Sounds right: After 44 years, missing guitar back with April Wine musician

Myles Goodwyn of April Wine played a Gibson guitar on New Year’s Eve that hadn’t been in his hands for 44 years.

It was mailed to his Halifax home from Victoria, decades after the singer and guitarist assumed the instrument was gone for good. The guitar had changed hands several times over a 20-year period, in some cases under likely dubious circumstances. With his Gibson now safely back in his possession, Goodwyn is sharing his story — one that is almost too fantastic to be true.

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“This is a mystery that is unfolding,” Goodwyn said on the phone Thursday from Halifax. “It’s such an interesting story, for obvious reasons.”

The guitar — a 1962 Gibson Melody Maker that was featured on April Wine’s first three records, 1971’s April Wine, 1972’s On Record, and 1974’s Live! — was thought to have been destroyed when a truck carrying the band’s gear crashed in Montreal in 1974.

Almost all of the equipment was ruined in the accident.

Goodwyn was told his Gibson guitar was among the broken gear when, in fact, it was plucked from the wreckage and kept under wraps by one of April Wine’s team.

Goodwyn said he received a message through Facebook on Dec. 24 from a person in Victoria with knowledge of a chestnut guitar with yellow finishes that had Goodwyn’s name engraved on the head.

At first, Goodwyn was unconvinced that it was his guitar, but then the man, named Randy (his last name is being kept private), sent Goodwyn a picture.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was my guitar.”

Randy said he knew the guitar’s current owner, a man named Doug (whose last name is also being kept private), who had bought it 15 years earlier.

Goodwyn said he got in touch with the owner, and bought back the guitar for an unspecified sum. It arrived in the mail on New Year’s Eve in near-perfect condition.

Goodwyn figures it hadn’t been played more than a few times, because the owner had kept it on a stand, using it as a conversation piece.

“It’s in perfect shape,” he said.

As far as Goodwyn can tell, the guitar has been on Vancouver Island since 2000. Before that, the trail goes cold — its whereabouts between 1974 and 2000 are unknown.

“What’s important is I got it back,” Goodwyn said. “But I’d really like to know how it got there.”

The guitar was featured on the band’s huge hit You Could Have Been a Lady, among other singles, and had a distinct, customized sound.

The April Wine frontman, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, continued with his career and purchased other guitars, including a replacement Gibson Melody Maker eight years ago.

But the sound wasn’t right.

He never forgot about his original Melody Maker, which he purchased second-hand in 1968 from a music shop in Cape Breton, N.S.

Goodwyn is planning to use the guitar on future sessions for his in-progress new album, Friends of the Blues 2. Likening the guitar’s recent history to “keeping an animal in a cage,” Goodwyn wants it to ring out once again. “She’s gonna sing,” he said. “She’s gonna play.”

Though his story has a happy ending, Goodwyn is not resting easy. The last original member of April Wine, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, he has endured a great deal during his career, but nothing irks him like the theft of cherished instruments. He is vowing to trace the guitar’s path from when it left his possession until it returned.

“Everybody knew it was my guitar,” he said.

“I was easy to get in contact with. And not one of them wanted to find the truth. If anything is possibly stolen, there’s an obligation to report it. The people knew who I was, and they were making money off my guitar. That breaks somebody’s heart.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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