The band is from Winnipeg, Canada. They began as Al And The Silvertones and were heavily influenced by British musicians. They went on to become one of the biggest bands in the history of Canadian music, and the first Canadian Rock band to achieve success in the US without leaving Canada.
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They have a star on Canada's Walk Of Fame, but haven't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bachman is a devout Mormon. His religious beliefs led him to quit the band in 1970 and formed his own group, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. His bantams resented this because it broke them up at the height of their popularity.
The band was known as Chad Allen And The Expressions when they released their first album in 1965. As a promotional gimmick to imply that they were a hot British import, their first single, a cover of "Shakin' All Over
" by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, was issued with only words "Guess Who?" on the label. Disc jockeys thought that was the group's name, so it stuck.
Bachman has eight children. His son, Tal, is a pop singer who had a hit "She's So High" in 2000.
In 1970, they sold more records worldwide than any other band.
They reunited in 1999 when the Premiere of Manitoba asked them to play at the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. They had such a great time that they launched a North American tour the next year.
Various versions of the band continued to tour starting in 1979. The only constant through all those years was Kale. By 1989, Peterson had also returned.
Allan and Bachman reunited after Bachman left the group and recorded a few albums as Brave Belt.
Burton Cummings was in another Winnipeg band called The Deverons when he was asked to join The Guess Who. He started off as their keyboard player, but took over on vocals when their lead singer Chad Allan quit to return to school. Cummings had dropped out of high school and was just 17 when he was asked to join the band.
Allan became the host of the Canadian TV show Where It's At. In 1968, his former band landed a regular spot on the show.
The group has re-formed from time to time in various incarnations. By the mid-2000s, Peterson and Kale had gained control of the band's name and performed as The Guess Who without Bachman or Cummings.
Their 2000 tour was called the "Runnin' Back Through Canada" Tour. They started in Newfoundland and played at least one concert in every Canadian province. The concert in their home town of Winnipeg was played in pouring rain and is available on DVD, entitled Runnin' Back Through Canada. The lineup on this one was original members Randy Bachman (guitar), Burton Cummings (vocals) and Garry Peterson (drums), joined by Bill Wallace (bass) and Don McDougal (guitar). Wallace and McDougal have been intermittent members since the early '70s.
In 2001, they were doing a summer tour in the US and were in New York on September 11 for a concert in New Jersey the next day. The Jersey concert was, as expected, canceled.
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Bachman left the group shortly after their biggest hit, "American Woman," started climbing the charts. He explained to Melody Maker in 1974: "We were on the road for a 93-day tour and many things were bothering me, the lousy hours and the rotten food, and I became very ill. I had gall bladder trouble and I was vomiting every night and I hadn't a clue what was wrong. Finally I got the group together and told them that after ten years I felt like I was dying. They hired a temporary replacement and I spent two or three months in hospital."
Bachman and Cummings honed their songwriting skills by re-writing hit songs they heard on the radio. They would spend considerable time studying a song before moving on to another, in part because of budget constraints. "You had to save your allowance for a month to buy a 45 or a 78," Bachman said in a Songfacts interview
. "Burton Cummings and I used to chip in and buy an album for $3.98. He would have it for a week and I'd have it for a week, and we'd listen to the songs and try to write songs like them."
Drummer Garry Peterson says that Burton Cummings' "favorite guy" was Jim Morrison, and that his admiration for the Doors frontman strongly affected the kind of music that The Guess Who made. "We didn't want to be a ballad band," Peterson said in The Vinyl Dialogues. "Burton's favorite guy was Jim Morrison, so he wanted to be like Jim Morrison."
The inside cover of The Guess Who's American Woman album features lyrics displayed over a collage of faded photographs. "That's all our baby pictures," reveals the band's drummer, Garry Peterson. Go to the top left corner, that's me and my mom. She knitted that sweater for me. Go to the lefthand side, bottom right. Look very closely. There's a little guy with a cowboy hat and a little car. That's a jeep my father made for me. I'm about three years old there. Those are all our baby pictures and nobody knows that. People have had that album for more than 40 years and they still don't know. They're busy focusing on the lyrics."
Peterson believes The Guess Who ultimately fell apart because Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman didn't want to do more group songs and split writing credits, which would mean splitting royalties. "You look at some of the bigger bands that are successful and they have always taken care of all their members. The ones that aren't successful didn't take care of all their members." He makes sure to point out that he is simply stating the facts as he sees them. "I don't say this with malice. I wish nothing but the best for everybody in the band."