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Rocker Randy Bachman's guitar was stolen 45 years ago. A fan tracked it down

Updated October 22, 2021 at 1:50 PM ET

Musician Randy Bachman made hits like "American Woman" and "Takin' Care of Business" on a pumpkin orange 1957 Gretsch 6120, a guitar he'd bought with savings as a teenager. It was the instrument the founding member of the Guess Who and Bachman Turner-Overdrive had learned to play on.

"It was with me all the time," he told NPR's Morning Edition. "I literally slept with this guitar."

He worried it might get stolen while he toured in the 60s and 70s, so he would chain it to hotel toilets.

"If someone wanted to steal it, they'd have to rip the toilet out of the floor," he said.

But in 1976, someone did steal it. His road manager had put the guitar in a hotel room and it got nabbed.

"The road manager said, I'm going to take your guitar, check out of the hotel and come back and pick you guys up," Bachman said. "He took the guitar, he put it in a hotel room and in five minutes it was gone."

It was a devastating loss.

For years, Bachman was obsessed with getting his guitar back. And with the help of a fan who tracked it down, he will.

Enter William Long, now a guitar sleuth

Last year William Long heard about the stolen guitar in interviews on YouTube. "I could see and empathize with the pain that he was going through," Long told NPR. So during the pandemic, he decided to try and track it down.

"I didn't really look for it because it was a famous guitar," Long said. "I looked for it because I thought I could help him find it with the skills that I had."

Those skills include problem solving. He's a sleuth who enjoys mysteries.

"I know nothing about guitars," he said. "I didn't even know how to spell 'Gretsch' when I first heard the story. So that was the first thing I had to learn."

Long, working from his home in Vancouver, used screen grabs to search the web for orange Gretsch guitars. He studied the unique features of Bachman's guitar, down to its wood grain. From there, it was a process of elimination. He worked hours a day for a few weeks and finally Long found a match — in Tokyo, Japan.

Long discovered the guitar had been sold in 2016 to a Japanese musician known as TAKESHI.

"When I first strummed this guitar at the music shop in Tokyo, it spoke to me like no other guitar I've ever played," TAKESHI said in a statement. "I knew and felt it was destiny."

TAKESHI has agreed to a guitar swap with Bachman. "I'm so honoured and proud to be the one who can finally return this stolen guitar to its owner," TAKESHI's statement reads.

The two plan to trade guitars in Japan once COVID restrictions ease. Bachman has similar make and model Gretsch for TAKESHI.

"To me that's kind of a Cinderella story," Bachman said. He feels he has a special connection to TAKESHI.

"I'm best friends with this guy, and we've never met," he said. "It's a guitar friendship."

Milton Guevara and Vince Pearson produced and edited the audio story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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