One of the most challenging things about live music and the chaos of concert touring is keeping track of countless quantities of [priceless] musical equipment. Guarding gear and even the musicians themselves from crazed fans, thieves, weather, travel accidents, and much more is just part of the headache that goes into moving a band from coast to coast.
Guitar icon Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society experienced a heartbreaking theft of one of his most prized Les Pauls this weekend as the Experience Hendrix Concert Tour made its way through Chicago.
"Gibson made me a custom Les Paul Custom where the whole guitar is Pelham Blue — the front, the back, the neck — and then they put the black bullseye on it. It sounds totally killer. I also have one of my ZVs in Pelham Blue, and I call the two guitars ‘the Blue Balls" - ZW
The Experience Hendrix tour features Zakk himself, as well as guitar greats Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Buddy Guy, Dweezil Zappa, Jonny Lang, and many more additions at other tour stops. The show was at the Chicago Theatre Friday night, and was sold out to a capacity crowd.
At many of these tour stops, buses will remain parked outside the loading area, where security is usually extremely high. Buses and trailers alike are filled with tons of musical equipment and personal belongings. Many guitarists will bring guitars on the bus to practice or write with as the token "bus guitar". This particular night, Zakk's Pelham Blue Les Paul happened to be that guitar- brought onto the bus and left in the lounge area alone, when 3 men entered the unlocked and empty bus and were able to get in and get out with both the guitar and Zakk's leather BLS vest.
"Nothing gets stolen off tour buses unless you don't lock them," Wylde remarked. "Rule number one: when you get off this (expletive deleted) bus, you lock the (expletive deleted) door and you check the handle."
To add insult to injury, these sorts of things usually occur due to a simple oversight by the band or crew, like forgetting to lock a door or check a latch. For all people involved, the bus is their home away from home, and often, their only place for serenity and solace.
"I had my guitar in the tour bus because this is the home," Wylde said, adding that his veteran tour manager feels "beyond horrendous (and) beyond embarrassed."
Thankfully, the venue had security footage and documented the theft as it occurred. Wylde has also turned to social media networks, the BLS Chicago Chapter, and Chicago police for assistance in finding the theft. As many musicians know, especially those who have been victims of theft, the instruments almost always turn up at a pawn shop or flea market at some point. Valued at over $10,000, the thieves will likely get a much lower amount for this instrument. For now, we can only hope Zakk himself can find the thieves before authorities do, as the Viking lead guitarist would be sure to administer a punishment of very epic proportions!
Photo by Justin Reich