Nearly 50 years ago, Randy Bachman‘s Gretsch guitar – on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits — was stolen from a hotel in Toronto. Decades later, the instrument has been returned to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a store in Tokyo, unaware of its history.
Bachman, former guitarist for the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was understandably distraught when he first noticed the guitar had gone missing in 1977. It was the first expensive instrument he’d ever bought as a teenager, having worked odd jobs to save up the $400 for it. “I cried for three days – it was part of me,” he recently told the Guardian. “It was very, very upsetting.”
Over the years, Bachman attempted to fill the void with other, similar guitars, but nothing compared to the bright orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins. “It made my whole life,” he said. “It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money.”
In 2020, a Canadian fan named William Long decided to launch an internet hunt for the missing guitar, carefully studying old photographs for distinct markings on it. Within a few weeks, he’d tracked the instrument to Japanese rock musician Takeshi. After communicating, Takeshi agreed to return the instrument to Bachman in exchange for a “sister” guitar made during the same week and featuring a similar serial number.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” Takeshi said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
The two musicians met up in Tokyo to exchange the instruments, where they performed together at Tokyo’s Canadian embassy, marking Bachman’s first time performing in Japan since 1995, when he appeared with Ringo Starr. Bachman and Takeshi are now planning on appearing in a documentary about the long-lost guitar, in which they will perform a new song together, penned by Bachman, called “Lost and Found.”
Speaking with Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, Bachman relayed his gratitude for the happy ending: “This whole trip to Japan and my guitar return is a dream come true.”
Listen to ‘American Woman’ by the Guess Who
Top 100 Classic Rock Artists
Click through to find out how they stack up, as we count down the Top 100 classic rock artists.