(PHOTO: Kathleen Edwards and her guitar with Russell Mason and his dogs Riggin and Beans, standing at the bench in Bell Park where Mason found the instrument. Photo by Barry Gray.)
RUSSELL MASON OF CHERRY DRIVE WAS OUT WALKING HIS DOGS IN BELL PARK ON MONDAY, when he noticed a garbage bag leaning up against a bench. He thought it looked like a guitar shape, and thought it was a bit strange, but left it alone.
Then he went back Tuesday morning, and the bag was still there. But now it was wide open, and there were two guitars leaning up against the bench.
“Right away I see they’re both antique Gibson guitars,” says Mason. “I was still figuring out what to do. Should I just leave them there? Has someone just left them here and forgot? Or should I take them home?”
Mason, who’s a guitar player himself, knew that Gibsons can be valuable, and he vaguely remembered reading an article about a guitar that was stolen from Kathleen Edwards last summer.
“I thought ‘I can’t leave them here – they’re vintage Gibson guitars’, so I brought them home. I went online and took a look at one of Kathleen’s pictures and saw that it was a Sunburst, and the pick guard had the same shape. Then I found another picture and there was a scratch right in the same place… I was pretty much 100% sure it was hers. Scratches on a guitar are pretty much like thumbprints.”
Mason went over to Quitters, and left his address with one of the employees. Ten minutes later, Edwards was in his driveway.
“She was stunned. She was almost in tears when she saw them, flabbergasted. I’m surprised she didn’t get into an accident getting over here,” says Mason.
“She hugged me about five times. She must have a deep attachment to that guitar, she almost wouldn’t let it go to put it into the car!”
i know i'm a good person and that i'm good to others. getting my guitar back today feels like the world has my back too.
— Kathleen Edwards (@kittythefool) June 28, 2016
“I TORE OVER TO HIS HOUSE LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL”, says Edwards. “I knew in my stomach: that’s it. It feels like a bit of a miracle. I always thought it would come back but I believed it wouldn’t surface for many years.”
The guitar, a1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior, has immense personal and emotional value to Edwards. It was a gift from Colin Cripps, her ex-husband and former bandmate.
“It was my first really nice electric guitar, I’ve never played a show without it. It’s been with me since 2003 when I started touring for Failer. It’s part of my sound. That sound of guitar has a certain kind of pick-up in it – I’ve always really liked. That guitar was just right for all the reasons.”
Edwards’ song Mint is one of many that features the guitar. “The opening lick is my Junior. It’s a killer rattling-off rock and roll sound,” she says.
Edwards calls the timing “unbelievable”, since she’s getting set to go back on tour over the summer.
“I’ve been dreading it a little bit. I’ve been nervous. My head is still in being here (in Stittsville). I’m loving my life here. The shop (Quitters) takes a lot of my mental energy and time, for good and sometimes for bad,” she says.
“I’m just so excited to play my guitar, almost with a whole new appreciation that I own that instrument. I can visualize myself standing on stage and playing it. That’s going to feel really really good.”
A VIRAL HIT
Edwards’ original Facebook post about the stolen guitar from last August has had over 36,700 shares, which caught her by surprise.
“That story went so viral, very unexpectedly. I really hoped it would just circulate in Toronto and Ottawa, especially for musicians who might spot a vintage guitar,” she says.
Her post was even shared on Instagram by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, a guitar collector who has nearly a million followers.
“His guitar is also a Les Paul Junior. That just blew me away. He has a huge following of people who love vintage guitars,” she says.
this is a heartbreaker. if anyone in Ottawa has any info. return the Floyd Regram from @geartalk I hate to hear that someone lost an instrument, especially to theft. This happened to @kittythefool. Here are her words. This one hurts. Bad. My 1957 Les Paul junior was stolen from my home in Stittsville, Ontario. I can only guess that someone came in through the back door when it was unlocked, picked it up, without a case, and walked out. I am hoping that this post will circulate in the Ottawa area and come across the person responsible, or someone who has noticed a friend or relative with a new instrument kicking around: Be very VERY sure, a 1957 les Paul doesn't just get resold online, in a pawn shop, at a guitar store without gaining attention. You won't be able to play it in front of people. It will draw attention, someone will notice. People who buy and sell valuable instruments know exactly what they are, and when they are stolen. You will be caught if you try and sell it. I have tons of images of it, and documented serial number. So you have no chance to sell it and make money. And worse, you will be charged for a significant theft, and linked to a break and enter. If the guitar is returned, I can accept a "no questions asked" agreement. Whether that means the guitar is returned to my business, Quitters coffee, to my home, or through a mutual acquaintance. I can accept a foolish drunken teenage lapse of judgement, a momentary hiccup in your moral being. I can promise you that the instrument will not make you money, it will not go unnoticed and you will at some point be caught. Do the right thing. And thanks for keeping your ear to the ground. #geartalk #lespauljr #stolengear #kathleenedwards
GUITAR IN GOOD SHAPE
The guitar was returned in good condition, but the strings had been taken off. On Tuesday night Edwards cleaned off some moisture that had left a sticky film on the guitars. She was re-stringing the guitar on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m feeling a lot of gratitude that the person who likely took them was the person who dumped them in the park and came to their senses finally. I give them props for doing the right thing,” she says.
“That person knew what they were doing. It was an inconspicuous – but conspicuous – place. The irony is it’s two blocks from Jim Bryson’s house.”
She also says that she’s not surprised it was somebody walking their dog who ended up finding it at the park.
“Dog people are truly the custodians of all of our parks. If he hadn’t been walking his dogs he would not have found them. It furthers my warm and fuzzy feeling for why people belong outside with their dogs. This community looks out for each other.”
“A WONDERFUL THING TO BE PART OF”
Mason says that while he was anxious at the time, he’s glad he followed up on his hunch.
“I’m glad I did it. Walking back from the park with the guitars from the park I felt like a bit of an idiot. I thought it’s going to look like I’ve stolen these things if a kid had lost it,” he says.
“Right after I picked them up the lawn crew was there cutting the grass, and the City guys came and emptied the garbage can. Who knows, somebody could have thrown them in the garbage or carted them off, and they would have been gone again.”
Edwards came back later in the day with a thank you card, a Quitters gift card, and a cash reward.
“She came back and gave me a thank you card, and brought her dogs with her. It was a good day for everyone,” says Mason. “It was a wonderful thing to be part of overall.”