Steve Vai’s long-lost ‘Swiss Cheese’ guitar used in David Lee Roth music video recovered after 36 years

The custom-made instrument, which was stolen after its appearance in the video for 'Yankee Rose' in 1986, was found in the attic of a home in Mexico this week

Steve Vai has been reunited with his long-lost guitar, nearly four decades after it was stolen from him in 1986.

At Vai’s request, the custom guitar was the first to feature a monkey grip handle, and was notable for the circular indents which led the musician to call it the ‘Swiss Cheese’ guitar. In 1986, Vai used the instrument in the music video for the David Lee Roth song ‘Yankee Rose’, during his time as the guitarist in Roth’s backing band.

That same year, the guitar was stolen along with three other instruments from a rehearsal space in California. However, in a social media post shared earlier this week, Vai announced the guitar’s recovery from a home in Mexico, some 36 years after it first went missing.


“Oddly enough, after going missing 36 and a half years ago, my custom… ‘Swiss Cheese’ guitar was finally returned to me”, Vai wrote.

Vai explained how the guitar had been returned by Iván González Acosta, who found it “in the attic of his grandparents home… not too long ago.” After Acosta posted images of the instrument online, Vai and his team “arrange[d] a drop off” with Acosta to “bring this guitar home”. Acosta – who discovered the instrument when “reorganizing things” in his grandparents’ home – is pictured alongside Vai in the post.

The guitarist continued: “It seems the people that lived in [Acosta’s] grandparents house before them purchased the guitar somewhere along the way & it was just stuck in the attic”. Vai explained that the guitar had remained “vibrant” and “in great shape” despite decades of disuse, saying “it’s as if it was put in the case & never played for 36 years”.

Elsewhere in the post, Vai thanked the guitar’s creator Joe Despagni, and expressed gratitude to both his team and Acosta for their “solid vigilance” in returning the instrument. “Receiving this guitar feels like an old friend has returned home after so many years to jam with me”, Vai wrote. “I believe that [Acosta and I] will make a wonderful Ham and Swiss sandwich together.”

Last year, Vai appeared in Studio 666, a film starring members of Foo Fighters as fictional versions of themselves. “The movie is just off the charts gory and funny”, Vai said of his experience shooting the movie. “It was a glorious blast of demonic shred pleasure and when I saw it in the theater”.

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