Paul McCartney's stolen Höfner bass returned after more than 50 years

Paul McCartney's stolen Höfner bass returned after more than 50 years

Paul McCartney has been reunited with the original Höfner bass guitar he bought in the early 1960s that was stolen in the ’70s, the former Beatles member confirmed Wednesday.

“Following the launch of last year’s Lost Bass project, Paul’s 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass guitar, which was stolen in 1972, has been returned,” read a brief statement on McCartney’s website. “The guitar has been authenticated by Höfner and Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

McCartney bought the guitar, a left-handed Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass, in Hamburg, Germany, in 1961. It was his primary instrument throughout the early years of The Beatles’ runs at Hamburg’s Top Ten Club and Liverpool’s Cavern Club and on early Beatles recordings until it became his backup when he got a new Höfner in 1963.

But the bass went missing years later, and in 2023, three lifelong Beatles fans set out to get it back (to where it once belonged).

Nick Wass, a former marketing manager and electric guitar developer for Höfner, and husband and wife team Scott and Naomi Jones, both journalists, created the Lost Bass Project to seek out leads and share updates on their search for the missing instrument.

The team discovered in October that the bass had been stolen off a truck in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood in 1972. This was something of a breakthrough, they explained, as it was previously believed the Höfner had been stolen from The Beatles’ Apple Corps headquarters on Savile Row in January 1969 during the “Get Back” sessions, which culminated in the band’s final live performance, on the roof of the building, and eventually led to their final album “Let It Be.”

Ian Horne, one of McCartney’s former sound engineers, got in touch with the Lost Bass Project and told them about the 1972 theft. According to Horne, the bass was taken from the back of a padlocked truck that had been rented to help move some equipment as McCartney and his band Wings prepared for an upcoming tour and recorded the album “Red Rose Speedway.”

“I knew it was Paul’s original Höfner bass that had been stolen, and I knew what it meant to him,” Horne wrote in an email, according to the Lost Bass Project. “Trevor [Jones, McCartney’s other sound engineer at the time] and I did all we could to find it, but it was gone. Eventually, we had to go to Paul’s house in Cavendish Avenue and tell him that the gear had been stolen from the back of the truck. We went into the room and told Paul. He told us not to worry, and we kept our jobs. He’s a good man, Paul. I worked for him for six years after the bass went missing. But I’ve carried the guilt all my life.”

The Lost Bass Project said it was then able to figure out exactly who stole it and learned it was sold to the owner of a pub in the area. While the project has not revealed any specifics, having promised anyone who comes forward confidentiality, it said it was able to track the bass’ movements over the years.

“As a result of the publicity someone living in a terraced house on the south coast of England remembered an old bass guitar that was in their attic,” the Lost Bass Project wrote Thursday. “They got this out and realized just what they had. Within days it was back with Paul McCartney!”

While the 1961 Höfner had been missing for decades, McCartney continued to use the bass he got in 1963 throughout the rest of the Beatles’ career. He stopped using that model in the 1970s, but returned to it in 1987, according to Guitar World.

“I had sort of parked it. I had thought I had outgrown it. I started playing it again and never really looked back,” McCartney said, according to Guitar World. “It’s great that Elvis [Costello] encouraged me to take it out.”

McCartney still plays the ’63 Höfner live and on studio recordings to this day.