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10 Famous Guitars That Were Stolen And Never Recovered

Updated January 23, 2019 35.7k views10 items

Many of history's greatest musicians are closely associated with a particular instrument, and that instrument becomes legendary in itself. Think Slash and his Gibson Les Paul, Stevie Ray Vaughn and his Fender Stratocaster, Jimmy Page and his double-neck Gibson SG and the list goes on. Over the years, many of music's most famous stars have had their prized guitars stolen from them. Sometimes it's the one they're most associated with, or in other cases it's just a cherished part of their arsenal. 

Some stories of guitar theft are truly incredible, as they're often never found again. One of the most legendary cases remained a mystery for several decades until it was finally recovered after what seemed like a lifetime. Let's take a look at some of the most unbelievable stories of guitarists who had their beloved axes taken from them. 

  • Greg Ginn Of Black Flag's Ampeg

    Black Flag is one of hardcore punk's most cherished bands, and guitarist Greg Ginn is a legend in the genre. In the 80s, Ginn was known for playing an Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitar, which was particularly unique for its clear plexiglass body. In 1986, his heavily modified Dan Armstrong was stolen from him while on tour with Black Flag.

    The guitar, which was modified to include a waterproof switch that prevented sweat from short circuiting the electronics, was never recovered. Black Flag superfan Dave Grohl later became associated with the guitars, playing them often in the Foo Fighters. His even sported a Black Flag logo just like Ginn's. 

  • Rosanne Cash's Vintage Martin

    Photo: Ron Baker / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    For nearly 40 years songwriter Rosanne Cash, daughter of legendary country icon Johnny Cash, has been on the lookout for a cherished 1948 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar given to her by her father. The guitar was stolen from the sidewalk at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles and never seen again. 

    Most notably, the priceless guitar featured a note in the soundhole written by the late Cash: 

    To my daughter, Rosanne, love, Dad. Johnny Cash 

  • Jimmy Page's Black Beauty

    Photo: Andrew Smith / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Jimmy Page's beloved Black Beauty Les Paul guitar was stolen from him in 1970 and was never seen again - until 2016, if reports from the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist's former roadie are true. Henry "The Horse" Smith responded to a fan question on Facebook asking about the guitar, and claimed that it was quietly returned to Page just a few months earlier.

    "This happened just a few months ago. It was a happy day for me to see Jimmy get this back," Smith's comment read. Some outlets reported the news, though it has not been verified by Page himself. The guitarist has owned a number of Black Beauty guitars over the years. 

  • James Jamerson's Funk Machine P-Bass

    Photo: Experimento69 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    James Jamerson is one of the most famous session musicians in history, contributing to hundreds of hit recordings and becoming known for his role in the "Motown sound." Near the end of his life in the 80s, Jamerson's prized "Funk machine" Fender Precision bass was stolen from him and never recovered.

    The Funk Machine was the bass responsible for the iconic performances of his career including "My Girl," "What's Going On," and "You Can't Hurry Love," and the mystery of its whereabouts haunts fans to this day. In 2014, a filmmaker launched a crowdfunding campaign for a documentary on the missing bass, though the campaign was unsuccessful.