Showing posts with label #The Guess Who. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #The Guess Who. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Randy Bachman Interview: ‘Every Song Tells A Story’-The Musical Chronicles of a Rock Hero

By Ray Shasho
-Interviewed August 14th 2014

Guitar rock hero Randy Bachman has influenced both musicians and music enthusiasts alike since beginning his legendary journey with The Guess Who and throughout a monumental musical career with Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The legendary guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer, continues to ‘take care of business’ with ingenious plans for the near future … A new fourteen-track CD/DVD set entitled …‘Every Song Tells A Story', officially released on August 19th, filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour … More  Bachman & Turner touring … A rock & blues power trio featuring proficient female musicians  alongside Randy on guitar and vocals … A new ‘British Blues’ album forthcoming with very special guest artists … Touring with Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy ... And a regular deejay gig called ‘Vinyl Tap’ his radio show on CBC Radio One/ Sirius Satellite Radio - Channel 169.

Purchase Randy Bachman’s brand new CD/DVD … Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells A Story -a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS) and available now at It was filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour. ‘Every Song Tells A Story, features Bachman in a rare and intimate setting, weaving together the transcendent and iconic hits of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive with the often-humorous stories that originally brought the songs to life.  Inspired by his award-winning radio program ‘Vinyl Tap,’ Bachman takes his master storytelling and voluminous musical knowledge on the road and leads fans on a guided journey that encapsulates the last 30 years of popular music presented by one of the greatest rock legends of our time.

THE GUESS WHO: Randy Bachman co-founded Al and The Silvertones in the early 60’s. The band changed their name to Chad Allan & the Reflections, Chad Allan and The Expressions, and eventually became The Guess Who.
By 1965, Winnipeg, Manitoba native Randy Bachman enjoyed commercial success with The Guess Who cover tune of the Johnny Kidd (Johnny Kidd & the Pirates) penned classic “Shakin’ All Over.” The Guess Who version reached #1 in Canada and landed in the Top 40 in the U.S.

After lead singer Chad Allan left the band, Burton Cummings took over frontman duties for The Guess Who. Randy Bachman became extremely important to the band’s sound, lyrical content, and its success. By 1969, the songwriting team of Bachman andCummings began an incredible string of the band’s biggest hits … “These Eyes” (#6 U.S. Hit -1969), “Laughing” (#10 U.S. Hit -1969), “Undun” (#22 U.S Hit -1969, written solely by Bachman) “No Time,” (#5 U.S. Hit-1970) “American Woman” (#1 U.S. Hit-1970 written by Bachman/Cummings with Peterson and Kale ) and “No Sugar Tonight”(#1 U.S. Hit-1970 written solely by Bachman).

BRAVE BELT: Bachman left The Guess Who in 1970. He formed ‘Brave Belt’ after releasing his solo album entitled Axe for RCA Records. Brave Belt featured ex Guess Who singer Chad Allan, Fred Turner (Suggested by Neil Young), and Randy’s Brothers Robbie and Tim Bachman. The group had several hits on the Canadian Top 40 charts and released two albums (Brave Belt I, Brave Belt II). In 1972, Chad Allan departed and the group was eventually renamed … Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE (BTO): The newly renamed rock group released their debut self-titled album in 1973. The band began their journey to legendary rock status and commercial success with the release of their second album … Bachman-Turner Overdrive II (1973). The album spawned “Let It Ride” (#23 Hit on Billboard’s Hot 100/1974, written by Bachman/Turner and sung by Fred Turner), and “Takin’Care of Business” (#12 Hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 /1974, written and sung by Randy Bachman).Tim Bachman left the band and was replaced by Blair Thornton. BTO’S third release Not Fragile generating further commercial success with the hit“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (#1 on the U.S. charts/1974 written by Bachman) and“Roll On Down the Highway”(#14 U.S. Hit /1975).

BTO became an enormous concert draw and selling out arenas worldwide. Randy Bachman and his band continued its rock and roll savvy with the release of Four Wheel Drive (The album reached #5 on the U.S. charts in 1975, the single “Hey You”reached #21 on the U.S. charts) and Head On (1975/ the single “Take It Like A Man”reached #33 on the U.S. charts).
BTO’S seventh studio release… Freeways (1977) would be Randy Bachman’s last before the Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1984 album) seven years later. Randy Bachman was replaced by bassist Jim Clench (April Wine) while Turner moved over to rhythm guitar. Blair Thornton became the lead guitarist.
Randy returned to BTO in 1984 for the Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1984 album) Garry Peterson (The Guess Who) replaced Robbie Bachman on drums.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive has sold over 40-million records worldwide.

Randy Bachman rejoined Burton Cummings and other members of The Guess Who for reunions in 1983 and 1999. He played on several tours with The Guess Who until 2003. Bachman also formed a band with Burton Cummings called the ‘Bachman-Cummings Band.’
Bachman also performed with the second Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in 1992.
BACHMAN & TURNER: After the band’s hiatus, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner reunited in 2009. The duo occasionally records and tours as Bachman & Turner. -Bachman & Turner released albums … Bachman & Turner (2010), Forged In Rock(2010) Live at the Roseland Ballroom, NYC (2012).
On March 29th 2014, the classic BTO lineup of … Randy Bachman (guitar, vocals),Robbie Bachman (percussions, drums), Blair Thornton (guitar, vocals) and C. F. Turner (bass, vocals) reunited for the first time since 1991 to accept the Juno Awardfor Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Randy Bachman recently about … The origin behind ‘Every Song Tells A Story’ … Playing the violin … The state of the music industry… New tours … Bachman’s rebirth which includes a new album and a rock &blues power trio… Randy Bachman the radio deejay… And much-much more!

Here’s my interview with legendary guitar hero/singer/songwriter/producer …of The Guess Who/ BTO/ Bachman & Turner/ and ‘Vinyl Tap’ CBC radio deejay …RANDY BACHMAN.

Ray Shasho: Hi Randy, thank you for being on the call this morning.
Randy Bachman: “Hi Ray nice to hear from you.”
Ray Shasho:  Randy, your new DVD …‘Every Song Tells A Story,’ is a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS). It was filmed and recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour and was actually inspired by The Kinks, Ray Davies. I’m a big fan of the DVD … just awesome!
Randy Bachman: “I’m a big fan as well …you hear a song that means so much to you and then you hear the songwriter tell the story and why he wrote it and you go, what … are you kidding, the songs about that? I saw Ray Davies do this many years ago, twelve or thirteen years ago in London, and it was called ‘The Storyteller.’ He was onstage with an acoustic guitar and a backup guitar and told all The Kinks stories. I was sitting next to Rupert Perry who at the time was with Capitol Records in Toronto. I knew him obviously and he was now the head of EMI in Europe and the UK. So we started to talk and after the show I said that was just amazing. So he said do you want to meet Ray? I said are you kidding? I go backstage, shake his hand and he looks at me and says you can do that. I said what do you mean? He said you’ve got more hits than me, I’m sure you’ve told the stories… I said yea, every deejay asks a different story … How did you write “American Woman?”… How did you write “Undun?”… How did you write “Takin’ Care of Business?” I’d tell the deejay that story and he’d say just put them altogether and you’ve got an evening. So I did that many years ago for a money raising benefit in Vancouver at a big exclusive Golf Club where people were paying three grand a plate for dinner and then there’s a silent auction … I gave that whole spiel and they all came to me and said if you recorded this, we would buy a dozen copies and send them to our relatives all over the world who are fans of yours. I thought well, I guess I can do that, I just wasn’t in the mode of doing it.”

“So I started doing that, the performance you saw was done last December in Winnipeg my home town and the home town of Neil Young, The Guess Who, BTO, Burton Cummings, Fred Turner … and all those guys. We were really on that night, a special night, and at the end of a tour. So everything was rolling really nicely, and honestly I haven’t even seen the video yet, only bits and pieces, so I really don’t even know. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I was fortunate to interview Darryl Way and Jean-Luc Ponty, two prodigious and legendary violinists … and you actually began playing the violin and later learned to play guitar because of playing the violin?
Randy Bachman: “The violin is a lead instrument. You’re either playing lead or harmony from lead, if you are in a little string quartet; you’re either playing the top line or the third underneath it which is The Everly Brothers or Beatles harmony, so it’s very melodic. When I play a guitar solo it is quite melodic. You can pretty much play my solo … like “American Woman” or even with BTO’s “Roll On Down the Highway,” and you can sing that solo, or play it on a violin, cello, or a horn, because the notes are melodic. It’s not me showing off scales and how fast I can play because frankly I don’t know any scales. If I can sing it in my head and play it, then I think other people can hear it and sing it in their heads and remember it, and then they’ll buy it. That’s been my whole theory of playing lead guitar.”

“I started playing violin when I was five and a half and had a wonderful teacher who made a mistake every week … she played the song for me first. She put up this whole big thing by Chopin or Beethoven and she would play it first, and then she’d say okay now you try to play it, and I would play it perfectly. Then she would say you’ve got to practice this for a week, and I’d say I already know it can you give me another song. So I’d boringly have to play it for one more week until I got back the next Saturday morning and play it for her again. And I was so good that she said I want you to join the Winnipeg School of Symphony. So I go over to Kelvin High which is where Neil Young went to school, and on Saturday morning, I’m to be second violin and there are about seventy five kids there. We start to play and suddenly there’s a tap, tap, tap and everybody stops playing. The conductor says …second violin, bar thirty four, it’s an E natural not an E- flat.  So we take it from the top and get to bar thirty four and I play the same note … tap, tap, tap… second violin, what do you not understand about E- flat or E natural in bar thirty four? I had no idea what the conductor was talking about. So in tears, I put my violin in my case, walked out the door crying, get on the bus and go home.”

“That night I see Elvis Presley on TV and I said, what is that? They say it’s a guitar and its rock and roll. I said …that’s it! I got a guitar from my cousin then finally saved up enough money to buy my own. I started playing guitar and wanted to play like Elvis or Scotty Moore who played behind him, and that led to discovering Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Rick Nelson, James Burton, and all these singers … Gene Vincent had incredible guitar players backing him up, and so I learned to play by ear, and found out that I had a phonographic memory. If I hear it played on a phonograph I remember it instantly, I just figure it out on guitar and play it. I can’t read a note on guitar, so since that time when I was fourteen or fifteen years old, I never picked up a violin again.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve always found it fascinating how many legendary musicians really don’t read music.
Randy Bachman: “It’s either in you or not in you. By the time you get to middle-aged, which I am, you’ve had occasions to visit a few shrinks because you’re going through a breakup, depressed, someone passes away in your family, or you’re going through a divorce … so you go and visit a shrink. So you are in a room with a shrink and they always say to me … How are you feeling? What do you feel right now… because you’re in a conflict with someone? And I’d say I don’t want to talk about it. Then they’d say what’s in your head right now? I’d say nothing. What’s in your head right now? I’d say besides the music, I’m feeling anger …and that was a big thing for me.”

“Then the next week they’d say, okay what’s in your head right now? I’d say besides the music, I’m feeling not as angry as I was last week. Then after the third week, the shrink said to me, what music do you hear? I said ever since I was born I hear music in my head. It’s like a little soundtrack playing, just like when you go to the movies and there’s music in the background, and I play it. The shrink said, I don’t hear any music in my head, and I told him I feel so sorry for you. At that point the guy’s face looked so deflated. I realized that there are people out there who do not have music in their heads. Every time I’ve told that story, when I’m in a songwriting circle and explaining how we write our songs, I look at everybody in the circle, even if I barely met them … like Emmylou Harris or Sammy Hagar, somebody like that who are explaining how they wrote their songs, and I think I can speak for everyone … We were born with and still have music in our heads.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve heard a song in my head and then it’s immediately played on the radio … or right before an interview, a song is played by the artist I’m actually interviewing. There was a study done somewhere on hearing airwaves…even when the radio wasn’t turned on … and I believe it. When I was a deejay in radio, I heard all kind of things.
Randy Bachman: “How about this … you’re in a car or a room with somebody and they start to hum or sing a song that’s in your head and you both got the same waves and you go…what the f**k, that’s in my head too, and then you turn on the radio and it comes on in the next minute … and you look at each other and (Randy humming the Twilight Zone theme) … it’s amazing and wonderful when that happens.”
Ray Shasho: BTO was such a huge commercial success on mainstream radio … then in a blurred instance those legendary rock heroes that we were so accustomed to hearing every time we turned on our radio’s had mysteriously vanished from the mainstream. The blues, jazz, and rock and roll are America’s contribution to the arts, so why are we not fighting to preserve our own musical legacy and culture? 
Randy Bachman: “Well unfortunately at that time Disco came in and all the bands that I was buddies with and who I was touring with like… The Doobie Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band, Peter Frampton, ZZ Top, Aerosmith… all those Boogie Southern Rock Bands,  and even though we were from Canada we were also called a Boogie Southern Rock Band … suddenly we all couldn’t get any gigs. We had to team up and all started playing together and then as we had hits we headlined and invited a band to open. Suddenly Disco came in and the club owner or promoter could hire a single singer while paying them a hundred bucks to dance and sing to the record instead of paying a band five thousand. So each guy in the band would get a couple of hundred bucks to pay the roadies and pay the rent. He only had to put out a hundred bucks a night or five hundred bucks for five nights of entertainment, where as he would be paying five thousand dollars a night for a band, so it became a matter of economics. Then radio was taken over by Disco and they weren’t playing rock and roll anymore.”

“As a deejay you’ll know this … every three hours you’d play a moldy oldie, a groove-yard great … something from the past, because all of us like to hear  …“ I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Proud Mary,” “Johnny B. Goode …  and we wanted to hear all that at once. Then out came the classic rock format and everyone bought all their favorite music again on CD’s because there were no record players anywhere. So the music took a shift, all us guys from the 70’s, made a huge ton of money again in the 90’s.Then some idiot out there invents Napster and gives it to everybody for free and then suddenly everyone can steal our music legally because we can’t patrol millions upon millions of people downloading our songs and playing it, while our source of income vanishes. It’s like saying to everybody, gee, you don’t need to pay a bus driver because he doesn’t have a gun and can’t make you pay, and he can’t get up and throw you off the bus … why don’t we all ride the bus for free. So he can’t get paid a salary or put gas in the bus, and the whole transit system runs down. That’s what happened to the music industry, they stopped paying. So what’s happened, it’s gone back to the 60’s and 70’s, where you now go and play live, and I’m very fortunate, healthy, and happy to be playing live.”

“I’m doing a massive tour next summer, and doing two tours inside each other, and the money now is at the box office because your music is pretty much given away free. I’ve got a new album coming out next year, I’m going on tour with Fred Turner in a week, and we’re playing like Anchorage, Portland, Regina, and Calgary. In between I got invited to play ‘Frampton’s Guitar Circus’ so in between our days off, I’m flying to LA to play the Hollywood Bowl with Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy and then I go back and play with Turner, and then go back to California again, so on everybody else’s day off, I’m travelling from ‘Gig A to Gig B’ and playing a double tour.  So I’m feeling great about this and can’t wait to do it.”

“I have a blues album coming out next year, I reinvented myself, and I’ve got a girl band, a girl bass player and drummer who play like Keith Moon and John Entwistle, and I suddenly get to be Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton in Cream, or Jimmy Page in Zeppelin. The whole album is 1968-69 British Blues, power trio, I wrote all the songs, Kevin Shirley is a great rock producer and he produced it for me. I’ve got guest artists on it … Joe Bonamassa, Billy Gibbons, Peter Frampton, Jeff Healey, Scott Holiday from the Rival Sons, and Neil Young are all doing solo blues things on it. It’s coming out next March and for me it’s a rebirth. Even though I know it’s not going to sell and I’m not going to get paid for it, maybe it will get played on radio. But I’m already getting offers from blues, jazz, and alternate festivals all over the world. So it’s still out there if you can deliver the goods and I can. I’m finding out that people are hungry for this. I can give the people what they expect from me like … “Takin’ Care of Business” and then perform a new blues song. I can’t wait to get on the road with this new band.”
Ray Shasho:  Randy, you’re also quite the jazz player; I really enjoy “Lookin’ Out for Number One.”
Randy Bachman: “That’s kind of in me and one of my hidden fetishes is jazz. I jammed with Frampton in January and we were both inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, so we were all onstage there and basically in a blues solo … he delves into Django Reinhardt and I dove into Lenny Breau who was my mentor while I was a teenager who played a lot of Barney Kessel and Howard Roberts. We both have this jazz thing we get into that maybe wows a couple of twenty year old guitar players in the front row and goes over the heads of everybody else because we’re not playing the normal blues scale, we’re going into some weird jazz thing that Django, Howard Roberts or Barney Kessel did. Then we’d go right back into our blues thing, just once in awhile there’s this little hot pepper that’s in the salsa, and then you go back to the main dish again, and I love doing that.”
Ray Shasho: Randy, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, perform, or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Randy Bachman: “It would probably be Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton … two of the greatest. I met Jimi Hendrix when he was Jimmy James in the Village Gate and was playing with a band while wearing a sparkly lime green suit and playing an old Harmony guitar. He went on to England after that and became Jimi Hendrix. I never had the opportunity to meet Clapton but they were both a huge influence on me. I met Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and I loved them …these were the four greatest guys in the world. So that would be it … to hang with Hendrix and Clapton.”
Ray Shasho: Randy anything else you’d like to promote?
Randy Bachman: “No, I’m really thrilled to talk with you; I’m kind of amazed about the reception to the DVD because for me it’s a total surprise. It’s gone platinum or double-platinum in Canada and has made it on the want list in the U.S.A., Australia, U.K., and the E.U. If you can’t sell records anymore sell DVD’s. Google Randy’s Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio. I tell my story behind the music I play … about when I met Jimmy Page, and when I met Brian Wilson, and how I wrote a song with Carl Wilson. I’ll play music like classic rock but tell my own stories that nobody knows. So I’ve become a deejay and the show has gone into its ninth year now. I play everything from the 50’s up to Lady Gaga. In one show I’ll play the original “Crossroads” by Robert Johnson, then play Clapton and Cream, and then John Mayer. I’ve had young kids come up to me and say thank you for your radio show, it’s our music lesson every Saturday night because we can’t buy Robert Johnson anywhere, we’ve only heard of him. So I’m known as the music teacher. I get 9-10 million people listening to the show every week, so I get a lot of email.”
Ray Shasho: My latest book project entitled… “Saving Rock And Roll”  will address many of the topics we discussed today …  you’ll be included in the book along with over 100 of the greatest music legends of our time.  
Randy Bachman: “I can tell you right now what will save rock and roll … radio! If radio would smarten up, and I told this to every classic rock guy I’ve ever talked to …Play back to back songs by the same artist in a then and now format …Here’s Aerosmith then and here’s Aerosmith now … Here’s Heart then and here’s Heart now… Here’s Peter Frampton then and here’s Peter Frampton now … Here’s Bachman then and here’s Bachman now. All of us have new CD’S that we can’t get any airplay from these f**king guys who are playing our old hits, if they’d only play two together it would revitalize rock and roll.”

“There are no record stores anymore, but say you hear a new song by Heart, Aerosmith, or Randy Bachman, all you have to do is go to our official websites and download it or go to iTunes. It’s all up to radio just like it was in the beginning when radio began to play rock and roll and stopped playing Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and The Andrew Sisters and started playing Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Elvis Presley. If radio would do that now it would revitalize the whole industry. We don’t need the record stores or record labels, and we all have our own studios we’re putting up on our websites, it would regenerate the money … what do musicians do they spend money, we hire two dozen people and go on the road, eat at restaurants and stay at hotels all over the world … so it’s all up to radio.”
Ray Shasho: Randy, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music with The Guess Who/BTO/Bachman & Turner/ and the awesome music still yet to come.
Randy Bachman: “Thanks Ray!”

Purchase Randy Bachman’s brand new CD/DVD …Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells A Story, -a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS) -available NOW at It was filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour. ‘Every Song Tells A Story, features Bachman in a rare and intimate setting, weaving together the transcendent and iconic hits of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive with the often-humorous stories that originally brought the songs to life.  Inspired by his award-winning radio program ‘Vinyl Tap,’ Bachman takes his master storytelling and voluminous musical knowledge on the road and leads fans on a guided journey that encapsulates the last 30 years of popular music presented by one of the greatest rock legends of our time.

‘EVERY SONG TELLS A STORY’ Track Listing: 1. “Prairie Town” 2. “Shakin’ All Over” 3. “These Eyes” 4. “Laughing” 5. “No Sugar Tonight” 6. “No Time” 7. “American Woman” 8. “Roll On Down The Highway” 9. “Let It Ride” 10. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” 11. “Takin’ Care Of Business” 12. “Hey You” 13. “Undun”14. “Lookin’ Out For 1”

Listen to Randy Bachman’s ‘Vinyl Tap’ on CBC Radio One/ Sirius Satellite Radio- Channel 169 or go [HERE] to listen online (Now entering its ninth year)

Very special thanks to Chipster PR & Consulting, Inc.

COMING UP NEXT … Keyboard extraordinaire Patrick Moraz (YES/The Moody Blues)… Al Kooper (The Blues Project, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bob Dylan, and responsible for the success of Lynyrd Skynyrd… Legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) … Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures.’ … Country Music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah … And Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”).

Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at

Purchase Ray’s very special memoir called ‘Check the Gs’ -The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business … You’ll LIVE IT! Also available for download on NOOK or KINDLE edition for JUST .99 CENTS at or   - Please support Ray by purchasing his book so he can continue to bring you quality classic rock music reporting.

“Check the Gs is just a really cool story ... and it’s real. I’d like to see the kid on the front cover telling his story in a motion picture, TV sitcom or animated series. The characters in the story definitely jump out of the book and come to life. Very funny and scary moments throughout the story and I just love the way Ray timeline’s historical events during his lifetime. Ray’s love of rock music was evident throughout the book and it generates extra enthusiasm when I read his on-line classic rock music column. It’s a wonderful read for everyone!”    …   

Ray’s exciting new book project entitled ‘SAVING ROCK AND ROLL’

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Burton Cummings Interview: The Guess Who legend reveals true origin of “American Woman”

By Ray Shasho

Burton Cummings is the legendary voice, songwriter, and keyboardist for Canada’s own classic rock superstars The Guess Who. Although the group has had numerous personnel changes throughout the years, the most prominent members have been Burton Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman.

Cummings was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His first band was an R&B group called The Deverons. The band released two singles on the REO Records label.

In 1965, Cummings joined The Guess Who replacing Bob Ashley on keyboards and eventually Chad Allan on vocals. The Guess Who scored commercially with their first international hit “These Eyes” (#6 Billboard Hit) in 1969. The track was featured on their album Wheatfield Soul on the RCA record label. The single was written by Bachman/Cummings and was their first to reach the top ten.

The Guess Who followed with a succession of Top 40 hits including … “Laughing” (#10 U.S. Hit, #1Canada -written by Bachman/Cummings) and “Undun” (#22 U.S. Hit).

1970 would prove to be the most pivotal year for The Guess Who. The group scored (2) #1 Hits in the U.S. with “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" and “American Woman” the group’s biggest selling single. The Guess Who also spawned the hits …. “No Time” (#5 U.S. #1 Canada -written by Bachman/Cummings), “Hand Me Down World” (#17 U.S. Hit) and “Share The Land” (#10 U.S. Hit -written by Burton Cummings).

Randy Bachman left The Guess Who in 1970 and would eventually form Bachman- Turner Overdrive.

Subsequent albums released by The Guess Who … Canned Wheat (1969), American Woman (1970), Share The Land (1970), So Long, Bennatyne (1971), Rockin’ (1972), Artificial Paradise (1973).

In 1973, Burton Cummings and The Guess Who released one of the group’s most underrated albums entitled The Guess Who #10. The album was a clear diversion from the band’s roots but spotlighted brilliant lyrical content and virtuoso musicianship. The album featured Burton Cummings composition “Glamour Boy.” The track was a jab at David Bowie’s glitter rock insurgence. The album also featured the profound “Cardboard Empire” written by Bill Wallace and Kurt Winter, while hauntingly performed by Cummings.

In 1974, The Guess Who collaborated on their final Top 40 single entitled “Clap For The Wolfman,” (#6 U.S. Billboard Hit) an applicable tribute to legendary radio and TV personality Wolfman Jack.

Subsequent releases: The Guess Who #10 (1973), Road Food (1974), Flavours (1974), Power in the Music (1975), The Way They Were (1976).

The Guess Who disbanded in 1975.

In 1983, Bachman, Cummings, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson reunited as The Guess Who to play a series of Canadian gigs and recorded the Together Again live album and video.

Bachman and Cummings reunited again in 1997 to perform in Winnipeg for a disaster relief fund raiser.

An eclectic Guess Who reunion ensued in 2000 featuring Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Kale and Peterson. Bill Wallace eventually replaced Kale while the group toured regularly through 2003. A live album and DVD followed at the end of the 2000 tour.

The Guess Who was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. Cummings received an additional Star in 2011.
The Guess Who performed for an estimated 450,000 people at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, a benefit concert in 2003.

The Guess Who continues to tour with only original members … drummer Garry Peterson and bassist Jim Kale.

Burton Cummings also amassed a widely successful solo career. He landed a huge hit with “Stand Tall” (#10 U.S. #1 Hit Canada) in 1976.

Burton Cummings solo albums Burton Cummings (1976), My Own Way to Rock (1977), Dream of a Child (1978), Woman Love (1980), The Best of Burton Cummings (1980), Sweet Sweet (1981), Heart (1984), Plus Signs (1990), The Burton Cummings Collection (1994), Up Close and Alone (1996), Above the Ground (2008).

In 2002, The Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts in Winnipeg, Manitoba was renamed to dedicate the singer and songwriter.

In 2008, Cummings released the highly- acclaimed CD Above The Ground. All the tracks on the release are written by Cummings. The album also features his touring band The Carpet Frogs.
In 2009, Cummings received the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors.

In 2012, Burton Cummings Massey Hall was released –an incredible live CD recorded in Toronto.

Most recently … Burton Cummings is on a summer tour. He’ll be releasing a book of poetry soon entitled, ‘The Writings of B. L. Cummings,’ and a video series called RUFF.

I had the rare opportunity to chat with Burton Cummings recently about the summer tour, the true origin of “American Woman,” The life and times of The Guess Who, Canada, Wolfman Jack and so much more!
Here’s my interview with singer, songwriter, musician and legendary voice of 'The Guess Who' BURTON CUMMINGS.
Ray Shasho: Hello Burton, thank you for being on the call this afternoon.
Burton Cummings: “It’s my pleasure Ray.”
Ray Shasho: How’s the summer tour coming along?
Burton Cummings: We’re doing great, actually we just came back from Kamloops, British Columbia and we did an outdoor gig last Saturday night on the side of a mountain in a natural amphitheatre and it was so beautiful. Last Saturday, there were moments when we were onstage that felt like 1968 or 1969 again, it was just great. There were tons and tons of people, they all brought their dogs, everybody had a great time and it was really terrific.”
Ray Shasho: Was that a music festival?
Burton Cummings: “It’s a one time a year festival at Sun Peaks which is a ski resort, and we could see all the cleared runs coming down the mountains and we played in this beautiful natural amphitheatre …just tremendous. So it’s been a pretty good summer so far, we’ve got another big one in Edmonton this week, Klondike Days, there’s all these big festivals in Canada, and after that I’m doing a couple of one-man shows in New York City and a place called The City Winery … so it’s a pretty busy summer.”
Ray Shasho: Burton, I’ve always wanted to see Canada but never got around to it.
Burton Cummings: “It’s beautiful it’s just cold for a lot of people’s taste. I grew up in Winnipeg and it’s thirty below a lot there. Thirty-thirty five below is not uncommon. I’m in California now which is a totally different world completely. I think I’m turning into a wimp because I can’t take the cold the way that I used to. When we were kids we just played hockey all day long outside and we’d come home with frozen toes and frozen finger tips and frozen cheeks and that was just an everyday occurrence.”
Ray Shasho: Canadians are buying lots of property here in Florida.
Burton Cummings:Now they’re calling Toronto … New York north. It’s such a huge place; it just became the fourth largest city in North America. How about this …Toronto just passed Chicago in population. The city has always been cutting-edge, the CN Tower is one of the wonders of the world, but you know what’s huge there is the film festival. When they have the Toronto Film Festival they call it Hollywood north, because every major star is always there, every major studio is always represented. When you’re in Toronto at film festival time you can’t get a reservation at a restaurant or an elevator in your hotel, it’s just completely overrun. It’s good for Toronto and good for Canada.”
Ray Shasho: We never seem to hear negative news coming out of Canada, things always appear somewhat peaceful and I really like that.
Burton Cummings: “Here’s the thing … in Canada we have one-tenth the population that the U.S. does. So just purely by the numbers there’s going to be a lot less crime. We have socialized medicine in Canada which is very-very attractive to Americans. It’s the same as Sweden. You know another place in Canada that people rave about is Quebec City, there’s so much history there. So a lot of people particularly from the United States go to Quebec and get the European experience without going all the way over to Europe. So when you think of it that way, it’s kind of cool.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with some guys that may have been on your last studio album entitled, Above the Ground … I interviewed Gino Vannelli and chatted with Brother Ross Vannelli.
Burton Cummings:Ross sang on my last studio album, I know all of them quite well. Joe was my engineer and Ross is the youngest of the three, he sang and played a little guitar on my last album too. Joe was the assistant producer and Ross just came in and did some musical stuff. Joe helped me out a lot, he’s a great engineer. And he’s got a beautiful state of the art studio out in Agoura Hills, California … it’s not that big but these days it doesn’t have to be that big anymore, everything has shrunk so drastically.”
Ray Shasho: Many music artists are recording from their computers at home nowadays?
Burton Cummings: “There’s a very famous story that PINK did most of her album from a laptop on the bus between gigs. You can actually do that know.”
Ray Shasho: Don’t you kind of miss that big music studio experience though?
Burton Cummings: “I do miss the big room experience that we used to have in the old days recording at the RCA Studios in LA and then also with Richard Perry at Studio 55 which was adjacent to the Paramount Pictures lot. I kind of miss the studio experience to a degree but also I love the technology, what you can do is sort of fix things. I don’t use a lot of Auto-Tune but if I have a piano clunker, you can now go right in and dial that bad key out, whereas before you had to do a whole new take and go beginning to end. It’s a double-edged sword; I don’t like the fact that there are so many machines on records now and another thing I don’t like, Joe Vannelli said this to me too, have you ever noticed in the last eight or nine years … everything is perfect. It’s not supposed to be perfect, there’s never a tiny glitch in the vocals, never a bad note on anything because producers and engineers are just fixing everything. I think you can over-fix things. I think you can fix things to death. There’s no human element left. I don’t think the vocal is supposed to be tuned like a guitar string. But that’s just me; I’m 65 and seeing it through older eyes.”
Ray Shasho: I spun 45’s and album tracks when I was a Top 40 radio deejay back in the late 70’s and that technology brought the radio listening audience the greatest music the world has ever known.
Burton Cummings: “The thing about radio that is disappointing now is the voice- tracking. It’s not live like it was, when I was a kid you could phone-in and now with voice- tracking, people don’t realize … I really shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag, maybe a lot of your readers don’t realize how much voice- tracking really goes on. It is true; I did AM radio in my hometown of Winnipeg for awhile with my best friend Gary MacLean. We did the 3-6, drive home in the afternoon shift and what I liked about it the most was that they let me pick all the music. So I was showing up with literally great big shopping bags of my own collection of CD’s. We were picking them right on the spot, live radio like the old days, taking calls from people and playing all the stuff that I chose, it was an oldies station so it was right up my alley. I’m telling man, it was some of the most fun that I ever had in my life. I was doing three or four different characters, different voices, and people actually thought sometimes that there were three and four different people in the studio with us and it was all just me. Anyway, we had a lot of fun. I might have actually gone into radio if I hadn’t been so lucky with the music.”
Ray Shasho: Burton, I’ve got to say man, you’re imitation of Gordon Lightfoot rocks!
(All Laughing)
Burton Cummings: “I actually did it in front of him one night. Years and years ago I was playing a week at a big cabaret place in Toronto called the Imperial Room and it had quite a history, Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr. and all the stars from earlier on had played there. So I went in and did a week and I was doing that imitation in my show of Gordon. I guess by the end of the week they were writing it up in the papers and some of his friends had been there and had seen me do it. So Saturday night, the last night of the show, he comes down and sits right in front of me, gets a table in front of my piano. So it gets to that point in the show and of course I did the imitation right in front of him. It was hilarious! When I do it onstage people howl with laughter, it’s pretty funny. I like impressionists. When I was a kid watching The Ed Sullivan Show, other than The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five my favorite stuff were always the impressionists.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve heard many different versions about the origin behind “American Woman.” What is the true origin behind the making of “American Woman?”
Burton Cummings: “Alright here are the true goods …it was jammed onstage one night in Mississauga, Ontario, we were playing at a club called the Broom & Stone which was actually a curling rink and doing two shows that night. I guess we hadn’t gotten that big yet. Between the two shows, I was outside bartering with this kid, he had some old Gene Vincent records that I wanted to get for my collection and tried to strike-up a deal with this guy. The next thing I know, it’s time to start the second show and the other three guys have gone back onstage and I hear them start this riff … (Burton began mimicking the opening riff to “American Woman.”) I said to this guy … Oh my God; I’m supposed to be onstage man, I’ve got to run, I’ll see you later about these Gene Vincent records.”

“I run inside and run up onto the stage and just grab a microphone and started singing whatever came into my head; it was all stream of consciousness at the moment stuff … all that stuff about war machines and ghetto scenes, colored lights can hypnotize …it was all just spur- of- the- moment. And nobody would have ever heard it again but there happened to be a kid bootlegging the show that night. This was way back in the 60’s and he had a cassette machine, and those machines were a relatively new invention at that time. But this was 1968, forty-five years ago. We noticed this onstage as the night went on and he still kept recording. So we motioned to our road manager… go get that tape-go get that tape! He got the cassette tape and we listened to it later and heard this jam about American Woman stay away from me. So we actually kind of learned it from that tape, otherwise nobody would have ever heard it again. So talk about a Cinderella story. And that was a monstrous hit record for us; it was number one on Billboard for three weeks. So it was all an accident, I guess the music Gods were smiling on us. The music Gods probably sent that kid with the cassette machine.”

“When RCA heard “American Woman,” the guy that was head of A&R was listening and he threw up his newspaper in the air and said, “That’s a number one record!” He immediately new it was going to be big. You know what’s interesting too, thirty years later Lenny Kravitz covered it. We did a big thing for MuchMusic in Toronto which is the MTV of Canada. It was the real Guess Who that reformed back in 2000-2001, the real band not that touring band that calls itself The Guess Who, the real band got together again for about a year and a half. And us together we Lenny’s band got together and did “American Women” onstage outside the MuchMusic studios and there were thousands of people in the street. At the end, Lenny and I were actually trading vocal lines, it was pretty cool.”

“Another cool thing on millennium night, New Years of 1999, Prince had a pay per view special on television and he was wailing away and said, “I’d like to introduce my friend Lenny Kravitz!” Out comes Lenny …and Prince and Lenny Kravitz together do “American Woman.” Trading vocal lines and trading guitar lines. It’s all over You Tube if you want to check it out …it’s very cool. Here’s the thing that made me so proud …a love song is a love song. A love song a hundred years later is going to have the same effect that it did a hundred years earlier. When a song is not a love song, it’s very unusual that it would make sense thirty years later because times change, whether it is political or apolitical or just observational, it’s very-very odd and very-very rare that a non-love song would surface thirty years later and still be relevant. That’s what makes me so proud about those lyrics … I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes … that could have been written last night! For me as a lyricist, it was one of my proudest moments because to have it stand up again and not be corny. It was also the biggest record of Lenny’s career.”
Ray Shasho: Burton, I’ve been waiting a long time to talk with you about one of the most underrated albums in rock history … The Guess Who #10 album.
Burton Cummings: “Do you know why it’s one of my favorites … if you check the writing credits, I wrote almost everything on it with no co-writers and at that time took the reins of the band and we had a real direction on that album. It wasn’t the cheeriest album but I thought it hit pretty hard. The reason I like it so much is that it was the closest thing to a solo album that I ever did while I was still in The Guess Who. I was really running the ship at that point and I think the songs were good …”Just Let Me Sing, “Self Pity” and I always thought “Glamour Boy” was one of the best things that I ever wrote. I do like #10, I’m really glad to hear you say that.”
Ray Shasho: My favorite track on the album was actually “Cardboard Empire” … just an incredible tune.
Burton Cummings: “That’s a great one, it’s one I didn’t write but it’s a great song.”
Ray Shasho: I get chills when I hear that tune; it can easily be associated with modern day America.
Burton Cummings: “Who are the people, who are the people that you think you are … man that could easily be sung directly to Dick Cheney.”
Ray Shasho: Who was “Glamour Boy” directed at?
Burton Cummings: “David Bowie …absolutely! He came along and changed everything. It bothered me a lot at first because we weren’t a glam band. We wore the same clothes onstage that we wore all day and while we were travelling. We never dressed up and had dancers and crazy costumes and pyrotechnics; we were all about the music. We used to dress like Kurt Cobain. We never played the glamour game. Then all of a sudden Bowie came along and it was Ziggy Stardust and makeup and costumes …and it really threatened me. And I also saw that he was making tons of money … for $25,000 you could look like a woman tonight … that’s where that came from, it was just a jab at what was changing so drastically.”
Ray Shasho: Well, I thought The Guess Who #10 album was a masterpiece yet it didn’t get much acclaim.
Burton Cummings: “You know what, ironically here we are talking about it and it’s exactly 40 years ago. It was 1973 and exactly 40 years ago.”
Ray Shasho: Your long hair on the front album cover was probably as long as mine back in 1973.
(All Laughing)
Burton Cummings: “At one point it actually touched my elbows. I look at those pictures now and wow man that was another lifetime.”
Ray Shasho: I’m so glad that you and the band wrote a fitting tribute to Wolfman Jack … an American icon.
Burton Cummings: “He was a radio legend … way before MTV we were on The Midnight Special a couple of times and they took a shine to us because we were a pretty good live act. The Midnight Special was all live. So if you went on there and was lame live, you weren’t asked back. When we were on the first time they loved us, so we went back a second time and hung out with Wolman a little bit and got to be friendly. Billy and Kurt were writing a song called “Clap for Napoleon.” Napoleon being a CB handle, when the big CB/trucker thing was a rage in the 70’s. …everybody had a handle. So they were going to write a song about a trucker’s handle, and I said I love this riff but if we made this lyrically about the Wolfman it would have a universal appeal. So they agreed with me and I went home that night and banged out the lyrics and sure enough it was a top five record.”

“Wolfman was a great guy, we hung out a lot and he used to come MC our shows back in The Guess Who days. One time we did a show in Honolulu at the HIC Honolulu International Center … It was Aerosmith first, The Guess Who and Wolfman was the MC. I still remember Tyler running around and yelling … “Where’s the Wolfman! Where’s the Wolfman!””
Ray Shasho: Burton, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview, If you had a “Field of Dreams” wish, like the movie, to play or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Burton Cummings: “Fats Domino and of course every kid that’s my age back in the 60’s would have dreamt on being with The Beatles. What keyboard player wouldn’t have wanted to be Billy Preston when he played with them on “Get Back.” If I had only one wish it would be to be the fifth Beatle …to be The Beatle keyboard player and singer.”
Ray Shasho: Burton you’re such a great singer, songwriter, and performer, I saw you and The Guess Who perform in 1973 and watched you perform with Ringo Starr & His All- Starr Band.
Burton Cummings: I think of all the Ringo Starr All- Starr bands, and I’m not just saying this because it’s me, I think ours was the best. We had Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Dave Edmunds, Nils Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, myself on keyboards, Ringo and Zack on drums. I’ve seen the other lineups and he’s had a lot of great bands but I think ours was the best. It was a tremendous experience.”
Ray Shasho: You mentioned before the “other Guess Who” … they actually performed on the 4th of July in Palmetto, Florida not far from where I live.
Burton Cummings: “Oh goodness, good luck to them. It’s a scam because they use the real records to draw people to their crowds and a lot of people still think that Randy and I are going to be there and it’s terrible. They’ve got to live that lie so I don’t think about them too much. I’ve got a whole different life since then.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve had this same conversation with so many guys who were the leaders of their bands like Lou Gramm (Foreigner) and Peter Rivera (Rare Earth).
Burton Cummings: “Well let’s face it tonight somewhere at some casino you can go and see The Platters. Somewhere tonight you can go and see The Temptations. But you know what, it’s not the guys who are on the records. So for me I don’t care, once it’s not the guys on the record I’d rather sit home and play the records. Grand Funk is out there without Mark Farner … it’s a sad state of affairs, one of these days there will be a law passed. There are a couple of guys who are thinking about it, taking it to the courts and getting a law established that there has to be at least 60 or 80% of the original band. It gets down to the point where somebody just owns the name and it’s just like a franchise, like owning a McDonalds.”
Ray Shasho: When will you be releasing ‘The Writings of B. L. Cummings’ a book of poetry?
Burton Cummings: “Probably in the next couple of months, we’re just making the final tweaks and making the cover look beautiful. We have a video series call RUFF … it’s going to be volumes and volumes; I’ve had a videographer follow me around for the last 13 years. We’ve finally got volume one edited, there’s some live concert footage, backstage foolery and shenanigans and it covers all kinds of ground. So it’s been a busy time for me.”
Ray Shasho: Burton, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given to us and continue to bring.
Burton Cummings:Very kind words, my hat size is going up from all the praise. Thank you very much Ray, my pleasure.”

Purchase Burton Cummings latest studio release … Above the Ground and
Live CD …Burton Cummings Massey Hall at
Visit Burton Cummings official website at
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Burton Cummings on Twitter

Very special thanks to Lorne Saifer

Coming up NEXT … Recent interviews with Gary Wright, Melanie and blues slide guitarist Roy Rogers

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