By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search ended Friday when he found a guitar in Tokyo that had been treasured 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him. given by a Japanese musician who had bought it in a store in Tokyo in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked several jobs to save money in order to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It’s been my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and earn money,” Bachman told The Associated Press before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was robbed at the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in failed attempts to replace them, he said.
Bachman has spoken about the missing guitar frequently in interviews and radio shows, and most recently on YouTube programs he performed on with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the guitar’s story searched the internet and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
Fan William Long used a small speck in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. Further research led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After hearing from Long, Bachman immediately contacted TAKESHI and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me on the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.'”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that looked a lot like him. So Bachman searched and found the “sister” of the guitar – made in the same week, with a close serial number, without modifications or repairs.
“Finding my guitar was a miracle, finding his twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitarist he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and only played it for eight years and I’m extremely sad to give it back now. But it’s been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time someone else was sad” , said TAKESHI. “I felt sorry for that caption.”
He said he felt great after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it might take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as this one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even though it’s the same shape, I can’t say for sure if I can like a substitute the same way I liked this one,” he said. “He doesn’t make any doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I’ll gradually develop a fondness for her, but it may take time.
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They participate in a documentary on the guitar on which they plan to perform a song together, “Lost and Found”.
They also performed several songs during the handover on Friday, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he would lock the guitar in his house so he would never lose it again. “I will never take him out of my house again,” he said.
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