|The Guess Who|
|Origin||Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada|
The Guess Who are a Canadian rock band, formed in Winnipeg in 1965. Initially gaining recognition in Canada, the group found international success from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s with many hit singles, including "No Time", "American Woman", "Laughing", "These Eyes", "Undun" and "Share the Land". The band have continued to perform and record to the present day; and at various times have included many well-known musicians, including Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman (of Bachman-Turner Overdrive). Formed as a garage rock band, their musical style encompassed the pop rock and psychedelic rock genres.
The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement for the Guess Who's contribution to popular music in Canada.
The "Guess Who" started out as a local Winnipeg band formed by singer/guitarist Chad Allan (real name: Allan Kowbel) in 1958 and initially called "Allan and the Silvertones". This was changed to "Chad Allan and the Reflections" in 1962, by which point the band consisted of five Winnipeg-born musicians: Chad Allan (lead vocals/guitar), Bob Ashley (keyboards), Randy Bachman (guitars, backing vocals), Jim Kale (bass, backing vocals), and Garry Peterson (drums, backing vocals). The Reflections name was chosen since it was similar to the British group the Shadows.
The band's debut single ("Tribute To Buddy Holly") was released on Canadian-American Records in 1962. "Chad Allan and the Reflections" then signed with Quality Records and released several singles in 1963/64, which were regional hits but did not make much of a mark across Canada. Quality released an instrumental single, "Inside Out", on their Reo subsidiary, deliberately miscredited to "Bob Ashley & The Reflections".
In 1965, the group changed their name to "'Chad Allan & the Expressions" after a U.S. group called the Reflections came out with the hit single "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet". That year the band produced their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over". This track reached No. 1 in Canada, No. 22 in the U.S (where Quality had licensed the track to the American Scepter label), and No. 27 in Australia. Mimicking a ploy the previous year by "The You Know Who Group" in the US, Quality Records credited the single only to "Guess Who?" in an attempt to build a mystique around the record. Later in 1965 The Four Seasons attempted a similar masking by recording under the similar nom de disque "The Wonder Who?"
After Quality Records revealed the band to be "Chad Allan & The Expressions", disc jockeys continued to announce the group as "Guess Who?", effectively forcing the band to accept the new name.
The immediate follow-ups to "Shakin' All Over" met with major success in Canada but very little elsewhere. Unwilling to participate in the resulting long tours through western Canada, southern Ontario and into the US, Bob Ashley left the group in late 1965.Burton Cummings (from the Winnipeg group "The Deverons") joined the band as keyboardist in early January 1966 and shared lead vocal work with Chad Allan. This line-up lasted only a few months; Chad Allan left in May 1966 to enroll in college, leaving Burton Cummings the full-time lead singer.
By this point, the band's name had become "The Guess Who?" though the question mark would finally be dropped in 1968; with Chad Allan gone, the "Chad Allan & The Expressions" subtitle was also dropped. Burton Cummings "The Deverons" bandmate, guitarist Bruce Decker, was brought in after Chad Allan left but was let go by the end of that summer and the group was a quartet for the next four years, with Randy Bachman teaching Burton Cummings any extra guitar parts needed for live shows.
The group continued to release top 40 singles in Canada, including "Clock on the Wall"; one single, "His Girl", entered the UK charts in 1967. A trip to the UK to promote this single in February 1967 proved to be a financial mistake, as the single dropped off the charts after only one week, and the Guess Who found themselves unable to get airplay or to book paying gigs without work visas. They returned to Canada within a matter of weeks, thousands of dollars in debt.
Later in 1967, they were hired as the house band on the CBC radio show The Swingers and as the house band on CBC television program Let's Go, a music show oriented toward teenagers (and hosted, for a time, by their former bandmate Chad Allan). 39 weekly shows aired each year and the paycheques allowed the Guess Who to pay off their debts and gave them further exposure in Canada. The band was initially hired to perform the chart hits of the day, in arrangements as close as possible to the actual hit records; after a time, the show's producer encouraged the group to write and perform their own material as well. The Guess Who stayed with Let's Go for two years; a compilation of some of their Let's Go performances was released on CD in 2005.
After seeing the Guess Who on Let's Go, record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson contacted the band about participating in an advertising project for Coca-Cola; this turned out to be the recording of a split LP with Ottawa band "The Staccatos" (soon to rename themselves the Five Man Electrical Band). The resulting album was called A Wild Pair, and featured "The Guess Who" on one side and "The Staccatos" on the other. The album was available for purchase only through mail-order for the price of 10 Coca Cola bottle cap liners and $1 (to cover shipping expenses). Because the album was not sold through normal retail channels, no certified sales figures are available.
During their peak years up to their 1975 dissolution, the Guess Who were managed by Don Hunter.
Richardson, who produced their material on A Wild Pair, signed the group to his production company and record label Nimbus 9 (which handled their Canadian releases) and mortgaged his house to finance the group's next batch of recordings in September 1968, which would become the album Wheatfield Soul (March 1969) and included the ballad "These Eyes". This song, released in January 1969, became the group's first Top 10 US hit for their new label, RCA Records. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America. Richardson would remain the group's producer through to their break-up in 1975.
The band followed up Wheatfield Soul with the release of Canned Wheat in September 1969. The album featured the double-sided hit single "Laughing" / "Undun" along with the initial recording of the song "No Time".
By 1970, the Guess Who had moved toward an edgier hard-rock sound with the album American Woman. The album's A-side single, "American Woman", with B-side "No Sugar Tonight", was the first record by a Canadian band to top the U.S. Hot 100, and was the group's only No. 1 hit in the U.S. (The Crew Cuts from Toronto had a long-running US #1 "Sh-Boom" in the summer of 1954, but that was four years before the existence of the Hot 100.) Another single from the album, a re-recording of "No Time", became a Top Five U.S. hit.
Randy Bachman had completed a solo album, Axe, in March 1970, but then became ill with a gall bladder attack; the group continued touring with an American guitarist from Philadelphia, Bobby Sabellico. Differences between Bachman and Cummings (mainly due to Bachman's conversion to Mormonism) led Bachman to leave the group after playing a final show at the Fillmore East in New York City on May 16, 1970. Recent studio recordings (eventually released in 1976 as The Way They Were) were sidelined. Bachman returned to Winnipeg and in 1971 formed Brave Belt which evolved into Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Bachman was replaced by two Winnipeg guitarists: Kurt Winter, from the band Brother, and Greg Leskiw from the band Wild Rice. Winter became a songwriting collaborator with Cummings. The Guess Who did some recording in Chicago, and continued to produce hit singles, including "Hand Me Down World", "Share the Land", "Hang on to Your Life", "Albert Flasher", and "Rain Dance". The albums Share the Land (October 1970) and The Best of The Guess Who (April 1971) also achieved gold status for the band.
On July 17, 1970, the band was invited to perform at The White House for the Nixon family and its guests, but they were asked to eliminate "American Woman" (due to political interpretations of the lyrics) from their set list as a "matter of taste".
The group began to experiment with looser and more progressive stylings; their next releases, So Long, Bannatyne in July 1971, and Rockin' in early 1972, showed a dropping off in sales. Leskiw, after differences with Cummings, left the band suddenly after a show in Corpus Christi, Texas on March 17, 1972. The band played their next show in Fort Worth as a four-piece before flying in Donnie McDougall (from the bands Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck and Vicious Circle) from Winnipeg for the next gig in Phoenix on March 19.
After the Paramount shows, bassist Jim Kale was let go; he went on to join Scrubbaloe Caine. Winter's former bandmate from Brother, Bill Wallace, came in to take over bass guitar duties, and the band went on tour with Three Dog Night in November and December 1972 to Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
Cummings, Wallace, and Winter wrote the Guess Who's last big hit, "Clap for the Wolfman," which reached #4 in Canada and #6 in the U.S. The song was an homage to disc jockey Wolfman Jack, who lent his voice to the recording. It appeared on Road Food (April 1974), which also contained the hit "Star Baby"(#39), pulling the band out of their career slump, albeit temporarily.
McDougall and Winter were dropped in June 1974, and the band brought in a new lead guitarist, Toronto's Domenic Troiano (formerly of Bush and Mandala, and fresh from a stint in James Gang), who became Cummings' chief songwriting collaborator. Troiano had worked with Cummings, Wallace, and Peterson in Los Angeles the month before on a soundtrack to a movie (A Fool, A Fool, I Met a Fool) that was never released.
The albums with Troiano, Flavours (October 1974) and Power in the Music (July 1975), were jazzier and more progressive than the band's earlier recordings; Cummings, unhappy with the change, decided to pursue a solo career and the Guess Who broke up in October 1975.
In November 1977, CBC approached the band about a reunion. Cummings and Bachman, busy with solo careers and their work together, were not interested. Kale, who was on tour in Kenora, Ontario, as well as Peterson, Winter, and McDougall, responded. Cummings and Bachman gave Kale permission to use the Guess Who name for the one show. Soon after, Kale found out that the name "The Guess Who" had never been registered; he promptly drove back to Winnipeg to register it, and maintains control of the band name to this day.
Kale soon organized a permanent renewal of the Guess Who; the bassist was initially joined by returning members Kurt Winter (guitars) and Don McDougall (lead vocals and guitar), as well as new recruits David Inglis (lead guitars) and Vance Masters (drums). Masters had been drummer in the Winnipeg group Brother with Winter and Bill Wallace.
A new studio album called Guess Who's Back was recorded at Roade Recording Studios in Winnipeg and released in Canada on the Aquarius label to minimal attention in July 1978. Winter dropped out shortly after the album's release, but the remaining quartet recorded a second Aquarius album, All This For a Song, retooling some of this album's songs for an American release in February 1979 on the Hilltak label, also titled All This For a Song. Four of the eight tracks contained on Guess Who's Back also appear in the American version of All This For A Song, some in re-recorded form; the rest of the album's tracks were new. As was the case with Guess Who's Back, this album, featuring a more guitar based sound and without Cummings' distinctive voice and piano, was commercially unsuccessful.
Ralph Watts, who had been recording engineer on Guess Who's Back, joined the band on the road on guitar and keyboards during the second half of 1978 but left after being offered the house engineer position with Century 21 Recording Studios.
In the meantime, Bachman, Cummings, Peterson, and Wallace regrouped for a one-off appearance as "The Guess Who" for the CBC Television special Burton Cummings: Portage & Main, filmed on November 4, 1979, and aired on CBC on February 2, 1981.
Kale left the band in 1979 to pursue other projects; McDougal, Masters, guitarist Bobby Bilan, bassist Brian Sellar, and keyboardist Jimmy Grabowski continued on touring as "The Guess Who" without him.
By 1981, Kale had taken back the Guess Who name and that year a completely new Guess Who line-up (Kale, former Crowbar drummer Sonnie Bernardi and guitarists Dale Russell and Mike McKenna) put out a new studio LP called Now And Not Then on the El Mocambo label, featuring new vocalist/keyboardist Brent DesJarlais. The album was released only in Canada and Germany (on Line Records).
At this point, the band was in demand to play shows, mostly in the US, based on the popularity of their 60s and 70s hits featuring lead singer Burton Cummings. Kale and DesJarlais toured as "The Guess Who" in 1981, joined by Brian Tataryn (guitar), Ken Curry (drums), and a returning David Inglis (who was gone again by 1982).
In 1983, Bachman, Cummings, Kale, and Peterson (the "American Woman" line-up) reunited as "The Guess Who" to play a series of Canadian gigs and record the Together Again live album (issued as "The Best of The Guess Who - Live!" in the U.S.) and video at the Canadian National Exhibition bandshell on June 29, 1983. The concert and subsequent releases were the first time Bachman had performed many of the songs written and recorded after his departure. Four new studio recordings were also made with overdubbed audience noise.
After the reunion, Cummings resumed his solo work, Bachman took Peterson with him for a Bachman-Turner Overdrive reunion album and tour, and Kale once again resumed touring with various musicians under "The Guess Who" banner. In the fall of 1983, Russell and Bernardi joined Kale, as well as singer Trevor Balicky and keyboardist Mike Hanford (from the 60s Winnipeg band Gettysbyrg Address). In 1985 Balicky was succeeded by former Stilettos singer Bob Fuhr and then, in 1986, Kenny Carter. Terry Read (formerly with The Lyme) came in briefly to sub for Hanford in 1986.
In 1987 a four-song cassette of new material from the Kale/Russell/Bernardi/Hanford/Carter line-up appeared, called Guess Who '87. In one of the few mainstream reviews it received, Craig MacInnis of the Toronto Star opined, "The playing is roadhouse sloppy and the songs are pure junk."
After the BTO reunion played itself out, Drummer Peterson returned to the Guess Who just after the release of Guess Who '87. From this point on, the band mostly concentrated on the by now very lucrative US nostalgia circuit, appearing on bills like Super 70s (in the summer of 1988) with Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Rare Earth, Mark Farner and Ray Sawyer (of Dr. Hook) and Dick Clark's American Bandstand Tour in 1989.
In 1989, Tom Whinnery stepped in for Hanford but was himself replaced by keyboardist/flautist/saxophonist Leonard "Lewsh" Shaw (from Ian Thomas's band) in 1990. Vocalist Terry Hatty (ex-Sam Moon) took over from Carter in 1991.
A new Guess Who studio album on Aquarius, Liberty (also issued as Lonely One on the U.S. Intersound label), with Terry Hatty singing, was released in July 1995. As with Guess Who 87, virtually no attention was paid to it in the mainstream press and the few reviews of the album were almost all overwhelmingly negative.
In May 1997, with their hometown of Winnipeg facing a potentially disastrous flood, Bachman and Cummings reunited in Winnipeg for the first time in ten years in an emotional fund raiser for disaster relief organized by Tom Jackson.
In 1997, former Coney Hatch singer Carl Dixon joined the Guess Who lineup; Kale stepped down from touring later in 1998, and bassist Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve (ex-Streetheart) was called in as his successor.
At the request of the Premier of Manitoba, Cummings, Bachman, Kale and Peterson appeared together at the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games at Winnipeg Stadium on August 8, 1999. The reunion led Cummings, Bachman, Kale and Peterson, joined by Don McDougall, to begin practising for a reunion tour in May 2000. In the meantime, the Dixon/Shaw/Russell/Sinnaeve lineup continued to tour, finishing already booked dates with drummer Charlie Cooley filling in for Peterson. The reunion band embarked on a cross-Canada and US tour beginning in 2000, although health problems precluded Kale's involvement. Bill Wallace, Kale's replacement in 1972, was brought in once again and this lineup of the band played and toured regularly through the end of 2003. A live album and DVD release, Running Back Thru Canada, followed the 2000 tour.
On May 26, 2001, the band members received honorary doctorates at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. For Cummings, this was a special privilege, since he had not graduated from high school. That same year, the group was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame; The signatures of the then-current band members, Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Peterson and Wallace, are engraved into the commemorative stone.
On July 30, 2003, The Guess Who performed before an estimated audience of 450,000 at the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto SARS benefit concert. The show was the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history.
As of 2004, Bachman, Cummings, McDougall and Wallace ended their association with the band, and Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, who lawfully own the trademark "The Guess Who", resumed their Guess Who touring schedule of around sixty dates a year, with "Lewsh" Shaw back on keyboards, Carl Dixon on vocals and returning guitarist Bobby Bilan, who was replaced by Laurie MacKenzie in 2006.
In 2007 Bachman and Cummings began recording together; unable to use the Guess Who name, they issued the album Jukebox as "Bachman Cummings".
The Guess Who continue to perform live dates on a regular basis. Dixon continued as the group's lead singer through 2008, until he was injured in an automobile accident in Australia on April 14 of that year. Dixon was briefly replaced by Colin Wiebe, the singer in Randy Bachman's solo band. Wiebe was on loan until Derek Sharp replaced Dixon in the lineup permanently; Dixon later made a full recovery.
Drummer Brian Tichy (formerly of Foreigner and Whitesnake) filled in for Peterson in the summer of 2010 and again for some shows in 2013 and 2015. In September 2012, Stan Miczek (from Sass Jordan's band) came in briefly to fill in for Kale.
As of 2016, the Guess Who line-up consisted of Derek Sharp (vocals, guitars, since 2008), Will Evankovich (guitars, backing vocals, since 2014), Leonard Shaw (keyboards), Jim Kale (bass) and Garry Peterson (drums). On January 21, 2016 Dixon appeared as a guest with the band, singing and filling in for Sharp, for the first time since his 2008 accident, at South Florida Fair West Palm Beach. Charlie Morgan (ex-Elton John and Orleans) filled in on drums for Peterson at this show.
In the summer of 2016, Kale once again took time off from the road and was subbed, first by Brent Fitz, then by Michael Devin (from Whitesnake), followed by Rudy Sarzo (ex-Quiet Riot). Fitz, then Sarzo, returned on bass for the group's 2017 dates.
Original Canada LPs