A guitar belonging to one of San Diego’s most famous indie rockers was stolen from the musician’s car over the weekend and now he is looking to get the much-used and beloved instrument back.
John “Swami” Reis, who has been called “a San Diego music legend” by the U-T’s George Varga, and who is perhaps best known as the front man for Rocket From The Crypt, said his late 70s Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar was taken from his mini-van on Saturday.
Reis said he thinks the guitar was stolen sometime between 1:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. while he was recording with another one of his bands the Hot Snakes at the Singing Serpents studio on Adams Avenue in Kensington.
His silver Honda Odyssey was parked in the lot and Reis said he was working just feet away and could see the car out of the window.
He said he always locks it and he does not know how the person got in. He wondered out loud if he had accidentally triggered the unlock button on his keys or if someone used some kind of device to get into the car. There was no sign of forced entry.
He also said the guitar, which was in the van along with an amplifier and other gear, was not in plain sight. Nothing else was taken, he said.
Reis said he bought the guitar in 1993 and he has played it in every band he has been in, during numerous performances and on multiple recordings that he has made over his decades-long career.
The front of the guitar is painted sparkling silver and it’s adorned with sailfish stickers. It also has writing on the back and a sticker that says “neu.” Reis described the instrument, which has traveled all over the world with him, as “beat up.” “It shows its wear,” he said.
Reis said the instrument would only be worth a couple thousand dollars — and it might fetch even less at a pawn shop — but to him the guitar is priceless. “It’s worth a lot more to me than anyone else,” he said. “It was my favorite guitar.” He also said that if had one piece of gear to hand down to his 11-year-old son, that would be it.
Reis last played the guitar Friday when he performed with Rocket From the Crypt at the San Diego Oysterfest Music Festival on Friday.
He has since filed a police report – case # 17-022-801 – and he’s been visiting music stores and pawn shops in the area to see if it has turned up.
If he could talk to the person who stole it he would just ask that they return it anonymously, “no questions asked.” He also said he could offer a $500 reward for its return or even admission to to see all his shows “for free as long as they live,” he said with a laugh.
Anyone with info is asked to call the San Diego Police Department at 619 531-2000 and reference the above number.
If someone has the guitar and wants to return it they could also drop it off at the Bar Pink in North Park, where Reis is a part owner.
Reis said he doubts the guitar was stolen by a fan and that the theft was likely just a crime of opportunity.
“They don’t know what they have,” he said. “I’m not really angry. I’m just really, really sad. I just want the guitar back.”