A look inside the shop of Lynn Ellsworth, the local man behind Van Halen’s ‘Frankenstein’ guitar
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Right here in Spokane is where you’ll find the man behind Eddie Van Halen’s famous “Frankenstein” guitar.
Lynn Ellsworth made guitars for some of the biggest bands of the 70s, 80s and 90s — and at the age of 74, he’s still building guitars.
If you want a Lynn Ellsworth original, keep in mind that there’s a long waiting list.
“Started making stuff for Eric Clapton, the Stones, Scorpions, Eagles, Eddie Van Halen, Nazareth… Jefferson Starship — some of the big ones,” Ellsworth explained while sanding down a guitar body.
To make one of his legendary guitars, the time it takes he says “depends on the wood” — his guitar for Nazareth took him a year and a half, for instance.
For this seasoned craftsman, it’s a labor of love.
Ellsworth showed 4 News Now some of the guitar bodies, knocking on one of them in different areas.
“[There’s] the difference in the sound,” Ellsworth said, still knocking, “this [body] has several frequencies where it’s picking up.”
That was just one of several guitar bodies laying around his shop — an assortment of different pieces, each made from different woods from around the world, and even from times long past!
“Some of the woods are so exotic… whenever I see exotic woods, in most cases I don’t care what it costs, I buy it.”
“Nobody, back in the 70s, was making exotic [guitar] bodies, they were just all painted — by Fender and Gibson and so forth.”
Ellsworth picked up a piece of old wood, one with a distinct guitar-shaped hole cut out of it, before leaning it back against the garage.
“This piece of wood costs $500 years ago,” he explained, touching it again, “it’s 2,000 years old… and you can’t get it anymore!”
The guitar he’s making with it, he says, is “going to be one of a kind.”
Eddie Van Halen tragically passed away on October 6 from cancer, and Ellsworth reflected on the iconic red, black and white guitar he made for the rock icon years ago.
“Young kids would call up, ‘Where you the one that made Van Halen’s Frankenstein?’ ‘Oh yeah, I did!'” Ellsworth recalled. “I sold it to him for $130, then he took it home, painted it white and black at first, and then changed the color… and that’s how ‘Frankenstein’ came into being.”
When Ellsworth heard the news of Van Halen’s passing, he was stunned.
“My wife told me, she came and said ‘Eddie Van Halen died,’ and it was just devastating,” said Ellsworth. “He was a real nice guy.”
Ellsworth has been making guitars for a long time, and recently announced that he was retiring.
“My wife put on the internet that I was retiring. The very next day, we got 20 phone calls from guys wanting me to build them stuff before I retire. It’s keeping me busy!”
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