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Stolen Licks and rare guitars from Stringed Instrument Division



Taking his licks: with an abundance of good news to report in the Independent’s neck of the woods in recent months—Tipu’s selection as PETA national restaurant of the month, Le Petit Outre being named Montana’s microbusiness of the year, new residents at the Roxy Theater, and so on—it seemed inevitable that the positive ju-ju would eventually run out. It ran out, all right, straight out the door for our cross-the-street neighbor Peter Barberio, owner and proprietor of Stringed Instrument Division, whose store was burglarized on (of all days) Easter Sunday. According to Barberio, the thieves made off with more than a dozen musical instruments worth approximately $30,000. Among them: a rare Gibson Sunburst worth $14,000; a very rare 1917 Gibson Style O identical to the one played by blues legend Big Bill Broonzy; and an unforgettable Gibson acoustic “art guitar” (right) painted with a picture of William S. Hart, “Range Rider of the Yellowstone.” Many of the stolen guitars were not for sale but were part of Barberio’s personal collection. Thus far, none of the instruments has been recovered, but Barberio says the police are optimistic that at least some of them will resurface…eventually.

“They said if they were diamonds or jewelry or something, they’d be long gone,” Barberio says. “But these are such one-of-a-kinds, all serial numbered, they seem to think that they’ll find them.”

Barberio, who opened Stringed Instrument Division 24 years ago, has sold instruments or done repairs for such notable musicians as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, Ramblin’ Jack Eliott, David Bromberg, David Lindley, Lonny Brooks, Doc Watson, Bo Diddley and members of Los Lobos, to drop but a few names. In all those years, however, both at his current location on Higgins and South Fourth and at his Alder Street store on the north side of town, where he operated for 10 years, this is the first time Barberio has ever been ripped off.

“It was a fluke thing,” says Barberio, who left the store the night before and forgot to turn on the alarm. “They took a bunch of junk as well, so they didn’t know what they were doing. There was a whole drawer full of money in plain sight and they didn’t take that. It wasn’t an inside job or professional hit.” Professional or not, the loss was still a devastating one.

“It really left me reeling,” says Barberio. “I was just digging myself out of a hole as it is and this really put me back.”

(For a complete list of the stolen instruments, descriptions and serial numbers, visit the Stringed Instrument Division Web site at

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