Steve Vai's stolen 'Swiss cheese' guitar found in attic in Tijuana, Mexico

Steve Vai in the video for Yankee Rose, and with Iván Gonzáles Acosta
Steve Vai in the video for Yankee Rose, and with guitar finder Iván Gonzáles Acosta (Image credit: Warner Bros/Steve Vai/Facebook)

Steve's Vai's distinctive "Swiss cheese" guitar, which was stolen from a Pasadena rehearsal space in 1986, has been returned to the guitarist after being discovered in an attic in Tijuana, Mexico.     

The guitar was originally used in the video for David Lee Roth's Yankee Rose, and was due to be taken out on tour that summer, but after the theft it had been missing for 36 years until it was discovered last year in his grandparent's Tijuana attic by Iván Gonzáles Acosta.

"It seems the people that lived in his grandparents house before them purchased the guitar somewhere along the way, Vai posted on Facebook, "and it was just stuck in the attic only to be discovered recently when they were reorganising things."

Acosta was able to identify the guitar, and posted pictures on Jemsite, an Ibanez user's forum, under the title, "I found the lost guitar of Steve Vai," asking for Vai's contact details. The pictures were eventually seen by Vai associate Mike Meske, and arrangements were made to return the guitar. 

"Mike is the authority on the history and specifics of all my guitars," says Vai. "Mike started reaching out to Ivan and after some time he was able to arrange a drop off where Ivan was met by Mike, Doug MacArthur [Vai's guitar tech] and myself. Thanks to Mike for his solid vigilance in bringing this guitar home.

"The condition of the guitar when I saw it was a shocker. It’s as if it was put in the case and never played for 36 years. The colours are still vibrant and the neck is in great shape.

"Thank you Ivan for your kind consideration and for reuniting me with this piece of my history. Receiving this guitar feels like an old friend has returned home after so many years to jam with me. I believe that we will make a wonderful Ham and Swiss sandwich together."   

Late last week, Vai paid tribute to the late Jeff Beck, saying, "In the pantheons of guitar players, Jeff Beck was the chosen one. He left us with so much beauty and light in our music world. I can’t imagine the landscape of contemporary guitar playing if he had never been here, but as everything comes and goes in this world, his contribution reshaped our imagination of what the guitar can do forever.

"Thank you master. You really did it and we so much appreciate you."


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.