George Van Eps

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George Van Eps
Birth name George Abel Van Eps
Born (1913-08-07)August 7, 1913
Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
Died November 29, 1998(1998-11-29) (aged 85)
Newport Beach, California
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1924–1998
Labels Euphoria, Capitol, Concord Jazz
Associated acts Freddy Martin, Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, Howard Alden
Notable instruments
Seven-string guitar, Gretsch signature model 1968

George Van Eps (August 7, 1913 – November 29, 1998) (often called the Father of the Seven-String Guitar) was an American swing and mainstream jazz guitarist.

Biography[edit]

George Van Eps was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, into a family of musicians. His three brothers were musicians. His mother was a classical pianist and his father, Fred Van Eps, was a ragtime banjoist. George Van Eps began playing banjo when he was eleven years old. After hearing Eddie Lang on the radio, he put down the banjo and devoted himself to guitar. 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.[1][2][3]

Van Eps moved to California and spent most of his remaining career as a studio musician, playing on many commercials and movie soundtracks.[1]

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 bass next to his jazz chords, 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.[3]

Dixieland had a following in Los Angeles during the 1940s and 1950s, and he played in groups led by Bob Crosby, Pete Kelly, and Matty Matlock.[1]

Van Eps played guitar into his 80s, having built a career that lasted over sixty years.[3] He died of pneumonia in Newport Beach, California on November 29, 1998 at the age of 85.[4][3]

Discography[edit]

As leader or co-leader[edit]

  • 1949 Jump Presents George Van Eps (Jump)
  • 1956 Mellow Guitar (Sundazed)
  • 1965 My Guitar (Euphoria)
  • 1967 Seven-String Guitar (Capitol)
  • 1968 Soliloquy (Euphoria)
  • 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)[5][1]

As sideman[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6. 
  2. ^ Peerless, Brian (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 2 (2 ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 825. ISBN 1-56159-284-6. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ginell, Richard S. "George Van Eps". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Watrous, Peter (7 December 1998). "George Van Eps, 85, Musician Who Popularized 7-String Guitar". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ "George Van Eps | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "George Van Eps | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 August 2017.