Stolen bass returned to former Jefferson Starship rocker

May 16, 2013 7:15:22 PM PDT
Anyone who owns a musical instrument will tell you that it can be quite personal, a vessel of creativity and even toil. A good instrument possesses its owner, and vice-versa; but sometimes it takes a while.

They say a man's home is his castle. What they don't tell you is how after he gets married his wife takes over and he's lucky to have one room left.

By that standard, Pete Sears of San Rafael is just like the rest of us, a guy in a room surrounded by sentimental stuff.

"This is it, this is my room, and that's why it's such a mess," Sears said.

But he'll never throw any of it away, especially this bass guitar because it's old, it's new and it's storied.

"If this guitar could talk," Sears said. "Oh god?"

You might remember Sears from 1978 and a little band called the Jefferson Starship. That June they played a concert in Wiesbaden, Germany. Or had planned to anyway, until Grace Slick got sick and they cancelled it. The crowd rioted.

A melee from which this, then brand new guitar, was stolen. It was a loss because "The Dragon" as they called it had a pedigree.

"This guitar is made from the same tree as Jerry Garcia's guitar, Tiger," Sears said.

The detail of this guitar is exquisite. The silver inlays, now golden with the passage of time. If you look closely, the eyes of the dragon glow red.

"It takes you back to that era," Sears said.

And all because three weeks ago a musician in Germany opened his closet to noodle with the strange instrument he had bought from a stranger many years earlier. He tracked down the man who made it, learned the history, and after some cash changed hands, the circle closed. Almost, anyway.

Because there is one other little twist to "The Dragon." The day of the riot, in 1978, would have been the instrument's first time on stage. It never happened until last week when Pete Sears went onstage with it at Bottle Rock in Napa; a debut 35 years in the making.

"It's an old friend," Sears said.

Another story for that one room in the castle.


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