The Guess Who are a Canadian rock band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Initially gaining recognition in Canada, they also found international success from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s with numerous hit singles, including "No Time", "American Woman", "These Eyes" and "Share the Land". Several former members of The Guess Who, notably Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman (of Bachman–Turner Overdrive), have also found considerable success outside the band.
The band was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.
Early years (1958–1965)
The Guess Who started out as a local Winnipeg band formed by singer/guitarist Chad Allan in 1958 and initially called Al and the Silvertones. This was changed to Chad Allan & the Reflections by 1962, by which point the band consisted of Chad Allan (vocals/guitar), Bob Ashley (keyboards), Randy Bachman (guitars), Jim Kale (bass), and Garry Peterson (drums). The Reflections name was chosen since it was similar to the British group The Shadows, which was one of the band's biggest influences. All the band members were born in Winnipeg.
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 even released an instrumental single (on their RIO subsidiary) deliberately mis-credited to Bob Ashley & The Reflections. By 1965, the group was forced to change its name to Chad Allan & the Expressions after a U.S. group called The Reflections had scored a hit with "Just Like Romeo & Juliet".
It was at this point that the band scored their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over". This track reached #1 in Canada, #22 in the U.S (where Quality had licensed the track to the American Scepter label for release in the U.S.), and #27 in Australia. However, in an attempt to build a mystique around the record, Quality Records credited the single only to "Guess Who?" It was hoped that some listeners might assume the "Guess Who?" identity was deliberately masking several famous performers working under a pseudonym – given the "beat group" nature of the record, perhaps even members of The Beatles and/or other popular British Invasion bands. In concealing the identity of the band in this fashion, Quality Records may have been influenced by a similar ploy made the previous year by "The You Know Who Group", an American outfit whose Merseybeat-ish 1964 single "Roses Are Red (My Love)" had peaked at #43 in the US and at #21 in Canada.
It is debatable as to whether anyone was really fooled by the "Guess Who?" ruse, or if the record would have been a hit regardless of the artist credit. But the upshot was that, even after Quality Records revealed the band was "really" Chad Allan & The Expressions, disc jockeys still announced the group as Guess Who?, effectively forcing the band to rename themselves.
Transitional years and Let's Go (1966–1968)
The immediate follow-ups to "Shakin' All Over" met with major success in Canada but very little success elsewhere. After Bob Ashley left the group in late 1965, Burton Cummings joined the band as keyboardist and co-lead vocalist (with Chad Allan) in early January 1966. This line-up only lasted for a few months before Chad Allan left, making Cummings the new full-time lead singer. By this point, the band's name had become "The Guess Who?" (the question mark would finally be dropped in 1968) and with Chad Allan gone, the "Chad Allan & The Expressions" subtitle was dropped once and for all. Feeling that they'd "played out" all the venues in Winnipeg, the band began playing in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1966. While there, they crossed paths with a young Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, who played in many of the same venues as the group.
The group continued to release top 40 singles in Canada, like "Clock on the Wall" and even had one single "His Girl" scrape the lower reaches of the UK charts in 1967. However, a trip to the UK to promote this single proved to be a financial disaster as the single dropped off the charts after only one week, and The Guess Who found themselves unable to get airplay or to book any paying gigs without work visas. They returned to Canada within a matter of weeks, thousands of dollars in debt.
The band's fortunes were saved when, later in 1967, they landed a gig as the house band on the CBC television show Let's Go, a music show oriented toward teenagers. The show aired 39 weeks a year and the paycheques from it allowed The Guess Who to pay off their debts and it also gave them further exposure in Canada. Although the band was initially hired only to perform the chart hits of the day on the show (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 2004.
Among those who noticed The Guess Who during their run on Let's Go was record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson. He 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 only available for purchase through mail-order for the price of 10 Coca Cola bottle cap liners and $1 (to cover shipping expenses). Guitarist Randy Bachman has stated in interviews that he believes A Wild Pair sold enough copies in Canada to qualify for gold record status; however, because the album was not sold through normal retail channels, no certified sales figures are available.
Initial international success (1969–1970)
Richardson, who produced their material on A Wild Pair, believed that The Guess Who were on the verge of an international breakthrough. Accordingly, he mortgaged his house to finance the group's next batch of recordings, which would become the album Wheatfield Soul, and include 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 dissolution in 1975.
By the beginning of the 1970s, The Guess Who had moved toward an edgier hard-rock sound with the album American Woman, the title track for which, "American Woman" (coupled with its B-side "No Sugar Tonight") was the group's only No. 1 hit in the U.S. "American Woman" also earned The Guess Who the honor of being the first Canadian group to have a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 (The Crew Cuts from Toronto had a long-running US #1 "Sh-Boom" in the summer of 1954, four years before the Hot 100). The Top Five US hit "No Time" preceded "American Woman" by about three months.
In November 1977 CBC approached the band about doing a reunion. Cummings and Bachman were not interested since they were busy with their solo careers. Kale, Peterson, Winter and McDougall did respond, however. Kale was on tour in Kenora, Ontario, and contacted Cummings and Bachman about using the Guess Who name. They both gave him their blessing for the one-time use, but 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.
Bassist Kale decided to continue on with The Guess Who from that point, 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.
A new studio album called Guess Who's Back was released in Canada to minimal attention in 1978. Winter dropped out shortly after the album's release, but the remaining quartet soldiered on and retooled the album for American release in 1979 as All This For a Song. Four of the eight tracks contained on Guess Who's Back also appear in All This For A Song, some in re-recorded form; the rest of the album's tracks are new. As was the case with Guess Who's Back, this album was a commercial and critical flop.
Kale left the band for a short spell and was involved with other projects as the others continued on without him. But by 1981 he was back, and that year a completely new Guess Who line-up (save for Kale) put out a new studio LP called Now And Not Then on the El Macombo label, featuring new vocalist Brent DesJarlais. The album was released only and Canada and Germany.
In 1983, Bachman, Cummings, Jim Kale and Garry 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 and video.
After the reunion, Bachman and Cummings resumed their solo work, and Kale once again resumed touring with various musicians under The Guess Who banner. By the mid-1990s, Garry Peterson (drums) had returned to the fold, and a new Guess Who studio album, Liberty (also issued as Lonely One) with vocalist Terry Hatty was released in 1995. 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 that had already taken cities south of the border, Bachman and Cummings reunited in Winnipeg for the first time in 10 years in an emotional fund raiser for disaster relief organized by Tom Jackson.
The Guess Who in the 2000s (decade)
On August 8, 1999, the group reunited once again with the line-up of Cummings, Bachman, McDougall, Kale and Peterson. This particular line-up consisted of ex-band members who had never actually all played in The Guess Who at the same time before; the group convened in response to a personal request from the Premier of Manitoba to appear at the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games at Winnipeg Stadium.
The one-time reunion led to a cross-Canada and US tour for the band beginning in 2000, although health problems precluded Kale's involvement. Bill Wallace, who was Kale's replacement in 1972, was brought in as his replacement once again, and this line-up of the band played and toured regularly through 2003. A live album and DVD release followed the 2000 tour.
In 2001, the band received honorary doctorates at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. For former lead vocalist Cummings, it was a privilege to receive the doctorate, since he did not graduate from high school. That same year the group was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. It was the then-current iteration of the group that received this honour: only the signatures of Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Peterson and Wallace are engraved into the commemorative stone.
In 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. Under the leadership of original founding members Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, who lawfully own the trademark "The Guess Who", The Guess Who then resumed their touring schedule of around sixty dates a year. Carl Dixon (ex-Coney Hatch) was the group's lead singer through 2008, until he was injured in an automobile accident which left him unable to perform with the group. The current Guess Who line-up consists of Derek Sharp (vocals, guitars), Laurie MacKenzie (guitars), Leonard Shaw (keyboards), Jim Kale (bass), and Garry Peterson (drums).
- 1958 Chad Allan (Allan Kobel), Bob Ashley, Brian Donald, Johnny Glowa, Jim Kale, Larry Wah, Gordon Murison (band named after his Silvertone guitar)
Allan & The Silvertones
- 1962 Chad Allan, Bob Ashley, Randy Bachman, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Carol West.
Chad Allan & The Reflections
- 1962 Chad Allan, Bob Ashley, Randy Bachman, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
Chad Allan & The Expressions
- 1965 Chad Allan, Bob Ashley, Randy Bachman, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
The Guess Who
- 1965 Chad Allan, Bob Ashley, Randy Bachman, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
- 1966 Chad Allan, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
- 1966 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Bruce Decker, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
- 1966 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
- 1970 Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Bobby Sabellico
- 1970 Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Greg Leskiw, Garry Peterson, Kurt Winter
- 1972 Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Donnie McDougall, Garry Peterson, Kurt Winter
- 1972 Burton Cummings, Donnie McDougall, Garry Peterson, Bill Wallace, Kurt Winter
- 1974 Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Domenic Troiano, Bill Wallace (to end 10/75)
- 1977 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Kurt Winter, Donnie McDougall
- 1977 Jim Kale, Vance Masters, Kurt Winter, Donnie McDougall
- 1978 Jim Kale, Vance Masters, Kurt Winter, Donnie McDougall, (Guess Who's Back LP)
- 1978 Jim Kale, Vance Masters, Donnie McDougall, David Inglis, Ralph Watts
- 1979 David Inglis, Jim Kale, Vance Masters, Donnie McDougall (All This For a Song LP)
- 1979 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Bill Wallace (one time only appearance for Burton's CBC TV special Portage & Main in March 1979)
- 1979 Vance Masters, Donnie McDougall, Bobby Bilan, Brian Sellar, Jimmy Grabowski
- 1981 Jim Kale, Brent DeJarlais, Dale Russell, Mike McKenna, Sonnie Bernardi (Now & Not Then LP)
- 1981 Jim Kale, Brent DesJarlais, David Inglis, Brian Tataryn, Ken Curry
- 1981 Jim Kale, Brent DesJarlais, Brian Tataryn, Ken Curry
- 1983 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson
- 1983 Jim Kale, Dale Russell, Sonnie Bernardi, Mike Hanford, Trevor Balicky
- 1985 Jim Kale, Dale Russell, Sonnie Bernardi, Mike Hanford, Bob Fuhr
- 1986 Jim Kale, Dale Russell, Sonnie Bernardi, Terry Read, Kenny Carter
- 1987 Jim Kale, Dale Russell, Sonnie Bernardi, Mike Hanford, Kenny Carter
- 1987 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Mike Hanford, Kenny Carter
- 1989 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Kenny Carter, Mike Hanford
- 1990 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Kenny Carter, Tom Whinnery,
- 1991 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Terry Hatty, Leonard Shaw
- 1998 Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Carl Dixon, Leonard Shaw
- 1998 Garry Peterson, Dale Russell, Carl Dixon, Leonard Shaw, Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve
- 1999 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson (one show)
- 2000 Dale Russell, Leonard Shaw, Carl Dixon, Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve, Charlie Cooley
- 2000 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, Donnie McDougall, Garry Peterson (one show)
- 2000 Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Don McDougall, Garry Peterson, Bill Wallace (to end 07/31/03)
- 2004 Bobby Bilan, Carl Dixon, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Leonard Shaw
- 2006 Carl Dixon, Jim Kale, Laurie MacKenzie, Garry Peterson, Leonard Shaw.
- 2008 Derek Sharp, Jim Kale, Laurie MacKenzie, Garry Peterson, Leonard Shaw
- 1983: Together Again—live concert with interviews.
- 2002: Running Back Thru Canada (Live with bonus tracks)
- 2003: Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto – Two tracks only – with the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Rush and others.
- 2006: First Time Around (Bachman, Cummings), live concert from a CBC broadcast.
- 2007: Shakin' In Las Vegas (The Guess Who: Peterson, Kale), DVD of four new songs plus Shakin' All Over, from a live concert in Las Vegas.
- 1995: American Woman: The Story of The Guess Who by John Einarson; Quarry Press, Ontario, Canada
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