In an odd twist of fate, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has been reunited with his Stratocaster that was lost 27 years ago. Corgan has stated that the handpainted guitar was instrumental in the development of the band’s early sound until it was stolen after a gig in 1992.
Billy Corgan has been reunited with a 1970s Stratocaster that was stolen after a gig in 1992. Isn’t it nice to hear about a happy ending?
Corgan told Rolling Stone about the moment his roadie notified him of his missing guitar, “I was like, ‘How is that even possible? Where’s security? Where were you?’”
The Stratocaster was especially important to Corgan as it played a major role in the band’s 1991 debut album Gish. He even went so far as to say that it affected the way he played. “When it was stolen, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, gee, my guitar just got stolen.’ It was the guitar that affected the way I played and I was heavily identified with the guitar.”
He likened the neck to that of a violin, which apparently enabled him to incorporate more bending and pulling into his riffs and for more details to be heard in his playing. Prior to it being found, Corgan had offered a $20,000 reward for the guitar.
Corgan’s beloved axe had made its way into the hands of Beth James, who picked it up from a garage sale 12 years ago for $200. James admittedly had little knowledge of guitars but thought “it was painted cool” and would make a nice ornament in her basement, where it sat for much of the last decade.
“I literally don’t know anything about the guitar. I actually told my husband I only paid $100 for it because he would have killed me if he found out I paid more.’ And there it stayed for the last 10 to 12 years.”
Over the years friends told her that the instrument had an aura of value to it, but it wasn’t until she wanted to sell the Strat that she began to do a little research. She found that the guitar had a striking similarity to the one lost by Corgan, and proceeded to reach out to the Smashing Pumpkins frontman to reunite him with his lost love.
Sound Royalties arranged a meeting, but at first Corgan was a little sceptical. “While I always thought the guitar would come back to me somehow, I wasn’t sure from the pictures that this would be the time. But, I had to try. It had become a piece of me as a musician and key part of our story as a band.”
However, after unlatching the battered case and checking the distinct marks and paint, he knew it was his.
“Wow! That’s it!… It’s even the way I left it, I always dropped the pickup in the middle,” chirped an ecstatic Corgan.
Corgan expressed his deep appreciation to James for reuniting him with his guitar, who even turned down the $20,000 reward.
“It wasn’t about the money,” James said, “I was just grateful that this was the right one and it’s his. It deserves to be back with him.”
However, he didn’t leave her empty handed, gifting a new signed Strat for her basement wall. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman says he’s not going to waste any time, and plans to put the guitar straight to use for the next album, expressing that it couldn’t have happened at a more perfect moment.
“I’m literally gonna take it somewhere, and get it fixed up, and I’ll start using it. It’s a really valuable guitar to me. And I mean, the timing is sort of strange, and auspicious, and so I take it as a sign that it’s supposed to be part of what we’re doing.”