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Petty's stolen Rickenbacker one of band's many vintage instruments

April 14, 2012 | 11:58 am

Tom Petty

Among the guitars stolen from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers earlier this week is a 12-string Rickenbacker, one of the vintage Rickenbackers that Petty owns. According to the Rickenbacker website, the guitar was manufactured in August 1967.

Five guitars were reported stolen late Thursday afternoon from a sound stage at The Culver Studios in Culver City. A reward of $7,500 with “no questions asked” is being offered.

Petty had been rehearsing in advance of their 2012 North America-Europe tour, which kicks off Wednesday. The blond Rickenbacker is made of maple. It is a 360/12 model with a a serial number GH 3747.

Since 1979 with the release of “Damn the Torpedoes,” Rickenbackers have helped define the Heartbreakers' sound. Petty is pictured on the album cover with a Rickenbacker that was owned by lead guitarist Mike Campbell and is used in the opening of the song, “Here Comes my Girl.”

On a You Tube video, Campbell tells the story of purchasing this guitar, which is not the one that has been stolen. Campbell had wanted to create a sound for the band similar to the Byrds and saw a Rickenbacker listed in the Recycler for $200 from a seller in Anaheim. Campbell made the drive and purchased the guitar for $150.

“The best $150 I ever spent… and now it’s irreplaceable,” said Campbell.

Nearly 30 years later, this Richenbacker was displayed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to Campbell, this guitar came off the assembly line following a larger version of the guitar that would become George Harrison’s.

Rickenbacker guitars were originally manufactured at the Electro String factory in Los Angeles before moving in 1964 to Santa Ana, where the company is still based. In 1991, Rickenbacker issued a limited editon -- Model 660/12TP -- in honor of Tom Petty.

Rickenbackers are most famously associated with the Beatles. John Lennon owned at least four, and after George Harrison played a 12-string Rickenbacker on “Eight Days a Week” and “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Byrds, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty were popularizing the sound.

The band has asked anyone with information about the stolen guitars to email stolenguitars@tompetty.com or call Culver City police detectives at (310) 253-6305.


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-- Thomas Curwen

Photo: Tom Petty at his Malibu home. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times