Long before Randy Bachman became a legendary rock star, he was a little boy with the dream of buying the perfect guitar.
Costing a whopping $400, the 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins model in Western Orange seemed so out of reach. But Bachman was determined to make that guitar his own one day, so he took on lots of odd jobs.
“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,” he said. “This is way, way back. So to save the 400 bucks was a big, big, big deal.”
After a lot of time and effort, the guitar was finally his, making it the most expensive guitar he’d ever owned at that point. With it, he’d go on to create some of his biggest hits like “Takin Care of Business” and “American Woman.”
Bachman’s guitar meant the world to him. That’s why, on tour, he’d locked it up with a 12-foot long tow chain to ensure it didn’t get stolen. But in 1976 at a hotel in Ontario, the road manager forgot to secure it, and Bachman’s biggest fear became a reality.
“It was just terrible,” he said. “I cried for literally all night … I loved this guitar so much.”
He’d go on to buy hundreds of Grestch’s in hopes of finding one with the same special sound his stolen one had, but they were never the same.
As decades passed, Bachman essentially gave up on finding his guitar. He’d still get asked about it sometimes in interviews, though, catching the attention of William Long, a fan who was ready to pick up where Bachman had left off.
William began his search by comparing hi-resolution photos of Bachman’s stolen guitar with listings of second-hand models he found online.
“I probably went through maybe 300 Gretsch images and I got pretty good at it so I could see them and I could know right away that it wasn’t it,” William said. “So, it’s eliminate, eliminate, eliminate, eliminate.”
Finally, he discovered that the last place it was sold was in a vintage music store in Tokyo. Soon after, he recognized the guitar in a video where Japanese guitarist, Takeshi, was playing it. William was able to get in contact with Bachman to tell him the great news, and his reaction was priceless.
“Man, my guitar, I was in tears,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable, because I’ve been searching for this forever and basically gave up on it.”
Because Bachman doesn’t speak Japansese, he needed an interpreter for them to communicate in a meeting over Zoom. Bachman’s soon-to-be daughter-in-law — who is Japanese and speaks the language — was more than happy to help him out.
Born the very year that the guitar was stolen, Takeshi was thrilled to be able to give this rock n’ roll legend his beloved guitar back.
“I’m so 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,” Takeshi said.
He just had one request: For Bachman to find him his own model of the legendary guitar. As luck would have it, he was able to find one of these rare guitars in a shop in Ohio.
“The serial number is two digits off from mine,” Bachman said. “Which means it was made in the same week.”
Bachman won’t be able to travel to Tokyo until travel restrictions from COVID ease up, but if their Zoom call is any indication, these two are going to get along very well when they officially meet in person.
“This guy is my guitar brother,” he said. “Takeshi is my brother. I can’t even talk to him because he’s Japanese, he doesn’t understand me, but when we play the guitar together on Zoom, there’s this connection.”
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