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Paul McCartney Reunited with Stolen Bass Guitar After 50 Years of Searching

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Samir Hussein / WireImage / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Samir Hussein / WireImage / Getty Images

The electric bass guitar Paul McCartney used back in the early days of The Beatles has been missing for decades. Stolen years ago, no one knew where the instrument had ended up, but McCartney had always dreamed of being reunited with it. After a five-year search, the bass was finally retrieved, and the instrument is estimated to be worth $12.6 million.

The bass goes missing

Paul McCartney holding up his Höfner bass.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles with his Höfner bass, circa 1965. (Photo Credit: Express / Express / Getty Images)

In 1961, McCartney purchased a violin-shaped electric bass manufactured by Höfner for around $37. During this time, The Beatles were slowly gaining popularity as a band, taking residence in Hamburg, Germany. McCartney loved the bass and played it on a series of Beatles songs, including “She Loves You” and “All My Loving.”

“Because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical,” McCartney once said. “I got into that. And once I bought it, I fell in love with it.” However, the bass was stolen, rumored to have been taken around 1969 when the band was recording its final album, Let It Be, and has been missing for 50 years now. McCartney never forgot about the bass and even asked Höfner executive Nick Wass to help him in tracking it down.

“Paul said to me, ‘Hey, because you’re from Höfner, couldn’t you help find my bass?'” Wass said. “And that’s what sparked this great hunt. Sitting there, seeing what the lost bass means to Paul, I was determined to solve the mystery.”

New leads helped to find the bass

Paul McCartney playing guitar on stage.
Paul McCartney performs in concert at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2016, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo Credit: Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

Journalist Scott Jones was shocked when he first found out about the missing bass, encouraging him and his wife to team up with Wass to locate the stolen bass. “I was staggered, I was amazed,” Jones said. “I think we live in a world where The Beatles could do almost anything and it would get a lot of attention.” So, the team launched The Lost Bass Project.

Within 48 hours, the Project was blasted with around 600 emails, some of which contained “little gems that led us to where we are today,” Jones explained. One of the first clues to finding the bass came from sound engineer Ian Horne, who had worked with McCartney’s band Wings. He explained that the bass was stolen from his van back in 1972, and despite McCartney assuring him not to worry about the theft, he said he’s “carried the guilt all my life.”

The next clue came from someone saying that it was their father who had stolen the bass back in the day. The unnamed person explained that their father wasn’t aware that he had stolen the violin-shaped guitar, and when he discovered what he had done, he panicked. The accidental thief sold it to Ron Guest, the landlord of the Admiral Blake pub. The Lost Bass Project didn’t even have to reach out to the Guest family, as news of their search had already reached Cathy Guest, and she contacted McCartney’s studio in what became the next steps in finding the bass.

Finally reunited with McCartney

Cathy explained that an old bass that had been stored in her attic for years looked strikingly like the one they were looking for. It was an heirloom of the Guest family, being passed down from Ron to his eldest son, who passed away in a car accident. It was then passed on to his younger son, who was married to Cathy and had died in 2020. Thanks to Cathy, the bass was returned to McCartney in December 2023, and after two months of trying to authenticate it, it has been confirmed as McCartney’s original Höfner electric bass guitar.

Cathy’s son, Ruiadhri, broke the news to Twitter before the project intended to, making a post that read, “I inherited this item which has been returned to Paul McCartney. Share the news.” The reason it had stayed in the Guerst family was that the bass guitar held no value for the last half-century. “The thief couldn’t sell it,” Jones explained. “Clearly, the Guest family never tried to sell it. It’s a red alert because the minute you come forward someone’s going to go, ‘That’s Paul McCartney’s guitar.'”

Read more: Dolly Parton Reunites The Beatles for Rendition of ‘Let It Be’

It is a good thing they didn’t because the search could have taken a lot longer to find it. Now, the bass guitar is back with its rightful owner. McCartney’s official website made a statement that said, “Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!