‘I cried’: Rocker Randy Bachman reunites 45 years later with stolen guitar | Japan


Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search has come to an end when he was reunited with a beloved guitar in Tokyo 45 years after being stolen from a Toronto hotel.

“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as he was presented with the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote American Woman and other hits from a Japanese musician who she bought it in a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.

He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.

“It shaped my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman said before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.

When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days — it was a part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.”

He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace them, he said.

Bachman spoke frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs where he appeared with his son Tal.

Bachman will be presented with his old Gretsch by Japanese musician Takeshi at a concert in Tokyo on Friday
Bachman, right, is presented with his old Gretsch by Japanese musician Takeshi at a concert in Tokyo on Friday. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

In 2020, a Canadian fan hearing the history of the guitar did an internet search and successfully found it in Tokyo within two weeks.

The fan, William Long, used a small speck in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old pictures as a “digital fingerprint” and traced the instrument to a vintage guitar shop in Tokyo. Another search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, Takeshi, in December 2019.

After getting the message from Long, Bachman immediately contacted Takeshi and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.

“I cried,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost approached me during the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.'”

Takeshi agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for a very similar one. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” – made the same week, with a close serial number, with no modifications and no repairs.

“Finding my guitar was a miracle, and finding her twin sister was another miracle,” said Bachman.

Takeshi said he decided to return the guitar because, as a guitarist, he could imagine how much Bachman misses it.

Bachman on stage in the mid-1970s
Bachman on stage in the mid-1970s. Photo: Doug Griffin/Toronto Star/Getty Images

“I’ve only owned and played it for eight years and I’m very sad to have to return it now. But he’s been sad for 46 years and it’s about time someone else was sad,” Takeshi said. “I felt sorry for that legend.”

He said he feels good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may be some time before he loves his new Gretsch as much as she does.

“It’s a guitar and it has a soul. Even if it’s the same shape, I can’t say for sure I can love a surrogate like I loved this one,” Takeshi said. “There is no doubt that Randy thought of me and searched extensively [for the replacement]so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”

Bachman said he and Takeshi are now like brothers who own guitars who are “twin sisters.” They take part in a documentary about the guitar, on which they want to play the song “Lost and Found” together.

They also performed several songs at Friday’s delivery, including American Woman.

Bachman said he would lock the guitar at his house so he would never lose it again. “I’ll never take it out of my house again.”

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