Canadian rock star Randy Bachman was devastated when his 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar was stolen from his hotel room in 1976, but thanks to a dedicated internet sleuth, the guitar has been returned to its rightful owner more than 40 years later.
William Long came across the story of Bachman’s stolen guitar when listening to The Guess Who, Bachman’s band, on YouTube. It was mid-pandemic, and he decided to do some investigative work to see if he could solve the decades-old mystery. Long started by looking at photos of every orange Gretsch he could find on the internet and comparing them to the one played by Bachman in an old concert video. Identifying a unique wood pattern on Bachman’s specific guitar, Long was able to begin ruling out those he found online.
Finally, after eliminating more than 300 guitars from various sellers around the world, he found the guitar listed in a music store in Japan. The guitar had been sold, but a video of a Japanese musician playing the guitar finally gave Long an answer as to where it was. He contacted Bachman right away with the good news.
Bachman’s daughter-in-law, KoKo, is Japanese and was able to arrange a Zoom call between him and the current owner, Japanese musician Takeshi. After explaining the significance of the vintage guitar─Bachman saved up for months as a teen to buy it and wrote many of his hit songs with the help of the instrument─Takeshi agreed to trade it back to him for another guitar of the same model and year.
Although Takeshi wasn’t even alive when the guitar was stolen, he notes that whoever stole it all those years ago must have taken good care of it because it is still in mint condition. As for Long, he gets a satisfying end to his mystery and said he took on the case because he likes to solve “real-life puzzles.”
“To me, it’s the most incredible Cinderella story of all time, except that when midnight comes the guitar won’t turn into a pumpkin, and neither will I, and I’ll actually have my guitar back at the end of the story,” Bachman told CNN.