"Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved": Amateur sleuths have located Paul McCartney's long-lost Höfner bass 50 years after it was stolen

Paul McCartney with Höfner bass in 1964
(Image credit: David Redfern via Getty Images)

A bass guitar Paul McCartney played on many classics by The Beatles has been found, more than 50 years after it went missing.  

The 1961 Höfner 500/1 bass guitar – which was used throughout the recording of the first two Beatles albums, Please Please Me and With The Beatles – was stolen in October 1972, taken from the back of a van parked overnight in Ladbroke Grove, West London.

"We knew there was huge padlock on the back doors," Wings soundman Ian Horne told The Lost Bass Project in 2023. "But when I got up in the morning and saw the van, with the broken padlock lying in the road, I knew it was bad news. I looked inside and the bass, along with one other guitar and two Vox AC30 amps, had gone."

It had previously been reported that McCartney's bass had been stolen from the basement at the Beatles Apple Corps HQ in Savile Row three years earlier, but, armed with Horne's new information, the Lost Bass Project were able to narrow their search, and discovered that the instrument had been sold to the landlord of a pub just up the road in Notting Hill. From there, they were able to track the instrument further. 

The big breakthrough came last year, when the Project's Scott Jones wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph, detailing the search and appealing for anyone with further information to come forward.   

“The lost bass needs to be valued more like a Van Gogh or a Picasso than just an instrument," Höfner executive Nick Wass told the Telegraph. "Other than Beethoven’s piano, no instrument on earth can be compared to McCartney’s original Höfner. But the true value is in its history. This is the bass Paul played in Hamburg, at the Cavern Club, and at Abbey Road. That’s why we need to get this bass back." 

The article did its job, and the bass was found in the attic of a film student living on the south coast of England, who had inherited the bass. "They got this out and realised just what they had," say the Lost Bass Project. "Within days it was back with Paul McCartney!" 

The guitar has been authenticated by Höfner, and McCartney reports that he is "incredibly grateful to all those involved." 

The instrument is conservatively valued at £10 million, but is likely to sell for significantly more at auction. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.