In 1992, after a Smashing Pumpkins show in Detroit, someone stole Billy Corgan‘s favorite guitar: an early-’70s Fender Stratocaster that he played on the band’s 1991 debut album, Gish. Nearly 27 years later, he’s finally found it again.
The story of the happy reunion is told in a new Rolling Stone article, which explains how a Flushing, Michigan resident named Beth James bought the guitar over a decade ago at a Detroit yard sale for $200 without knowing anything about it.
One day, a friend of James’ saw an article about the guitar — which Corgan had been searching for over the past 25-plus years — and realized the instrument’s importance. James reached out to an associate of Corgan’s, who set up the reunion.
“I always felt the guitar would come back,” Corgan says. “And I know that sounds strange, but [finding it] didn’t surprise me. I always felt the guitar would come back when it was time.”
The guitar was particularly special to Corgan because it literally formed the sound of The Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan grew up playing a Gibson Flying V, but when he started playing the Strat, his approach to the guitar went in a completely different direction.
“It instantly changed the way the band sounded and the way I played,” Corgan says. “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.”
In the past, Corgan had offered a reward of up to $20,000 for the guitar, but James didn’t want any money in return.
“She didn’t want anything,” Corgan says. “God bless her. It falls under the ‘miracles can happen’ category. Even for a cynic like me.”
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