Eddie Van Halen is widely credited as having revolutionized electric guitar playing, but did you know he was also an inventor? A 1985 submission he sent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office included what’s got to be one of the craziest illustrations they ever received.
So as not to bury the lede, we’ll start with the illustration. Which, we remind you, was submitted to an official government organization:
A+ to whoever illustrated this fine work of art: great job on Eddie’s hair! True to 1985 form.
But what on earth is that contraption under the guitar, you may be wondering? Direct from the application abstract:
“A supporting device for stringed musical instruments, for example, guitars, banjos, mandolins and the like, is disclosed. The supporting device is constructed and arranged for supporting the musical instrument on the player to permit total freedom of the player’s hands to play the instrument in a completely new way, thus allowing the player to create new techniques and sounds previously unknown to any player. The device, when in its operational position, has a plate which rests upon the player’s leg leaving both hands free to explore the musical instrument as never before. Because the musical instrument is arranged perpendicular to the player’s body, the player has maximum visibility of the instrument’s entire playing surface.”
The application, which you can read in full right here, has a whoooole lot of specifics about the motivation for creating it and a ton of legal mumbo jumbo definitions and specifications, but there’s nothing there any layperson can’t glean from the above illustration and synopsis. Mostly that illustration, though, because holy shit.
The application was submitted on July 30, 1985 and approved on April 14, 1987 under patent #4,656,917. I have yet to witness one in action.
The supporting device wasn’t the only item Van Halen successfully moved through the USPTO: he also invented or helped invent an adjustable string tension control, a new kind of humbucking pickup, and ornamental designs for guitar pegheads and pickups that should look familiar to any VH-inspired guitar player. None of those applications, sadly, had illustrations as badass as the one for the instrument support.
Because we’re all still mourning Eddie’s death, I’ll leave you with this phenomenal live video of the newly Hagar-ed band performing “5150” in 1986: