Local resident finds guitar lost en route to gig
When musician Rich Hook, left, had his Gibson Les Paul fall off the back of his truck on the way to a gig, Nick Sully found it, tracked down Hook and his band, and returned the guitar. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
It was supposed to be just another gig for local rock band Mystery City.
The band that has members from Lehighton, Tamaqua and Brodheadsville was headed to the Sports Zoo in Lansford to play what has become an annual show.
But when they got to the gig, the tailgate on their box truck was wide open, and a Gibson Les Paul guitar they use as a stage backup was gone — and it could have been for good if not for a local man who safely returned it.
“We didn’t know what happened. We jumped in the vehicle and backtracked all the way to the area. I called friends who came from this area — we didn’t find anything,” said Rich Hook, a Lehighton-area resident who plays guitar in the band.
Two days later, and after playing the gig, the band got a Facebook message from Nick Sully. He had been driving to his girlfriend’s house Saturday night — on a stretch of road he drives regularly — when he saw what he thought was a chunk of ice in the road.
“As I got up close I had to veer away from it because I saw it was a guitar case,” Sully said. “I wanted to get it out of the road so no one else would hit it.”
He realized it wasn’t just a case, but a guitar. One of the first things he noticed was it had names signed on the back.
He took the guitar to his girlfriend, who was understandably surprised, and they looked on Facebook to try to find people missing guitars.
“Obviously that’s something that’s valuable, not only monetarily, but emotionally to somebody. I thought, it has names on it, there have to be memories associated with it,” he said.
He came across a message posted by the band — “ATTENTION!!! Anyone traveling to the gig tonight at The Zoo, a guitar fell out of the back of our truck on the way to the gig.”
After exchanging messages, Hook and Sully met up Monday night to exchange the guitar. Sully told him about how he had to swerve when he saw it in the road, and Hook paid him for giving it back.
“I was very thankful,” Hook said. “Any material thing can be replaced, but the whole thing came full circle.”
Hook and his bandmates own numerous guitars. The Les Paul Classic — in Tobacco sunburst colors — retails for over $2,000. Miraculously, an even more expensive guitar laid on the open tailgate all the way to Lansford.
But the lost guitar has much greater sentimental value. They’ve taken to allowing fans to autograph it if they were having a particularly good time at the show.
“Even though the guitar isn’t one of our most valued, it has the most sentimental value to it,” he said.
When they pulled up at the gig and saw the tailgate was open, Hook was more thankful than upset. He said that the 16-foot box truck was loaded with Marshall amps, and expensive lighting equipment — all the gear that it takes to put on their high-energy stage show.
“It could have not only damaged a lot of equipment, it could have caused an accident, but it didn’t, God willing. I just looked at it from that point of view,” Hook said.
He suspects that snow and ice prevented the tailgate from locking properly.
The only other thing that fell out of the truck was a banner bearing the band’s name. Hook found that near the Weissport bridge while looking for the guitar the next day.
The show went on as scheduled with Hook playing the guitar that somehow stayed on the truck. The lost guitar was to be a backup in case he broke a string or had other problems and needed a spare.
“Sure enough, I broke a string that night,” he said.
The band is made up of Robb Justofin, Hook, Chuck Oehler, James Balogach and Albie Coccio, musicians who have played around the area for years. Eventually, they decided to do something together.
They started as musicians in the ’80s and play the songs from their youth — acts like Aerosmith, David Bowie, Queen and Kiss.
While they usually only play at the Zoo once a year, Mystery City plays fire halls and the occasional bar in the Carbon County area. They often play venues at Lake Harmony — not far from where Sully lives. He said that he’s planning on checking out a Mystery City gig in the near future.
“When I was talking to him, he said they play up by me. So I’ll have to go and see them soon,” Sully said.