by Lola Rossi-Meza

Guitarist John Pagels performs with vocalist Mike Costley and drummer Sal Frisaura at Three Sixty North, 360 North Palm Canyon in Palm Springs. This Thursday, May 16, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., will be their last performance for the season. The restaurant will remain open until after Memorial Day. The group will return in October.
Pagels is also performing as part of the full orchestra for the Il Divo Concert being held on Saturday, May 18, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
John Pagels has been performing in the Coachella Valley for many years, with various bands and as a soloist. He is a very talented musician and a very kind person. On Monday, April 29, he had friends visiting from his home town of Michigan, and met them at Billy Reed’s Restaurant in Palm Springs for dinner. This happy gathering turned into panic and despair, with the Police on their way to file an incident report.
All of Pagels’ musical equipment was stolen from his van in the parking lot, in broad daylight. Being a professional working musician, he said, “I felt like I was in a bad dream, I was devastated.” The thieves stole over $5,000 in equipment. Fortunately, he had unloaded his guitars at home. The evening before the theft, he was performing with the Gary Owens Band at the Biggi Gardens, for Geno’s Birthday Bash where I was a guest vocalist that night. After such a great party, it seems almost impossible to have this happen the very next day.
Not everyone prepares for something like this to happen, however, I must give him credit, Pagels did everything right. He had photos and serial numbers of all his gear. He gathered the information from his organized musical instrument file and brought a flier with photos, serial numbers and a description of his stolen property to the Palm Springs Police Department.
This article is being written to show you why it is very important to protect the things you need to make your living as a musician. Not everyone takes the time to keep receipts for gear purchases and take photos, but we live in a very desperate time now and must go that extra mile to protect ourselves and our families from such a nightmare.
Pagels printed out color flyers and handed them out to every pawn shop in the Coachella Valley. He talked to all his musician friends to let them know about the theft, and to “keep their ears and eyes open.” Furthermore, he called every music store he could think of to tell them about the theft, one store being Guitar Center in San Bernardino. He called this particular store every day and spoke to many different people, just in case the thief would try to sell them the equipment.
Trying his best not to lose hope, he headed to Santa Monica on Monday, May 6, to not only distribute more flyers to numerous music and musical equipment stores, but to find an amplifier to replace his stolen $1,400 Fender DeVille guitar amp. “Every amp I played buzzed and hummed, there was something I didn’t like about every one of them. I decided I wasn’t going to settle for just anything, so very frustrated, I decided to head back to the Desert and planned to sit in traffic for hours.”
However, as it turned out, traffic moved with ease and Pagels found himself in San Bernardino around 7:45 p.m. Since he had made several telephone calls to Guitar Center, the thought of finding his gear was not on his mind, rather, testing more amplifiers and finding new pedals, because he is a working musician and needed equipment for his upcoming performances.
Upon his arrival, he took the flyers with him and spoke to several salesmen, making them aware of his loss. He had his guitar and tested several amps for over 40 minutes, with still no good choice to purchase. It was almost closing time, so he walked over to view some guitar pedals. Much to his surprise, he saw five of his pedals on display for sale. He was excited and shocked at the same time.
He immediately called an employee for help, pointing out the pedals on the flier and they saw his name on a few of them. Finally, the employee went into the back and brought the rest of his seven stolen pedals along with his Fender DeVille guitar amp. Needless to say, Pagels was excited and relieved. Since there wasn’t a manager to handle this issue, the employee took the items with the flier and left a note for the manager to see the next morning.
Pagels called when they opened and spoke with the manager who told him that he would have to purchase the items if he wanted them. No compromise, despite the rules that govern stolen property. To quote the manager, “If we gave back all of the merchandise that turned out to be stolen, we would be out of business.” This statement outraged Pagels and he replied, “Well, I am out of business if I don’t get my gear back.” He called the Palm Springs Police Department, who in turn called Guitar Center and sent Pagels with a letter for them to release the stolen property, which they did.
Fortunately, the store did comply with the rules when purchasing items from people. They knew who sold them the stolen items, they had his fingerprints, photo and address. Personally, John and I believe there was Divine Intervention at work preventing him from making a purchase at all the other stores and led him to Guitar Center where he found his gear. Prayer is very powerful. Amen!