Sometime around 1973 or '74, John Fogerty was at Creedence Clearwater Revival's rehearsal space in San Francisco.
The band had recently broken up, and the successful guitarist/songwriter didn't really know what lay head—or at least beyond his new album at the time, The Blue Ridge Rangers. Two 12-year-old kids—apparently named Rick and Louie—were hanging out at the rehearsal space, and Fogerty decided to give his 1969 Rickenbacker 325 to Louie.
"I was just detached and numb at that point," Fogerty told Rolling Stone. "I think I gave it away to sort of end that chapter of my life."
The Rick had been his main CCR guitar for several years; he used it for pretty much every standard-tuning song on every Creedence album from 1969's Bayou Country through 1972's Mardi Gras. It's the guitar he played at Woodstock and The Ed Sullivan Show, the guitar that can be heard on "Green River," "Travelin' Band" and "Up Around the Bend" and many more.
The Fireglo (what other manufacturers call sunburst) guitar, which he bought at the Rickenbacker showroom in Los Angeles in '69, had a unique look. Right after Fogerty bought it, he took it to his back yard, got some yellow paint and wrote "ACME" in all caps on the headstock's name plate, inspired by the fictional corporation in the Warner Bros. cartoons he loved as a kid.
About 20 years later, Fogerty stumbled upon the guitar at Norman's Rare Guitars in Tarzana, California. "He quoted a price to my wife that I think was something like $40,000," Fogerty said. "I just looked at him and the guitar, shook my head and said, 'I'm not doing that'."
Just last year, however, Fogerty casually mentioned to his wife, Julie, that he'd like to get that old ACME guitar back. Without telling him, she poured everything into a search to track it down—a search that led to Gary's Classic Guitars in Loveland, Ohio.
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Cut to this past Christmas morning. After opening most of the gifts under the tree, Fogerty noticed one more large box that was wrapped in paper but also covered by one of his trademark plaid shirts. Fogerty removed the shirt and wrapping paper and—you guessed it—saw an old Rickenbacker case.
"I was immediately struck dumb," Fogerty said. "I turned to my wife and said, 'Am I about to get overwhelmed here?'" It was his long-lost ACME Rick.
"I never imagined I'd see it again," Fogerty told Rolling Stone. "Eventually these things, like works of art, end up getting bought by some billionaire and go into some secret closet so nobody can know about it."
It didn't take Fogerty long to plug in the ax for the first time in more than 40 years. "I started playing the solo in 'Green River,' and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck," he said. "It was exactly that sound, 100 percent. I dare say I haven't heard that sound since those days when I had the guitar."
Fogerty will use the guitar March 3, when he resumes his John Fogerty: Fortunate Son in Concert residency at the Wynn Las Vegas. Stay tuned for a video!