The incredible story of the Welsh guitar legend reunited with rare amp after 28 years
Welsh musician Ray ‘Taff’ Williams has played with, supported and accompanied hundreds of household names over the years, including Bonnie Tyler, David Essex, Man, Frank Zappa, Dire Straits and Black Sabbath.
The 74-year-old has had an illustrious career, but he’s always had a yearning for a lost prized possession.
It was on February 24, 1994 – 28 years ago – that Taff left the building he had been teaching in at Neath’s Technical College, to go for a spot of lunch at the college canteen.
He was shocked to find that his car, a brand new silver and green Daihatsu Fourtrak, had been stolen from outside the building.
There was no broken glass, no sign of any part of the car left, whoever stole the vehicle overrode the expensive alarm system, and disappeared in broad daylight.
However, as Taff takes up the story, writing on his Facebook page, his main concern wasn’t for the car but for 5K’s worth of musical equipment stored in the rear of the vehicle – and in particular – the main piece being his rare customised Mesa Boogie amplifier with a tiger striped hardwood cabinet
“This amplifier was hand made for me,” he said. “Fully loaded with every conceivable extra, ordered direct from Randall Smith, the company owner of Mesa Boogie, in Petaluma, just north of San Francisco.
“At that time in late 1979, (when the amp was built for him), I was playing guitar with the Ian Gomm band, and we were supporting Dire Straits on their US tour. The tour manager was a friend of Randall Smith, and through this special connection, I was able to skip the waiting queue and get one built to order in nine weeks.
“I had used an amplifier like this when playing guitar with David Essex, and was intent on owning one of my own.”
After the theft of this special amplifier, the musician became obsessed with trying to figure out where it may have gone.
“Throughout the following years, I would often scan the internet with a positive view of finding it,” he said. “I spotted many from around the same period, but nothing matched the exotic tiger striped hardwood cabinet of mine. It was daunting, and became like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
While browsing through music platforms on February 6 this year, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted his amplifier for sale.
“I said to (wife) Lily, after 28 years I’ve found my amplifier. She said, how can you be so sure, I said – like a mother would recognise her child.
“Reading through the full description left me in no doubt, especially when the serial number was the same as mine.”
The next step was to contact the police, although that was to prove quite the frustrating experience.
“My first move was to find proof of ownership,” he said. “That done, I contacted South Wales police. Although they agreed the evidence I’d given proved I was the rightful owner, they were reluctant to do anything about it because so much time had passed.
“I asked if crime has a shelf life, which did make them a little more positive in registering my details.
“They contacted Cheshire police, as this is the area where the amplifier was being sold from. Cheshire police refused point blank to follow it up, which made me totally dismayed, and left me with no other option than to make an official complaint against them for ‘neglect of duty’.
“They said because the initial theft was in Wales, then South Wales police should be dealing with it. South Wales police said, because the amplifier was now in Cheshire, it should be dealt with by Cheshire police.”
Dismayed by the “childish bickering” which was going on between two police forces, Taff was understandably dumbfounded by the lack of action from both forces in upholding the law.
“Sadly and unbelievably, I was left with no other option than doing something about it myself,” he said.
“The seller was contacted, and with calm and intelligent conversation, and producing the evidence of ownership, an amicable conclusion was reached.”
It appeared the seller had bought the amp 26 years ago and had no idea about its provenance or how it was originally obtained.
After 28 years, with no intervention from the police, the amplifier is now back with its rightful owner and the musician could not be happier to have his prized amplifier back in his possession.
And the best news is that Taff said the amp “still sounds perfect.”
Now that’s music to his ears.
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Great story. It does make you wonder about the priorities of the police though.
Congratulations Ray, never give up eh! Still going after all those years, the owner must have looked after it well…If anyone has a teardrop shaped Watkins Rapier, John Mayall style, it could have been mine
Just a heads up for anyone with a modern Fender valve amp (likely other similar amps too) the only source for replacement valves I found out when seeking a replacement is Russia…
Had Taff been from some ethnic group the police care about, they would have got down on one knee and acted immediately, unfortunately for Taff he didn’t arrive here in a little boat, he’s a law abiding, indigenous, tax paying citizen who’s led a creative and useful life, this really irritates the police, they see no PR mileage in getting that amp back, so they put up obstacle after obstacle to hinder him, I’ve had a very similar incidence myself, the police will jump through hoops to be seen as “right on wokies” it seems to me that is all… Read more »