Ask any musician, and they'll be sure to tell you that if instruments or equipment go missing or are stolen, it's like losing a part of themselves. This is especially true if the gear in question was customized or one of a kind—much like Steve Vai's "Swiss Cheese" guitar that the ace shredder used during his time playing with David Lee Roth (Vai can be seen using the guitar in Roth's "Yankee Rose" video).
The guitar was supposed to head out with Vai on the subsequent Roth tour happening that summer, but sadly, it was stolen from a California rehearsal space in 1986. Though, in a pure twist of fate, Vai posted to Facebook to announce the guitar has been returned to its rightful owner.
"Reunited, and it feels so good," Vai wrote. "Oddly enough, after going missing 36 & a half years ago, my custom Joe Despagni 'Swiss Cheese' guitar was finally returned to me. This guitar was custom built for me by Joe; Joe was my best friend in life growing up & he made me some of the wildest guitars I ever laid my fingers on such as the Flame guitar, the Lightning Bolt, this Swiss Cheese guitar, ZNG ZNG & his final piece that he made for me before he passed away, Theadolite. He worked with his brother Rob on many of these guitars.
"I used 'Swiss Cheese' in the original 'Yankee Rose' video while I was with David Lee Roth, and stretched it out in rehearsals & was planning on touring with it, but this guitar, along with 3 others, was stolen in Pasadena CA at Perkins Palace during rehearsals for the Eat Em and Smile tour. It is officially the first guitar to receive a 'monkey grip' handle, and the first one Joe made with a handle at my request.
"The guitar was discovered by young Iván González Acosta in the attic of his grandparents home in Tijuana, Mexico not too long ago. It seems the people that lived in his grandparents house before them purchased the guitar somewhere along the way & it was just stuck in the attic only to be discovered recently when they were organizing things.
"When Ivan discovered this guitar, he posted some images online & they came on the trusty radar of our very own Mike Mesker. Mike is THE authority on the history & specifics of all my guitars. Mike started reaching out to Ivan & after some time he was able to arrange a drop off where Ivan was met by Mike, Doug MacArthur & myself. Thanks to Mike for his solid vigilance in bringing this guitar home.
"The condition of the guitar when I saw it was a shocker. It’s as if it was put in the case & never played for 36 years. The colors are still vibrant and the neck is in great shape.
"Thank you Ivan for your kind consideration and for reuniting me with this piece of my history. Receiving this guitar feels like an old friend has returned home after so many years to jam with me. I believe that we will make a wonderful Ham and Swiss sandwich together."
Good to see two old friends connected again. You can check out Vai's latest work with his many other guitars on his new record Inviolate, which is available here.