The thieves weren’t educated musicians, but they knew enough to take Tom Catmull’s cherished rosewood Gibson J-45 Vintage Sunburst guitar.
Among the many other things they stole June 21 from Catmull’s home on Bulwer Street: his black Gretch “Electromatic” Pro Jet electric guitar and a Japanese banjo.
Catmull’s only instrument left behind in the robbery spree– his old Taylor guitar – speaks volumes.
“It was next to my son’s Fender, and the Taylor is a much more expensive guitar but it doesn’t look as new as the Fender,” Catmull theorized. “They must have recognized the name ‘Fender’ and didn’t know what the Taylor was, so they left it behind.”
The thefts took place on an odd night away from the stage and away from home for the Missoula musician and front man for the regionally celebrated band, Tom Catmull and the Clerics.
Although frustrated and angry over the violation of his home and property, and concerned about how to replace the many instruments of his livelihood, Catmull said his dark mood has been lightened considerably by the outpouring of support from friends, fans and strangers who know him only through his music.
On Facebook, by Twitter, by email and word of mouth, news of Catmull’s loss has spread far and wide.
His first posting about the incident on Facebook was shared more than 300 times, and then shared exponentially again.
Well wishers, amateur sleuths, victims of theft and supporters all chimed in with offers to help, give advice and sympathize.
“Because my business is to promote and be on Facebook and to have a website, I knew I had a way to tell people to be on the lookout,” Catmull said. “And once I got the word out, it kinda of took off. I realized how robbery has touched a lot of people and everybody has a story.”
Musicians from around the state, many of whom he had never met, offered to lend him equipment, and one person even offered to lend Catmull an exact model of his prized stolen Gibson.
“I feel like the response to the incident has dwarfed the incident itself,” Catmull said. “It’s been pretty special, and I’m not sure this happens in other communities.”
Because he has the serial numbers for the Gibson, Fender and Gretch guitars, has filed a police report, and local and regional pawn shops have been notified, Catmull is hopeful that someday he’ll be reunited with his instruments.
It’s the Gibson that he pines for the most.
“That’s my working guitar and it’s special to me because it was a 40th birthday present from the band, family and friends – about 20 people pitched in to give me that guitar,” he said. “That being stolen is a heartbreak.
“I don’t know where it is and what it is doing, but I’m trying not to think about it.”
In the event someone stumbles upon a Gibson J45, the one belonging to Catmull has the serial number 03368007.
The Fender has the serial code CC110204388 and the Gretch’s serial number is cyg05050002.
But with some of the other items stolen, Catmull doesn’t have a record of the serial numbers.
With only the Taylor still in hand, Catmull is continuing on, giving guitar lessons and the band continues to play.
“It’s a lifetime of replacing stuff,” he said, “but I am thankful I have what I need to work.”
This week Tom Catmull and the Clerics perform at The Owl Lounge in Livingston on Monday and Tuesday at 9 p.m. The entire band will play in Missoula in Caras Park on July 12 at 5:30 p.m. (For a full schedule, go to tomcatmull.com.)
As he moves forward from his losses, Catmull said his anger has been usurped by amazement.
“The response from the community has been intense,” he said, “and it makes you feel loved and makes you feel like you live in a special place like Missoula.”