Michigan Woman Returns Guitar to Billy Corgan After 27 Years
The story of how Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan was reunited with his favorite guitar 27 years after it was stolen is amazing.
Back in June of 1992, the Smashing Pumpkins were playing a show at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit when Billy Corgan's favorite guitar a '74 Fender Stratocaster was stolen. On a youtube video posted by the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan explained that a friend of the band who was serving as a roadie for that show approached Corgan and said, "somebody just walked off with your guitar." Corgan went to the police and offered a $10,000 reward for the return of the guitar. Lots of leads came in. But nothing panned out. A couple of months later they upped the reward to $20,000 for the return of his favorite guitar, no questions asked. Still, no luck.
Before we get into how Billy got his guitar back and where it's been all of these years, let's cover why this guitar was so special to the goth rock star. The fact is, a 1974 Fender Strat is a very common guitar. However, Corgan says that no matter how much he searched, he could not find a guitar that had a similar sound and feel as that guitar. He felt that this specific guitar really created the Smashing Pumpkins sound.
So, where has the guitar been this whole time? We're not sure where the guitar has been for the entire 27 years, but we do know where it spent the last decade. The Gish Guitar was hanging in the basement of Beth James in Flushing, Michigan. She purchased the guitar for a couple of hundred dollars at an estate sale about 10 years ago. Beth was in the process of selling some of her belongings so she could raise enough cash to buy a hot tub when she posted pictures of the guitar. A friend of Billy's happened to see the pictures and sent them his way and asked, "is this your guitar."
Corgan was pretty sure that was his guitar but wanted to see it in person so he would know for sure. He traveled to Michigan where he met Beth James. He opened the guitar case and there it was, the guitar he has missed for nearly 3 decades. The James family insisted that they would not accept any money for his guitar. Billy decided to autograph another guitar for her.
Side note: Billy Corgan originally purchased the guitar from his drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for $275. According to the TikTok below, Jimmy had stolen the guitar before selling it to Corgan. This means this guitar has been stolen multiple times.