The Lost Paul – Every Instrument Has a Story

The Lost Paul – Every Instrument Has a Story

Feature by Neil Stoltzfus | Banner Photo by Will Marks

As a musician, every instrument is important to me. However, one was extra special. In 1972, my dad bought his first Les Paul custom guitar and when I was ten years old, he passed this guitar to me. This was the guitar I grew up playing. I played my first Led Zeppelin song, joined my first band, and even took my senior picture with this guitar. This guitar was so special, I had to give it a name. I named him Lester. I had Lester until I was about 28 when I found out I was going to be a dad. Back then, times were a bit tough and I decided to sell the guitar to make sure my little girl had what she needed. So, I posted it on eBay and off it went.

I’ve had many guitars over the years, but nothing was ever quite like that guitar. My kiddo is now ten years old and times are very different. I was telling my wife that I kept the name of the guy I sold the guitar to all those years ago. She encouraged me to reach out to him and try to get it back. About two years ago, I started the search. I e-mailed the guy and he didn’t have it anymore, but to my surprise he had the name of the guy he sold it to. So, I contacted the next guy and he didn’t have it either, but it was so unbelievable… he had the contact information of who he sold it to as well. I contacted the third guy, who happened to live in London, and he had it! I shared my story and asked him if he was interested in selling it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. I was a bit bummed, but I was happy to know where it was. I let it go.

Then, last year, I decided to reach out one more time, because if there is one thing I know about musicians, we are always looking to buy and sell guitars. I thought maybe he would be ready now to sell the guitar. I asked one more time. To my surprise, he said yes. I could not believe it. It was happening. It was on its way back home.

So, this was where it got interesting. How were we going to get it back to the United States? He told me he would be in the States for a three-city tour, so I inquired a bit more; I found out the guy who had been taking such good care of Lester was the keyboard player for David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. I could not believe it. He sent me pictures to confirm it was mine and, sure enough, it was. It still had the belt buckle rash from my Dad; it was unbelievable.

After a few more months of having moments where I wasn’t sure this would actually happen, Lester arrived. On my way to pick up the guitar at FedEx, a call came in from the United Kingdom from the seller. He tracked the package and wanted to make sure it arrived safely. One thing about musicians is that we understand the connection—and often extraordinary bond—we can have with our instruments, and he knew this was a special moment for me. So, after ten years and three owners later, Lester made it across the ocean and back home. My dad would be happy.