Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search ended on Friday when he found a treasured guitar in Tokyo, 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who, as the Gretsch guitar, on which he wrote American Woman and other hits, was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo Boutique 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 several jobs to save money to buy the guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It was my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told The Associated Press before the handover at the Canadian Embassy. in Tokyo.
When it was robbed at the Toronto hotel in 1977 “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.”
He ended up buying about 300 guitars in failed attempts to replace them, he said.
Bachman has spoken about the missing guitar frequently in interviews and radio shows, and most recently on YouTube programs where he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the guitar’s story searched the internet and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
Fan William Long used a small speck in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo.
Further research led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument played by a Japanese musician, Takeshi, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman immediately contacted Takeshi and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me on the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home’.”
Takeshi agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” – made in the same week, with a close serial number, without modifications or repairs.
“Finding my guitar was a miracle, finding his twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
Takeshi said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitarist he could imagine how much Bachman had missed him.
“I owned it and only played it for eight years and I’m extremely sad to give it back now. But it’s been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time someone else was sad” , Takeshi said, “I felt sorry for that caption.”
He said he felt great after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it might take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as this one.
Bachman said he and Takeshi are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters”. They participate in a guitar documentary on which they plan to perform a song together, Lost And Found.
They also performed several songs during Friday’s handover, including American Woman.
Bachman said he would lock the guitar in his house so he would never lose it again. “I will never take him out of my house again,” he said.