Stolen guitar recovered after 45 years using facial recognition technology

Randy Bachman lost his most beloved Gretsch in 1976. The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive guitarist had bought the 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar when he was just 18 years old, with money saved up from doing odd jobs around town. Back then, it cost $400; today, it’s worth about $15,000. When it was stolen from his Toronto hotel room, “it was heartbreaking,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s like your first love. You never forget that, and when it was taken, it was an absolute shock.”

Bachman told the story in a 2018 YouTube video, which somehow caught the attention of a man named William Long, who makes a hobby out of investigating unsolved mysteries (he’s particularly interested in the DB Cooper skyjacking). Long used facial recognition software to enhance an old photograph of Bachman’s lost guitar in order to identify the unique woodgrain makings on its face. Then, as The Guardian explains:

After perusing hundreds of photos of orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitars, Long tracked the instrument to a Tokyo guitar shop, and finally to the musician Takeshi.

“[Long] found a guy named Takeshi in Japan playing my Gretsch a couple Christmas’s ago – he was playing, I think, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree in a Tokyo nightclub,” said Bachman, in a video he posted to YouTube.

Long was then able to contact Bachman, and Bachman’s daughter-in-law, who is Japanese, was able to translate for Bachman and Takeshi. In exchange for Bachman’s Gretsch, Takeshi requested, and Bachman found, another identical and rare Gretsch guitar. They plan to exchange guitars once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and perform together.

After 45 years, Randy Bachman’s cherished 1957 Gretsch guitar finally found — in Tokyo [Nathan Liewicki / CBC News]

Randy Bachman to be reunited with his guitar that was lost for four decades [Jessica Glenza / The Guardian]

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Thom Dunn