Bluesman Ron Thompson’s guitars, which were stolen two weeks ago, were recovered after a fan paid a $1,000 reward.
Thompson has performed often in Fresno over the years, and is well known among local blues fans. His equipment was stolen in Hayward, where Thompson lives.
Among the missing items was an electric, hollow-body Gibson, 41 years old, with “Ron Thompson” inlaid on the worn, black neck. The guitar has been in Thompson's collection through seven albums and dozens of performances.
The 60-year-old musician, who performs a weekly gig at Fresno’s Babylon Club, said it’s been his go-to instrument for years.
Rob Zolezzi, also known under stage name “Robby Z,” is a Bay Area blues enthusiast who runs the Facebook page, “Blues Now.” He said his goal was to be proactive and help Thompson through a hard time. He offered a reward on his Facebook page to anyone who returned Thompson’s equipment — no questions asked.
“I got a call three days ago from a pawn shop. They said some teenagers tried to go in and sell some of Ron’s guitars. The pawn shop got the seller’s phone number and passed it along,” he said. “I called the guys directly. I knew they had Ron’s guitars since they described them completely.”
Zolezzi said he met the sellers in Hayward on Monday night and made the exchange for the three guitars.
“Everyone always says they’re going to do something when things like this happen and no one does,” Zolezzi said. “I know, being a musician, how Ron feels. I would never want to lose one of my babies.”
When Zolezzi met with Thompson to give him his instruments, Thompson was in tears, thrilled and overwhelmed to reunite with his instrument — including the Gibson.
“I never thought I’d see it again,” Thompson said. “I didn’t think I’d get it back, but I’m so happy about it.”
Thompson’s car, which was taken with the guitars, was found on an Oakland street and returned to him in need of a thousand dollars of repairs, but Thompson said he is grateful nonetheless.
“I’m just glad to have a vehicle,” he said. “At least I have a car to get down to Fresno to play shows. I should be thankful for that.”
Among the equipment still missing is a mandolin and two amps. Hayward police are still working on the case.
Esra Hashim is a Fresno State journalism student who wrote this for The Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.