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Rock star Randy Bachman to reunite with his guitar in Japan 45 yrs after it was stolen

Randy Bachman, a former member of The Guess Who, is seen during an interview in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on June 21, 2022. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

TOKYO -- A guitar that once belonged to legendary rocker Randy Bachman, a former member of the Canadian rock band The Guess Who, that was stolen 45 years ago in Toronto while he was on tour has been found in Japan. The rock star is now in Tokyo to retrieve his lost love after a Japanese musician who had bought the guitar at a vintage shop agreed to give it back to its rightful owner.

    "We searched the world. It was in Japan ... I'm sure I will be crying because I will have my guitar in my hands," the 78-year-old said in a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

    Bachman bought the 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins at a guitar shop in his hometown Winnipeg, Manitoba, when he was 19. Another rock legend Neil Young was with him at the time, and he too purchased a Gretsch guitar there. For Bachman, it was his first expensive guitar. He said Young still has his Gretsch and that his old friend was happy to hear that Bachman's guitar was found in Japan.

    The 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins that once belonged to former The Guess Who member Randy Bachman before it was stolen is seen in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on June 8, 2022 (Mainichi/Akinori Miyamoto)

    "About six months ago, I got a nice email from him (Young) with a picture of his guitar, and it said, 'I'm happy you got your guitar back. I know what it meant to you.' Every guy I know wants his first guitar. Especially if you've written songs that are on radio all over the world with it," Bachman told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The "orange like a pumpkin" Gretsch was priced at $400. The young Bachman paid $200 up front -- the money he had saved by working multiple jobs including delivering papers, babysitting and mowing lawns. He made the remaining $200 in deferred payment. The song "American Woman," one of the hits by The Guess Who, was recorded with this guitar.

    The rock star said the guitar was so special to him that he made sure when on a tour he secured it to a hotel room toilet with tow truck chains when he had to leave the room.

    "I even carried with me a sand bag with a chain in it. And I'd take it into a bathroom and chain the case around it. So if someone wanted to steal it, they would have to rip the toilet from the wall. People said I was crazy, but I was serious," Bachman said.

    The wood grain pattern that helped Randy Bachman identify his lost guitar is seen in this photo taken in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on June 8, 2022. (Mainichi/Akinori Miyamoto)

    When Bachman was touring with the band in 1977, however, his precious Gretsch was stolen at a hotel in Toronto. That day, his staff happened to leave the room for a moment to pay for their stay without chaining the guitar to the toilet. Bachman said they told him that the Gretsch was "gone."

    "I was like, 'What do you mean it's gone?' So that was (a) heartbreak," he recalled.

    When Bachman filed a report with local police, he was told that it was probably snatched up by some gang disguised as hotel workers. It was a hopeless mission to find his Gretsch, but even so, Bachman continued to speak about his beloved missing guitar on radio and in interviews.

    This screenshot of a YouTube video that Randy Bachman's fan found shows Takeshi, left, playing a Gretsch. (Image courtesy of Takeshi's YouTube channel)

    In March 2020, a Canadian fan launched a search for Bachman's missing Gretsch, by taking screenshots of the guitar from his old music videos and spreading the information online. The search led the fan to reach a guitar shop in Tokyo's Daikanyama area and he eventually found a YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubbBJfQ5JOo where Japanese musician Takeshi who had bought Bachman's Gretsch at the store could be seen playing it.

    The fan contacted Bachman, and to his surprise the grain pattern on the guitar Takeshi was holding was the same as his beloved Gretsch.

    "I thought, 'That's my guitar,'" Bachman recalled. He immediately contacted Takeshi and met with him via Zoom in June 2020.

    Musician Takeshi who purchased Randy Bachman's lost guitar at a shop in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward is seen pointing at where the guitar was being hung when he bought it, on June 8, 2022. (Mainichi/Akinori Miyamoto)

    The Japanese musician purchased the Gretsch in 2014. He happened to stop by at Guitar Traders Tokyo in Daikanyama and saw the guitar hanging on the wall. According to the store, the owner bought the Gretsch that summer at a vintage guitar trade show in Dallas, Texas.

    Takeshi, who writes music for popular artists and boy bands like Arashi, Tokio and Kanjani Eight, said when he created music using the Gretsch it felt as if "the guitar was leading" him. When he was contacted by Bachman, he first thought it was "a new type of fraud." Though he was uncertain, he decided to talk with this individual who claimed to be Randy Bachman. And as it turned out, the person sitting on the other side of the screen on their Zoom meeting was in fact The Guess Who founding member.

    With a serious expression on his face, the rock star spoke of how he saved up money to buy the guitar and the day it was stolen, and how he became unable to write a hit song since his beloved guitar was taken from him. It was then that Takeshi decided to give the Gretsch back to Bachman.

    "I thought, 'If a rock legend cares about this guitar so much (I should return it to him).' I also thought I could write music without this specific guitar," Takeshi said. "I told Randy that I wanted him to write a hit (with the Gretsch) and let me join the performance."

    Former The Guess Who member Randy Bachman is seen during an interview in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on June 21, 2022. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

    Bachman relied on one of his acquaintances who handles vintage guitars to find a different Gretsch made in 1957, and decided to exchange it with his lost Gretsch now in the possession of Takeshi.

    "Out of all this COVID shut down, the world has been crazy for the past two, three years, and something good happened. This is really a magical story," said Bachman ahead of a guitar exchange event scheduled on July 1 at the Canadian Embassy in Japan. The rock star added, "Takeshi will be my guitar brother. I can't wait."

    The pair plan to hold a concert at the embassy after they exchange the Gretsch guitars. For Bachman, it will be his first live show in Japan since 1995 when he performed in a concert at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo with Ringo Starr and other musicians.

    Former The Guess Who member Randy Bachman, left, and Canadian Ambassador to Japan Ian McKay are seen in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on June 21, 2022. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

    Canadian Ambassador to Japan Ian McKay, who says he grew up listening to Bachman's music, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "When I heard this story, it immediately hit me deeply. This is a great story of Canada and Japan, person to person relationship. I felt that it was a terrific opportunity to do an event in a world of bad news to celebrate a wonderful human story. Randy has for decades been doing a music radio show ... Everybody in Canada and North America knows him not just for his music but for this music history dialogue that he does on his radio. So the people in Canada are particularly excited ... I wish to share this with the people of Japan."

    Bachman is determined to make a new song once he gets his Gretsch back and wants to include lyrics in Japanese. He said, "I hope Takeshi will take a part in it." He's planning to call the song, "Lost and Found."

    (Japanese original by Yukako Ono, Digital News Center)

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