How Randy Bachman Found His Stolen Favorite Guitar After 45 Years, with the Help of Facial-Recognition Software

Facial-recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy has come into its own in recent decades, though its imag­ined large-scale uses do tend to sound trou­bling­ly dystopi­an. Still, some of its actu­al suc­cess sto­ries have been pleas­ing indeed, few of them so much as the one briefly told in the video above by Bach­man Turn­er Over­drive’s Randy Bach­man. Its pro­tag­o­nist is not Bach­man him­self but one of his gui­tars: a 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins, a mod­el named after the star Nashville gui­tarist. “This is the first real­ly good expen­sive elec­tric gui­tar I got,” he says, adding that he “played it on many, many BTO hits, and in 1975 it was stolen from a Hol­i­day Inn hotel room in Toron­to.”

“The dis­ap­pear­ance trig­gered a decades-long search,” writes Todd Coyne in a fea­ture at CTV News. “Bach­man enlist­ed the help of the RCMP” — also known at the Moun­ties — “the Ontario Provin­cial Police and vin­tage instru­ment deal­ers across Cana­da and the Unit­ed States. It also trig­gered what Bach­man now rec­og­nizes as a mid-life cri­sis,” result­ing in his even­tu­al pur­chase of 385 Gretsch gui­tars. Those includ­ed a dozen 6120s from the 1950s, but none of them were the one he bought at age 20 from Win­nipeg Piano. He must have giv­en up hope by the time the mes­sage arrived: “I found your Gretsch gui­tar in Tokyo.”

The sender, an old neigh­bor of Bach­man’s, had in fact found the Gretsch on Youtube. In the video below, made for Christ­mas 2019, a Japan­ese gui­tarist named Takeshi plays “Rockin’ Around the Christ­mas Tree” on an orange 6120 that Bach­man imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nized as his long-lost favorite instru­ment. Coyne writes that the neigh­bor “had used some old pho­tographs of the gui­tar and rejigged some facial-recog­ni­tion soft­ware to iden­ti­fy and detect the unique wood-grain pat­terns and lines of cracked lac­quer along the instrument’s body,” as seen in the orig­i­nal video for BTO’s “Lookin’ Out for #1.” Sub­se­quent­ly, he “ran scans of this unique pro­file against every image he could find of an orange 1957 Chet Atkins gui­tar post­ed online over the last decade and a half.”

Per­sis­tence, at least in this case, paid off. But since Takeshi felt near­ly as strong a con­nec­tion to the gui­tar as Bach­man did, an arrange­ment had to be made. With the Japan­ese wife of his son Tal (also a musi­cian, best known for the 1990s hit “She’s So High”) act­ing as inter­preter, he nego­ti­at­ed with Takeshi the terms of an exchange. As Bach­man tells it, “He said he would give me back my gui­tar, but I had to find him its twin”: the same mod­el — of which only 35 were made in 1957 — in mint con­di­tion with all the same parts and no addi­tion­al mod­i­fi­ca­tions. And for a mere thir­ty times the $400 price he orig­i­nal­ly paid, he even­tu­al­ly found that twin. Now all that remains, as soon trav­el restric­tions ease between the U.S. and Japan, is for Bach­man and Takeshi to meet up at the Gretsch fac­to­ry in Nagoya, play a gig togeth­er, and take care of busi­ness.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Gui­tarist Randy Bach­man Demys­ti­fies the Open­ing Chord of The Bea­t­les’ “A Hard Day’s Night”

Eric Clap­ton Tries Out Gui­tars at Home and Talks About the Bea­t­les, Cream, and His Musi­cal Roots

Gui­tar Sto­ries: Mark Knopfler on the Six Gui­tars That Shaped His Career

The Cap­ti­vat­ing Art of Restor­ing Vin­tage Gui­tars

Hear Joni Mitchell’s Ear­li­est Record­ing, Redis­cov­ered After More than 50 Years

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Jonathan says:

    Exact­ly what I love about this site! Very cool. Just curi­ous, was there ever a dis­cus­sion of how the gui­tar made it’s way to Japan, and how long the Japan­ese gui­tarist had it? Odd that Randy would give into the deal, know­ing that the guy is play­ing his STOLEN gui­tar! (Not say­ing the Japan­ese gen­tle­man stole it) Fas­ci­nat­ing video. Nice job

  • Kendra says:

    Some­thing like this hap­pened to Doug Dil­lard..
    Do you all remem­ber the sto­ry of his
    beau­ti­ful lost 5 string?

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