Billy Corgan reunites with guitar stolen from Detroit venue in 1992

Feb 7, 2019 at 10:23 am
click to enlarge Billy Corgan reunites with guitar stolen from Detroit venue in 1992

Long before Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan aligned himself with 9-11 truther Alex Jones and openly feuded with the members of Smash Mouth over the Shrek soundtrack, Corgan was the epitome of broody '90s rock.

This week, Corgan found himself confronted with a remarkable blast from the past as he visited Flushing, Mich. where he would reunite with his long lost seventies Stratocaster after 27 years. The guitar, which was the sharp and sludgy centerpiece on Smashing Pumpkins' 1991 debut Gish, was stolen from Saint Andrew's Hall in June 1992 five-minutes after the band had performed. Corgan says that someone walked in and walked out the back door, his beloved guitar in hand.

“When it was stolen, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, gee, my guitar just got stolen,'" Corgan told Rolling Stone. "It was the guitar that affected the way I played and I was heavily identified with the guitar.”

For the past 10-12 years, the guitar has been in the possession of Beth James, who purchased the guitar from a Detroit yard sale for $200 with the intention of putting it in her basement as a statement piece. “I thought it was painted cool,” James said of Corgan's custom paint job which has since faded into tie-dye blotches.

Following the theft, Corgan filed a police report, offered up a $10,000 reward, and over the years he has investigated occasional claims that the guitar had been found. At one point the "1979" singer offered $20,000 to a nameless person who had been rumored to have it stored away in their closet.

The guitar's unsuspecting owner had seen an article online regarding Corgan's search and decided to contact him via Facebook six months ago. She didn't receive a response. Through a family friend, though, she was able to make a connection and naturally, Corgan was skeptical. That is until he made the trek to see it in person.

According to Alex Heiche, James' family friend who assisted in making the reunion possible, Corgan is pretty stoic in person. "He doesn’t give a lot of facial expressions," Heiche told Rolling Stone. "But he looked down, and as she opened the case, he looked at it for a second and froze. Everybody was dead silent. And he goes, ‘That’s it.'”

The guitar matched the many personalized dings, cigarette burns, and, of course, the paint job as well as the initials "KM" which had been carved before he owned it. “I always felt the guitar would come back,” Corgan said. “And I know that sounds strange, but today didn’t surprise me. I always felt the guitar would come back when it was time.”

It was easy for James to part with the item as neither of her daughters had an interest in learning guitar and James said she was saving up for a hot tub, which is why the conversation of the basement guitar resurfaced.

As it turns out, James didn't ask for a cash reward. She simply asked if Corgan would sign a guitar. As she put it: "It deserves to be back with him."

Corgan told Rolling Stone that he plans on fixing up the guitar and start using it immediately, likely on the followup to 2018's Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

"It [the reunion] falls under the ‘miracles can happen’ category," Corgan said. "Even for a cynic like me.”

See photos of the reunion here.

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