Back in 1976, the Canadian rock star Randy Bachman’s prized guitar was stolen.
Having worked odd jobs as a teenager to save up for the pumpkin orange electric Gretsch, then 32-year-old Bachman was heartbroken. On tour, he’d been diligent about shackling the guitar to hotel room toilets with tow truck chains whenever he left the room. But on the day it was stolen, his staff had been careless and briefly left their Toronto Holiday Inn hotel room without chaining it up.
But thanks to a dedicated fan’s keen detective work, the guitar has been found. Forty-six years later, Bachman will on Friday reunite with his dear instrument, halfway across the world in Japan.
“It will be life changing,” Bachman said on his Instagram.
The torment of searching fruitlessly for his guitar—or, as he called it, his “first love”—became Bachman’s mid-life crisis.
For decades, the 78-year-old scoured guitar magazines and phone guitar stores, and would eventually collect over 350 lookalikes while looking for his original.
It had cost him $400, a lot for a guitar at the time but not inconceivable for a dedicated artist. But none had the distinctive marking that set it apart from others: a knot—a visibly dark and circular imperfection in the wood—right next to the guitar’s master control. Bachman would think about his guitar every day.
But the breakthrough came from William Long, a semi-retired British Columbia native who was a fan of Bachman’s.
Using the guitar’s distinguishing color and grain pattern, Long compared photos of Bachman’s original with similar guitars for several hours a day from March 2020. Weeks later, he found the guitar on a Tokyo music store’s website, which claimed it had been sold in 2016.
Long then traced the guitar to TAKESHI, a Japanese rock musician, who appeared with the instrument in a Christmas performance that was on YouTube.
Convinced it was Bachman’s guitar, Long contacted the Canadian rockstar’s son Tal, who was living with his father at the time. Tal’s wife KoKo Yamamoto, who is Japanese and fluent in the language, was able to translate for both rockstars and organize a guitar exchange. On Friday, the artists will meet in person for the first time in Tokyo.
In exchange for the original guitar, TAKESHI, who described his and Bachman’s story as a “miracle,” will be receiving a 1957 Gretsch 6120 in the same orange shade as Bachman’s. The two will perform together at Tokyo’s Canadian embassy after completing the switch. It’ll be Bachman’s first time performing in Japan since 1995, when he played with Ringo Starr.
Bachman, who plans to write a song called “Lost and Found” with his reunited guitar, said in an interview with Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun that he’d cry when he’s reunited with his lost love. “This whole trip to Japan and my guitar return is a dream come true,” Bachman said.
Correction: An earlier version of the article misidentified the lost guitar as a Gibson. We regret the error.