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George Van Eps

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George Van Eps
George Van Eps in 1949
George Van Eps in 1949
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Abel Van Eps
Born(1913-08-07)August 7, 1913
Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedNovember 29, 1998(1998-11-29) (aged 85)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, swing
Instrument(s)Seven-string guitar
Years active1924–1998
LabelsEuphoria, Capitol, Concord Jazz

George Abel Van Eps (August 7, 1913 – November 29, 1998)[1] was an American swing and mainstream jazz guitarist.[2]


George Van Eps was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, United States,[3] into a family of musicians. His three brothers – Fred Abel Van Eps, Jr. (1907–1980), Robert B. Van Eps (1909–1986),[2] and John A. Van Eps (1912–1945)[4] – were musicians. His mother, Louise Abel, was a classical pianist and his father, Fred Van Eps, was a ragtime banjoist and sound engineer.[3] George Van Eps began playing banjo when he was eleven years old.[3] After hearing Eddie Lang on the radio, he put down the banjo and devoted himself to guitar.[3] By the age of thirteen, in 1926, he was performing on the radio. Through the middle of the 1930s, he played with Harry Reser, Smith Ballew, Freddy Martin, Benny Goodman, and Ray Noble.[5][6][7]

Van Eps moved to California and spent most of his remaining career as a studio musician, playing on many commercials and movie soundtracks.[5]

In the 1930s, he invented a model of guitar with another bass string added to the common six-string guitar. The seven-string guitar allowed him to play basslines below his chord voicings, unlike the single-string style of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He called his technique "lap piano". It anticipated the fingerpicking style of country guitarists Chet Atkins and Merle Travis and inspired jazz guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, and Howard Alden to pick up the seven-string.[7]

Dixieland had a following in Los Angeles during the 1940s and 1950s, and he played in groups led by Bob Crosby and Matty Matlock and appeared in the film Pete Kelly's Blues.[5] He played guitar on Frank Sinatra's 1955 album. In the Wee Small Hours.

Van Eps played guitar into his eighties, having built a career that lasted over sixty years.[7] He died of pneumonia in Newport Beach, California, on November 29, 1998, at the age of 85.[7][1]


As leader or co-leader[edit]

  • 1949 Jump Presents George Van Eps (Jump)
  • 1957 Mellow Guitar (Columbia)
  • 1966 My Guitar (Columbia)
  • 1967 George Van Eps' Seven-String Guitar (Capitol)
  • 1967 Soliloquy (Capitol)
  • 1991 Thirteen Strings with Howard Alden (Concord)
  • 1992 Hand-Crafted Swing with Howard Alden (Concord)
  • 1993 Seven & Seven with Howard Alden (Concord)
  • 1994 Keepin' Time with Howard Alden (Concord)
  • 1994 Legends (Concord) with Johnny Smith
  • 2003 George Van Eps, Eddie Miller, and Stanley Wright (Jump)[8][5]

As sideman[edit]


  • Van Eps, George (1939). Method for Guitar. Epiphone. ASIN B004IHGA1Y.
  • Van Eps, George (1993). Guitar Solos. Mel Bay Publications. ASIN B0013GHRKG.
  • Van Eps, George (1980). Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar, Volume One. Mel Bay Publications. ISBN 978-0871669063.
  • Van Eps, George (1981). Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar, Volume Two. Mel Bay Publications. ISBN 978-0786609246.
  • Van Eps, George (1982). Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar, Volume Three. Mel Bay Publications. ISBN 978-1562223663.


  1. ^ a b Watrous, Peter (7 December 1998). "George Van Eps, 85, Musician Who Popularized 7-String Guitar". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b ASCAP Biographical Dictionary (4th ed.). compiled for ASCAP by the Jaques Cattell PressR.R. Bowker Company. 1980 – via Internet Archive. LCCN 80-65351; ISBN 978-0-8352-1283-0, 0-8352-1283-1; OCLC 7065938 (all editions).
      1. "Van Eps, George". p. 517.
      2. "Van Eps, Robert". p. 517.
  3. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 2574/5. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ Courier-News (December 29, 1945). "Obituaries: John A. Van Eps Dies of Injuries" (Final ed.). p. 10 (col. 1; top) – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  6. ^ Peerless, Brian (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Vol. 2 (2 ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 825. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  7. ^ a b c d Ginell, Richard S. "George Van Eps". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  8. ^ "George Van Eps | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  9. ^ "George Van Eps | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 August 2017.