Rock star Randy Bachman says he was heartbroken after someone stole the rare guitar he used while writing hits like "Taking Care of Business" and "American Woman," but decades later, he's thrilled that an internet sleuth has tracked down the 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar in Japan, where a Japanese rockabilly star has been playing it.
"Part of me was lost," Bachman, of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, told CNN, explaining that the orange Gretsch was the first expensive guitar he owned and how hard he'd had to work as an 18-year-old to buy it.
"So I have a paper route where you make, like, two bucks a week delivering the paper, you mow a lawn for a dollar, you babysit someone, you get a dollar, you're working at a car wash and you'd get 50 cents an hour. This is way, way back," Bachman, who is now 78 years old, said. "To save the 400 bucks was a big, big, big deal."
Bachman loved the guitar so much that he had a 12-foot-long tow chain that he would use to lock it to something when he had to leave it. However, the day it was stolen, the band's road manager wasn't careful. He said he reported the theft to both the Ontario Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but they told him he'd probably never get the guitar back.
The rocker said he has told the story many times over the years on his radio show and on videos on a YouTube channel he started with his son, Tal Bachman, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the internet sleuth, William Long, said he came across Bachman's video about his guitar and told CNN he was looking for something different to do, so he started looking for the guitar and eventually tracked the guitar to a Tokyo vintage guitar shop.
He then found a video of Japanese musician Takeshi playing Christmas songs on it, and pointed out that the grain markings matched that of Bachman's long-lost guitar.
"I see the guy playing my guitar, MY guitar, I can tell by the grain on it and I'm stunned. It's like somebody hit me in the face with a shovel," Bachman said. "It's just unbelievable, because I've been searching for this forever and basically gave up on it."
Takeshi, who Bachman described as the "Japanese Brian Setzer" said he was tearful when the Japanese star showed him his old guitar and offered to return the guitar in exchange for "its sister."
Finding another mint-condition Gretsch from that year was a challenge, but Bachman said he built relationships with guitar dealers and eventually found one in a guitar shop in Ohio that not only had a similar guitar but had serial numbers showing the two instruments were likely made in the same week.
Takeshi says he is "honored and proud to be the one who can finally return this stolen guitar to its owner, the rock star, Mr. Bachman who was searching for it for nearly half a century and I feel very grateful for this miracle happening in both our lives."
Bachman is planning to travel to Japan to meet with Takeshi and exchange the two guitars once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile, he calls the Japanese star his "guitar brother" and said they play together often on Zoom and said they hope to create a documentary about the lost guitar.
"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 said.
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