Superfans and collectors looking for Vai ephemera might want to bid on a Frank Zappa tour jacket, handwritten music and sketches, or perhaps some stage-worn cowboy boots from his days playing with David Lee Roth.
Guitar nerds will similarly have a field day. There’s a veritable cornucopia of delights, with guitars, amps and effects processors from all eras of Vai’s career – from the downright weird and esoteric to the classic.
Alongside a number of Carvin guitar amps, rack-mounted samplers and synthesizers, and acoustic guitars, there are some truly notable Vai guitars here. Take EVO IV, a 2012 Ibanez JEM7V in White, which was used by Vai as a backup to his 1992 white JEM that arrived as a prototype during the Sex & Religion era.
Some reports have stated that Vai named it after the DiMarzio Evolution humbuckers he had installed in it, but speaking to Guitarist in March, he said it was the Harley Davidson Evolution engine that gave it its name.
“It was basically stock. Through the years I changed out the neck and pickups several times, and also the electronics and the bridge,” Vai said. “At that time, this guitar had a magnetic-like pull to me. The first time I played it, it felt like home. This was the main guitar I used from 1992 to present day. I used this guitar at more concerts and recordings than any other guitar. It always felt like my safe place.”
You can now purchase Vai’s backup to his safe space, with bids starting at $2,000 and expected to fetch up to $12,000. Like the Evo, it has ‘Evo IV’ handwritten in marker by its Floyd Rose vibrato.
There are other notable JEMs under the hammer, such as Sofia, the custom-design model he used during the 2011 Experience Hendrix tour, which you can hear in action below.
And then there is “Roopy”, an early 1988 JEM7RB in Root Beer finish, and Muscle Boy, a custom graphic JEM that was made for Vai in the ‘80s.
Another super-cool JEM is “Ode”, a mirror-finished model used heavily during the Real Illusions era [and pictured top].
But, as you might expect from a guitar player whose arsenal now includes custom monsters such as the three-necked Ibanez Hydra, there are some outré lots featuring some far-out designs.
There is a Bill Conklin custom seven-string, described by Vai as a “wild piece of 7-string art”, which has a hand-carved cobra body with hieroglyphic inlays, and a headstock that you could take spear-fishing. It’s nuts, though Vai says it plays well for the most part, “but it can bite at times if you play the wrong notes”.
Other notable lots include a 1999 double-neck, “Coroza”, which never made it onto the Ibanez catalogue. It has six and seven-string necks, with the six having a locking tremolo and HSH pickup configuration, the seven outfitted with dual-humbuckers and a through-body hardtail.
If that is a little modernistic, there’s also an EDS-1275-inspired 1976 Ibanez double-neck, aka “Not Her”, which was purchased to replace a similar model stolen in 1980. No Stairway? Yes Stairway, with bidding currently at $1,250 and conservatively expected to reach $2,000.
Bidding is open now, with the three-day Icons And Idols: Rock N Roll auction event being hosted from 11-13 November. For more details, head over to Julien's Auctions.