How Eddie Van Halen Acquired my Grandfather’s Original Gibson Flying V Guitar Through the Shadiest of Deals

Eddie Van Halen Jason Miller-5

I grew up in a musical family. My father played guitar, my grandfather played, and so did my cousins. I remember family jam sessions happening in the basement of my grandparents’ house and I remember the day that a guy named Dan from the St. Charles Guitar Exchange started coming around. My grandfather owned one of the original 12 prototypes of the original Gibson Flying V guitar and Dan would stop at nothing to acquire this guitar. Dan lied to my grandfather’s face for a profit and to begin what would become a very lucrative guitar acquisition project for none other than Eddie Van Halen himself.  I was pretty young when all of this happened but my family knows the story all too well and here’s how it goes.

My grandfather had purchased the guitar new  from a music store in south St Louis. It was sitting in a window and he liked the looks of it. The guy told him it was a special breed of guitar  that Gibson was trying out  but that Gibson was not going to produce them. I believe there were only about 12 of the prototypes made and I think there are only 3 or 4 of those still in existence. It was mid 1980 when Dan first approached my grandfather about the super rare instrument.

Dan showed up on my grandfather’s doorstep, got on his knees and begged for  the guitar. He promised my grandfather a White Falcon guitar, another Gibson collectible, and said he could deliver on that promise with no problem. Dan then came back again begging on his knees when he could not deliver the Falcon.

Eddie Van Halen Jason Miller

As for the V, my grandfather ended up accepting the offer for the red Gretsch and Gibson stereo amp once Dan promised he was just collecting it and it would stay under his mom’s bed at her house, and that grandpa could play it anytime he wanted to. Turns out my grandfather didn’t really care for the sound of the Gretsch and in about 6 months took it back to Dan and got the red Gibson BB King Lucille. When he returned to see Dan he discovered that Dan had flat out lied to him and sold the guitar to Eddie Van Halen for a reported ten thousand dollars. It would be the first guitar that he sold to Van Halen which would lead to many more deals to follow.

Van Halen would go on to showcase his prize on the cover of Guitar World and talk about how it’s his favorite guitar in interview after interview. The flying V would make only a few appearances in recording sessions, most notably on the Van Halen classic “Hot For Teacher.”

My grandfather regretted getting rid of the V because nothing ever played as nice as the V he said. I regret the fact that Dan essentially stole a priceless guitar from my family to make a quick buck and impress a rock star. In fact, the 1958-59 korina Flying V is one of  the most expensive guitars on the vintage market valued between $200,000 and $250,000. At the end of the day I would guess that Van Halen had no idea about the deceitful way that Dan had “acquired” the guitar and the promises that were broken. I just wanted to set the record straight and tell the truth about a guitar that I would have loved to see stay with my family.

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Jason Miller
Jason Miller

Jason Miller is a leading digital B2B marketer, who’s held senior roles at LinkedIn, Marketo, and ActiveCampaign. Before entering the B2B space, he spent ten years at Sony, developing and executing marketing campaigns around the biggest names in music. He is a prolific keynote speaker, digital marketing instructor at UC Berkeley, and best-selling author. Also an accomplished rock concert photographer, his work appears in books, magazines, and album covers.

23 thoughts on “How Eddie Van Halen Acquired my Grandfather’s Original Gibson Flying V Guitar Through the Shadiest of Deals”

  1. David McDonough

    WOW ! Has Eddie every heard this story and reached out to you ? And where is the flying v now ? Maybe one day you’ll get it back.Thanks for sharing your story . I’m a Big Van Halen fan.Dave 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Dave. This is the very first time that the story has been told. As I mentioned I would guess that Eddie has no idea that Dan was such a deceitful liar, but it would be nice for him to know the story.

      1. OK Thanks I hope one day you get to at least meet Eddie. That would be cool.Great story about the flying v.I remember that guitar issue and the guitar. Again Thanks ! Dave from NJ 5150

  2. gregory david wilson

    sad but crying over spilt milk don’t do anything. your issue is with the dealer not mr. van halen. so a title of how he stole your grandfathers guitar is inapropriate.

    1. The title is appropriate under the circumstances and the story needs to be told. There are way too many articles praising the dealer in this case without any back-story. The fact that Mr. Van Halen got this guitar because a shady dealer blatantly lied to a good family in order to build a relationship for profit is something Eddie needs to be aware of. Whether or not he takes action, which he has not, is another thing.

  3. Inoh Itsonlyroknroll

    Sorry for your grandpa. That dealer guy has no honor. But you know what they say about oral agreements, they’re worth about as much as the paper they’re written on!

  4. I don’t see anything being stolen in this story. Your grandfather sold the guitar, regretted selling it and has passed down his short-sightedness and bitter resent about losing a great instrument two generations? “You can come and play it” doesn’t mean “it’s still yours.”

    1. Dan was a shady dealer who would say anything and lie through his teeth to get this guitar. That’s the bottom line. This story needs to be out there and now it is.

  5. C.C. Winchester

    I knew Dan Martin. Bought my first amp from the guy. He died a few years back. I found this story to be pretty typical.After Dan passed I ended up running across a couple pieces from his collection …one being one of Eds handpainted 5150 style guitars….I went way out of my way to get the guitar back to Ed thinking it may be special to him. Let’s just say the description above of Dan…..sounds like the same guy I was presented with when meeting Ed. I’m sure the guy was at one time blessed with a better personality when he still had his soul intact. But all I found was a shell of what may have been.

  6. While it does indeed seem that the original owner was seriously duped by an opportunistic slimebag, nothing illegal actually transpired. The owner of the V could/should have had the true value established by a reputable guitar expert, such as George Gruhn. But, alas, he didn’t, and now it is long past his time to “let it go” – however, perhaps he has, and the author of this piece is wanting to make his plea in the clearly fruitless hope that HE can get his hands on the rare axe, and claim as his own by right of inheritance…

  7. Rock and Roll Randy

    I had a ’57 Les Paul Goldtop that I had under my bed for years in Colorado. I moved to California in ’87 and needed cash and went to a local guitar store in San Marcos. I wanted to get it appraised first. The owner said it was only worth $600. I really needed the cash and took the deal. I later found out I was ripped of. The music store went out of business and I later found out it was sold to an east coast artist and loves the guitar and cherishes it.
    I at least feel good that a good person got it and respects it.

  8. I find this article interesting as I have two early guitars of EVH from before he & the group went on their first US tour in ’78. The main reason was because they sold as much gear as they could to get as much money as they could gather in preparation for it. One of the guitars is a custom built all zebra wood flying V w/ old vintage Gibson pickups, a wide and concave extra thick ebony fret board (ala classical guitar fret boards), jumbo frets, and a huge brass nut. It still has the holes in the body from his unorthodox method of using eyebolts for strap locks! I often wonder if he would ever remember having it and if he’d ever want to play it again? Especially now that I see this article about his fondness for another flying V not too long after letting that one go? I also still have a photo of him playing (and still developing?) his tapping technique on it.

  9. Mike in British Columbia Canada

    I agree,this exceptional guitar was not stolen, just acquired from your Grandfather by a lying S.O.B. There could be light at the end of the tunnel though. I believe Mr E.V.H. to be a fair fun loving guy who has no responsibility as to how the guitar came his way. If he were to be contacted by your family with the story, he may be willing to loan the instrument to Gibson’s custom shop to have an exact replica created. Eddy could sign the new guitar and maybe scribble a short letter in his own words. A win win situation I think. Just thought I had while reading the story Mike

  10. Jason,

    I worked for Dan for over 10 years. I played that guitar when Dan was going to sell it to Pete Townshend of the Who before he sold it to Ed. It was an amazing guitar. But, the story he told me of how he got it is different than what you have told and I completely agree with your version. He was a megalomaniac and I habitual liar. I’m sorry that your family was deceived by him. Sadly, yours was not the last.

    1. Bryon would love to Connect and see if you knew about another V possibly for Eddie around 78/79/ black 64 prototype? Serial numbers exist, unlike 2 others trying to pass themselves off as what I know I have, lol I even talked to man who actually built these and told me 15+ heck 20 years ago god damn time flies 🙁 man who built and stamped told me that he actually probably stamped my V 🙂 situation gets more insane, and people thought I was losing my mind, well to much rock didn’t do it, woman lol no kidding girls, anyways bryon give me a sign how we can talk, have so much to say, 🙂

  11. This deal with Eddie was just that pne of many in search of the perfect playing guitar. Its kinda funny how this internet has made it possible for all to really know what happened but strangely I have a guitar that Eddie went to maybe purchase?well check out but wasn’t pristine enough and after Ozzy tour had money and serching for his dream guitar he passed up the one I have. And strangely ennough came from via a couple who came out to LA from?get this a family from St Louis right around 78? So freaking long ago cant recall.78/79? All I know is Eddie played it and passed it up and up next was my high school buddy who nabbed it as a used 64 Flying V, fairly cheap going rate then for good playable Gibson used about $800 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 yee haw now Eddie got a bad ass V but I honestly like mine now knowing we what I know now. Prototype Yes, (kinda weird how this guy from St Louis got all these prototype s? and all the writing on it, purchased as an 64, now noone hardly knew guitars would get to the state they are now which is insane, the writing on it lol, it got ,., a quick ciat of White paint put over it believe me 20 years of pure research this story gets insane,, never even knew Jimi Hendrix played a V ,I wasnt even playing when Jimi passed away, I was 8 & didn’t start playing tell 11, point being is tjis guitar is was Jimi”s and fretboards match up perfect see I was also photographer that used computer s internet and Photoshop since evolution , I have wild story and will continue later. This story needs to be told also. Totally relates and boy guys that worked for dan would love to talk personally to all even the grandson who feels? Im not sure? I have no judgement except Eddie by the book and he scored a great guitar, back then only a few knew they were worth something, $10,000 hell of alot of money. How were we to know w ::) at I have wiukd be worth what it is today, talk about expensive, shi! #$!k 🙂

  12. Wow. It’s really sad that your grandfather was scammed out of such a priceless guitar, but at least it ended up in some very talented hands. In an aside, I have to say that I’m really impressed with how well the band is doing. I read that they’re on tour this summer, which is super exciting.

  13. Dan passed away a few years ago, Guitar exchange closed. Dan was a friend of mine, I grew up in St. Charles. Sorry your grandfather lost the “v”, but it’s business. Not personal. Could you think of a better person to hold on to the guitar? Bet Eddie plays better anyway.
    Calling Dan a “swindler” is just wrong.

    1. Thanks for the comment, but this happened on more than one occasion. And I completely disagree with you because this is not how honest people do business, and it was VERY personal in this case.

  14. Like the time he passed the hat around the audience while his young sons performed but only gave them a portion of the collected funds. When Eddie and Alex asked what happened to the rest of the money, the elder Van Halen responded, “Welcome to the music business!”

  15. I played this guitar before Van Halen bought it. I gave guitar lessons ar guitar exchange when I was like 18. Dan told me he was selling it to Van Halen. I did not know anything about how he got it. Dan use to go to estate sales and would talk about deals he would get. I bought several guitars from him. Like five years after I worked there I went to Dan with my mother in law to find a guitar for my father in law. He plays left handed so Dan was on the look out for one. He found us a Gibson left handed acoustic and sold it to us for $300. Like I said I was young. After the years went by my father in law could not play it anymore so I bought it from him and had it switched to right handed. When I looked at it after gaining some wisdom i noticed it was made at Kalamazoo and it had an epiphone body and Gibson neck. It was originally right handed. Had some different knowledgeable people look at it and they think so random worker at Gibson made it. Well it is one of a kind.

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