In June of 1992, the Smashing Pumpkins were playing a show at Detroit’s Saint Andrew’s Hall in support of their debut album, Gish, when the unspeakable happened. A friend who was acting as the band's roadie came up to Billy Corgan and said “Somebody just walked out the back door with your guitar.” It hadn’t even been five minutes since the band finished the show, as Corgan recalled to Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘How is that even possible? Where’s security? Where were you?'” He filed a police report and offered a $10,000 reward, but to no avail.
The early Seventies Fender Stratocaster was worn down and hand-painted by the musician, but the real reason why it meant so much to him was because it changed the way he played. “It instantly changed the way the band sounded and the way I played,” Corgan said. “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.”
But one fateful day, a woman named Beth James realized she possessed the long lost Strat. She had bought it at a Detroit yard sale over a decade ago as a conversation piece for her basement. When she decided it was time to sell the instrument, she was made aware of an article about Corgan's search, and through different connections she was able to set up a reunion with his "lost love."
As soon as the rock star arrived, he picked up the guitar and examined it. He found the "KM" carved by a former owner and "unsightly" cigarette burns on the headstock. This was his guitar. He offered to pay James, but all she requested was signing a guitar for her daughter. Corgan gladly obliged.
“It’s an incredible story,” the generally stoic singer-songwriter gushed. “And I’m really, really happy. It’s a happy day.”
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