Lee Ranaldo’s guitar -> homeward bound.

Posted in Oldschool/Classic Things, Random by jukeboxparables on April 28, 2009


This is just about the best forum thread on the internet leaving aside all those ‘famous’ threads ridiculing various people of course. This is worth the read if you care about warm fuzzy stories and guitars.

First a small tidbit of information. NYC Alternative/Nowave/Noise-rock/Post-punk/Indie band Sonic Youth have; since their inception been original in many ways. One such way they get their unique sound is their alternate guitar tunings which is easy in the Studio but playing live there was only one solution, owning a large amount of guitars. This eventually spiraled out of control (from a practical perspective) and circa the early to mid 1990’s the band famously had a massive collection of rare, vintage, classic beautiful guitars of types fervently switching between them on-stage for various songs.

In fact if you check out their official ‘gearography’ you’ll note that theres over 100 guitars cataloged. All these guitars had various modifications, had been with the band 20years and had the battle scars to prove it. They’re literally covered in the blood and sweat of the band whilst they hammered out their art. Basically they’re priceless.

Now onto the thread. Forum member “Sauerkraut” was recently looking to buy a Fender Mustang on Ebay, from the USA (he being from The Netherlands) he eventually found a nice; what seemed to be an original example with a fair bit of wear and tear (pictured above) He got it fairly cheap and it was shipped off to him. Whilst he was waiting for it to arrive he stumbled on to Sonic Youth’s ‘gearography’ rather randomly. And something caught his eye.

It was this photo of Lee Ranaldo’s guitar;


Now take a quick look at both guitars. You’ll probably obviously notice they’re the same colour. In the photo of Lee’s (above) however the Neck pickup is the double coil variety called a ‘humbucker’ it being twice the width of a regular ‘single coil’ like the one below it. To install this modification you need to route out the wood on the guitar (so the humbucker fits) Forum member “Sauerkraut” studied the pictures of his purchase. It did indeed have the routing space and if you look at the various scratches, they are exactly the same. It’s the same guitar!

I should point out right now; In 1999 Sonic Youth’s guitars were STOLEN yes, they lost a whole heap of their prized possessions and famously had to re-stock all their gear again. One or two of the guitars have been recovered over the years nearly completely destroyed though.

All hail the Internet, 10 years later the guitar turns up. So what happened next? The forum ran hot with talk about what this guy from The Netherlands should do. Eventually somebody knew somebody who contacted the bands Guitar technician. But before anything else was organized a bit of a ‘man-hunt’ ensued. It was alleged that the guy who sold him the guitar could have been the Initial thief! So he was queried for more information.

His story was that, he bought it from someone in California and then went on to claim that he was a local Police chief who played in a band called “Most Wanted”. Does that sound like the most dubious story to cover your ass? That’s exactly what I thought except then someone checked it out and as it turns out; “Most Wanted” are a band



Someone photochopped the band t-shirt in there. Everyone is assuming the Police chief is the guy on the left (since he’s playing a Mustang) and word from the chief himself;

I am a local Police Chief and certainly would like to nail the individual who took the guitar or provide info leading to the individual who took it. I actually played this guitar in our police band called “Most Wanted” were we go into schools and play for youth and use our music as a way to interact and tell youth about the negatives of violence, drugs and alcohol.

This is like Irony overload or something; A band called Sonic Youth plays together 20years leading a wave in experimental alernative indie rock fueled by illicit substances which probably influenced a bunch of kids to do the same. An instrument in this (pun intended) gets stolen and is then bought by a Police chief to play to Youth about the negatives of such things and now the Guitar is homeward bound and the Police are after the original thief!

The good-guy Cop in this story posted pics of the guitar as he bought it;


And the information of the seller has been passed on the the band for further inquiries. It all doesn’t end there however. The guitar technician the guy from The Netherlands contacted gets back to him. Sonic Youth just happen to be playing a show on their European tour. Said guy was invited, given special guitar goodies, was paid what he bought the guitar for, got to meet the band and Lee backstage and was promised free entry to all future Sonic Youth shows for the rest of his life.

Someone should make this thread into a movie!


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