Former Guns n’Roses bassist Duff McKagan turned to the four-string instrument after he was forced to pawn his guitar – and was then told he wouldn’t be getting it back because it was stolen.
The Velvet Revolver and Loaded man reveals the episode in a preview excerpt of his autobiography, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies). He’d acquired the guitar in his home town of Seattle after swapping instruments with another musician, not knowing his new axe had originated in Los Angeles.
McKagan tells how events unfolded in 1984, a few months after he’d moved to LA to find a band with the determination to succeed. He writes: “During those early months I sometimes had to pawn things to make rent while waiting to get paid. One day I heard a knock at my apartment door. When I opened it, I found two cops.
“‘Do you own a black BC Rich Seagull guitar?’ They read out the serial number.
“I answered in the affirmative. I had gotten it back in Seallt from Kurt Bloch of the Fastbacks – traded him for it in exchange for another guitar.
“‘And you pawned it?’ They said the name of the shop I regularly used.
“Yes, I had.
“They then informed me that this guitar had been stolen from a music store five years pro. Pawn shops have to report every item they take in, and my guitar – again, the one I got in Seattle – had raised a red flag.”
“They began to question me as if I had been the initial burglar. It must have been easy to read from my reaction that I was just the guy left holding the bag. They didn’t arrest me. But they took the BC Rich.
“Great, I had just recovered a piece of stolen gear and transported it back to LA for them. I felt pretty down that day. I already had no money and I also had no guitar.”
Soon afterwards McKagan ran into future bandmate Izzy Stradlin, who he already knew from their LA neighbourhood.
He explains: “He told me he was starting a new band with a couple of guys from LA Guns. They were calling the new group Guns n’Roses.
“Almost immediately the new group parted ways ith the first bass player. Izzy came to me at that point.
“‘Don’t you play bass?’ he asked me.
“‘I own a bass,’ I said. I hadn’t really played one since the eighth grade. I was just getting comfortable playing four strings by then, but had not come close to developing my own style yet. Fortunately one of the advantages of being young – I had just turned twenty-one – was fearlessness and unbridled confidence.
“Not to mention the fact that I no longer had a guitar. At this point it was bass or nothing.”
In an author’s note McKagan observes: “My friends and old band members may remember some of the stories I recount differently than I do, but I have found that all stories have many sides. These are my stories. These are my perspectives. This is my truth.”