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece to be unwieldy1 and also may have disapproved of the fact that the guitar was semi-acoustic, which means that it is designed to more easily create feedback in a live setting. Ed did not like unnatural feedback, as I will point out at another time. Ed mentioned in a Guitar World2 interview that he disapproved a particular ES-335’s vibrato tailpiece as it did not stay in tune and chose to modify that vibrato tailpiece. Ed, the tone chaser, was and is always searching for the perfect sound and feel with guitars.
Having said that, the Gibson ES-335 is a great guitar to play. Although it may not seem as iconic as the Gibson Les Paul or the Fender Stratocaster, it is essential for this part of the Van Halen history to recognise as it is important to the development and sound of Eddie Van Halen in the early days.
Designer at Gibson of the ES-335 Ted McCarty was looking for a guitar that was built of a vision between “an electric solidbody and a hollowbody guitar”. A large amount of players, starting notably with Chuck Berry, the blues artist3 began to use this guitar. However, a wide variety of other players have used it as well, despite it being known primarily as more a blues guitar than a rock guitar.
Ed was a fan of the Gibson sound early on in his playing days.
Gibson do sell Gibson ES-335 of various sorts if you are interested, retailing around $3 000-$5 000 US generally on the Gibson website. It does not really matter specifically what model you choose, just as long as it suits you. Below is a list of the components of a Gibson 1959 ES-335 Dot Reissue from the Gibson website:
Top: 3ply – Maple/Poplar/Maple Body Type: Semi-Hollow
Back: 3ply – Maple/Poplar/Maple
Binding: .090, Cream
Adhesive: Franklin Titebond
Inlay: Holly Headstock Veneer with Pearl Crown and logo
Truss Rod Cover: Vintage Truss Rod Cover
Angle: 17 Degrees
Neck Position: Custom Bucker
Bridge Position: Custom Bucker
Truss Rod: Traditional
Joint Angle: 4⁰ (+/- 15 seconds)
Model: Kluson™ Deluxe
Tuning Ratio: 12:01
Potentiometers: 2 Volume Controls, 2 Tone Controls
Toggle Switch: Switchcraft Toggle with Vintage Toggle Cap
Output Jack: 1/4” Switchcraft
Joint: Mortise & Tenon
Adhesive: Franklin Titebond 50
Joint Angle Tolerance: +/-.005”
Adhesive: Hot Hide Glue
Sealer: Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Inlays: Mother-of-Pearl Dots
Binding: .04, cream
Other: Reissue Fret Wire/Tortoise Side Dots
Type: Stop Bar
Material: Lightweight Aluminum
Plating: Nickel Plated Gloss
Slots: Gibson PLEK System
Knobs: Faded Cherry: Black Top Hats w/ dial pointers; Vintage Sunburst: Gold Top Hats w/dial pointers
Pickguard: Long ES-335 Reissue (5-ply)
Strap Buttons: Aluminum End Pins
Be sure to check out the Gibson website at www2.gibson.com for many different kinds of Gibson ES-335 models out there, but to directly follow Eddie would be to seek an early 1970s model with a standard humbucker on it with the Bigsby vibrato. This, of course, would be difficult to find. Nonetheless, if you want to find out what Ed was doing at this stage, picking up a decent ES-335 seems like the way to go.
This guitar is a classic, and worth the money if you are keen to explore what Ed was looking for.
Rock on!! 🙂 \m/\m/