Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman ended his search when he was reunited in Tokyo with a guitar he cherished 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
Bachman, 78, a former member of Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, said: “My girlfriend was right there, when the Gretsch on which he wrote American Woman and other hits was played by a human musician. Japan bought him. it at a store in Tokyo in 2014 without knowing its history.
He says all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager is special. He worked multiple jobs to save money on a $400 guitar, the first time he bought an expensive instrument, he said.
“It has made my whole life. It’s my hammer and tool for writing songs, making music and making money,” Bachman said before handing over at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from a Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days – it was part of me,” he said. “It’s very, very annoying.”
He bought about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman frequently talks about the lost instrument in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube shows where he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story about the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a tiny spot on the grain of the guitar that can be seen in old photos as a “digital fingerprint” and traced the guitar to a guitar store. Classic in Tokyo. A deeper search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, Takeshi, in December 2019.
After receiving word from Long, Bachman immediately contacted Takeshi and recognized the instrument in a video chat they had.
“I cried,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me through the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming.'”
Takeshi agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for a very similar one. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” – made in the same week, with close serial numbers, no modifications and no repairs.
Bachman said: “Finding my guitar is a miracle, finding its twin is another miracle.
Takeshi said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player, he can imagine how much Bachman misses it.
“I’ve owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m so sad to give it back now. But he’s been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” Takeshi said. “I feel sorry for this legend.”
He says he feels good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as it does.
“It’s a lute, and it has a soul. So even if it were in the same shape, I can’t say for sure if I could love a surrogate the same way I fell in love with this one,” Takeshi said. “Without a doubt, Randy thought of me and searched hard [for the replacement]so I will gradually develop feelings for it, but maybe it takes time”.
Bachman said he and Takeshi are now like brothers who own guitars as “twins”. They are participating in a documentary about the guitar in which they plan to perform a song, Lost and Found, together.
They also performed a number of songs at Friday’s handover, including American Woman.
Bachman said he will keep the guitar in his house so he never loses it again. “I’ll never take it out of the house again.”