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Randy Bachman finds his stolen Gretsch in Tokyo – 45 years after it was taken from his Toronto hotel room

Randy Bachman with a 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar
Randy Bachman with a 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar, which he bought to trade for his original (Image credit: Randy Bachman / Instagram)

Randy Bachman is set to be reunited with his 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar after 45 years apart.

According to a report from Vancouver’s CTV News, the instrument was stolen from Bachman’s hotel room at a Holiday Inn in Toronto back in 1976, only for it to recently resurface in Tokyo, as part of the collection of Japanese guitarist Takeshi.

Bachman purchased his most cherished guitar aged 20 (around 1963), with savings accumulated from lawn mowing and snow-shovelling and, throughout his career, says he routinely chained the case to hotel room toilets to keep it secure. On the day it was taken from his room, it had been left unattended for five minutes.

The loss hit Bachman hard. He brought in the Mounties, the Ontario Provincial Police and appealed to vintage guitar specialists across North America to aid his search, all to no avail.

The model – a 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins in Western Orange, with a Bigsby vibrato and black DeArmond pickups – is much sought-after among collectors and incredibly rare. 

Only 35 of these particular instruments were made in 1957. Bachman picked up at least 12 more in his search – and admits it coincided with a midlife crisis. 

“I enter my midlife crisis with this on my mind and I buy every Gretsch that gets offered to me,” he told CTV News. “I end up with 385 Gretsch guitars. I go insane.”

Powered by this obsession, The Guess Who and BTO man famously amassed the world’s leading collection of vintage Gretsch instruments – an array that now populates museums and has long informed Gretsch’s own designers. 

Then in 2020, some 44 years on from the theft and Bachman says he had all but given up hope, before he received an email from a neighbor in White Rock who believed they had located the hallowed instrument.

Reportedly, the neighbor retooled some facial recognition software to look for wood grain matches, and turned up a YouTube video of Japan’s rockabilly icon Takeshi playing the instrument.

The two setup a video call before Takeshi showed him the Grestsch. 

“I am absolutely struck right in my chest, like an electric shock,” Bachman told CTV News of the moment he saw the guitar again online. “This is my guitar, and it looks one day older than when it was stolen. Whoever had it, loved it and took care of it.”

Now he’s set to be reunited with the instrument on the stipulation from Takeshi he can trade it for a sister model of the same year, finish and spec (more on that in the video above).

Fortunately, if anyone has the resources and knowhow required to locate a rare Gretsch, it’s Bachman...

Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.