Walt Wilkins' guitar is finally home

Photo: Austin PD
In short, Walt Wilkins owned a really cool, custom Gibson Americana that was given to him in 2006. The guitar was stolen in 2009, then 5 and a half years later it made it back to Walt's very grateful hands. Walt was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the guitar and its journey.

Me:What's the story on this guitar, and how did it end up in your hands?
Walt:It is a Gibson Americana model, which never went into full production by Gibson. Gibson made 3 of them for a benefit in conjunction with the public radio station in Marfa, TX. Willie played one at the show; there's pictures of him with one of the guitars. Its cool. The other guitar was given to Dan Rather, I don't know why. I do know that one of my life-long friends found a way to contact Mr. Rather with a request to buy his for me after mine was stolen. His email in response was brief & definitive; not interested. The band began calling the guitar 'Merica, because during a soundcheck somewhere I hit a big G chord through the house PA & my amp, and it sounded huge. I told the drummer Ray Rodriguez "that's a big AMerican G chord, man." He started calling the guitar 'Merica. It was that goofy & simple.
note: The guitar was made from wood from an old Army Base in Marfa where Willie performed to raise money for the station (from Gibson.com)
Me:Tell me about when the guitar was taken.
Walt:The guitar was taken from just outside the stage door at The Saxon Pub on Dec 23, 2009. I left it alone for just a few minutes, which was usually OK during load-out, except this time.
Me:Were there any leads or major developments in the search for the guitar during those 5 plus years?
Walt:When it was stolen, I searched through dumpsters for hours around south Austin. Then I went home and made a basic appeal on Facebook. I went to bed around 5, got up at 7 and was shocked at the response of fans & friends throughout Texas. There were immediately lots of folks checking pawn shop, like me, and websites where someone might try to sell it. But nothing ever came up. Then I didn't think about it too much, even though folks would ask me about it all over the place, even in the The Netherlands, where we tour once a year.
Me:Where did you get the beautifully painted Gibson Americana you regularly play?
Walt:Dallas Wayne, the great songwriter-singer & XM Radio host called to tell me that he had bought a guitar like mine because he liked mine, and he would sell his to me. I bought it; and a year or so later had it painted by Dan Taylor, one of my favorite artists. I love that guitar too.
Me:How was this guitar finally tracked down after all these years?
Walt:This last Friday afternoon, I received an email from an acquaintance that had seen the guitar on Craig's list right then. He recognized the guitar. I contacted a friend of mine in Dallas, a law enforcement official, who contacted a friend in Austin PD who immediately contacted the seller, undercover, as a prospective buyer. At the same time, a Sgt of Austin PD saw the Craig's List ad & contacted the seller himself. A friend of mine called the seller independently Saturday morning & told me his voice mail was full, so the guitar was getting a lot of action quickly. The seller was out of town until Monday, when the APD Metro TAC team met with the seller, told him it was stolen & recovered it. They called me Monday night, and I went to get it yesterday morning, and enjoyed the visit with the guys who brought it back. Great guys.
Me:What kind of shape is the guitar in?
Walt:It's in perfect shape; in fact it looks like it was never taken out of the case.

Photo: Mike Galloway

Side note: In January 2013 when Music of New Braunfels was just a few months in the making, Walt agreed to play at our innagural Blowin' Off Steamboat Music Festival. Here's some video! Walt is at 12:56, but the whole video is good!

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