Six-String Pawn Stars: Top 10 Famous Stolen Guitars
Tom Petty got a real kick in the balls late last week when he discovered that his vintage blond 1967 12-string Rickenbacker and his Gibson SGTV Junior had been stolen from a California soundstage where the Heartbreakers had been rehearsing for an upcoming tour. Three other vintage guitars owned by band members were taken, too.
It's an age-old story in rock and roll: Any guitar worth a damn seems to get run off with sooner or later. It's just too easy to turn quality instruments over for fast cash, and junkies, bums and other broke-asses can't seem to help themselves.
Legend has it that the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones kept his pals supplied with great gear in the '70s, that he stole from everybody from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to Bob freaking Marley.
Crappy as he probably feels right now -- though better since police arrested a suspect Tuesday --- Petty's in good company. Some of the most iconic guitars in rock history have been ripped off over the years, and not many of them ever resurface.
Have a listen to 10 of the most famous below, and if you see and/or hear any of these missing instruments, please do the right thing and turn them in at the Houston Press offices downtown. No questions asked.
10. Jimmy Page's Black Beauty: This 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty was used by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page throughout much of his '60s session work. It can be seen in action at Royal Albert Hall on the Led Zeppelin DVD, which we highly recommend you check out.
The striking guitar disappeared from the airport as the band was headed to Canada in April 1970. Page took out an ad in Rolling Stone offering a reward for its recovery, but the Black Beauty is gone for good, it seems.
9. Paul McCartney's Hofner Violin Bass: The Cute Beatle made this violin-shaped, semi-acoustic bass world famous, meaning it was worth a rather pretty penny to somebody. McCartney played two of these models during the height of Beatlemania: his original 1961 model, and an updated 1962 model.
He can be seen rocking the '61 in the "Revolution" promo clip above before the instrument was nicked during the Let it Be sessions. Hasn't been seen since.
8. BB King's Lucille Prototype:Las Vegas guitar collector Eric Dahl's eyes bugged out of his head when he stumbled across this dream guitar at a pawn shop in 2009. The custom Gibson ES-345 had seen some wear and had "Prototype-1" stamped where the serial number should have been.
It'd been given to blues icon B.B. King by Gibson on the occasion of his 80th birthday and been his main gigging axe for years when it was ripped off the previous summer. Dahl got his own custom B.B. King Lucille and a hell of a story when he returned the guitar to its proper owner.
7. Jonny Greenwood's Telecaster Plus: It sometimes seems that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood plays as much glockenspiel as guitar these days, but way back in the early '90s, he was getting a lot of use out of his Telecaster Plus.
His main gigging guitar, the Telly was ganked in Denver in 1995, never again to be found. By that time, the short-lived model had already been discontinued.
6. Greg Ginn's Clear Lucite Guitar: One of punk rock's greatest guitar heroes, Greg Ginn was known for his signature clear Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitar. The feedback alone produced when Ginn switched on hardcore's answer to Excalibur has been known to make people spontaneously lose their minds, so it was a pretty big loss when somebody ripped it off in 1986. Not long after, Black Flag was over forever, but the hunt for this iconic weapon goes on.
George Harrison named this really red Gibson Les Paul "Lucy" after Lucille Ball when it was given to him by close pal Eric Clapton. It was the guitar Clapton used to record his one-take lead on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and it'd been previously owned by Rick Derringer.
Lucy was stolen during a burglary of Harrison's Beverly Hills home in 1973 and was later bought at a pawn shop by Guadalajara musician Miguel Ochoa. Authorities managed to track the instrument down, and Harrison traded Ochoa a Les Paul sunburst and a Fender Precision Bass to get it back. He owned the guitar for the rest of his life.
4. Joe Satriani's Ibanez Chromeboy: Joe Satriani has always been a little fixated on the Silver Surfer, and he seemed to control this chrome Ibanez guitar with his mind just like the Surfer controls his board. "Pearly" was stolen in 2002 during load-out at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Fla.
The guitar was one of two prototypes made by Ibanez in the custom chrome finish, both of which have been played extensively by Sacho both on record and on the stage. Galactus is presumably wanted for questioning.
3. Jaco Pastorius' Bass of Doom: Jaco Pastorius, that guy your bassist is always nutting over, bought this Fender Jazz Bass at a pawn shop in the early '70s and removed the frets with a butter knife before filling the missing chunks with "plastic wood" and giving the whole thing a good coat of boat epoxy.
The now-fretless neck allowed him to explore in a whole new way, and he blew people's (well, bassists') minds playing it on his 1976 solo debut. He called it the "Bass of Doom."
Well, the Bass of Doom was somehow stolen from a park bench in Greenwich Village in 1986. It was sold in a pawn shop and eventually tracked down by Jaco's family after his death. A protracted legal battle to get the holy grail of Fender basses was finally ended by Metallica's Robert Trujillo, who gave Jaco's camp the cash they needed to get the guitar back. Today, the guitar safely resides in Metallica's inpenetrable guitar vault in Northern California.
2. Michael Angelo Batio's Quad Guitar: Gonzo guitarist Michael Angelo Batio isn't one of those "less-is-more" types. In fact, he thinks "less" sucks pretty bad. That's why he needed a custom-built, four-necked guitar -- because more necks = more notes = more rock.
How the hell it was possible for somebody to sneak off with this monster is a bit of a cruel mindfuck, but it was indeed stolen in El Paso after the second show of his band Nitro's O.F.R. tour in 1989. Only the top two interlocking seven-strings have been recovered, which I think we can all agree is a pretty terrible tragedy.
1. Bob Seger's "Greatest Hits" Gibson: Bob Seger liked his vintage 1978 Gibson Les Paul so much that he posed with the guitar on his classic Greatest Hits album. A longtime favorite of the "Night Moves" singer, it was pinched when the Seger family moved households last summer. Here's hoping it will turn up soon -- we need more old-time rock and roll in our lives.
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