THE GUESS WHO
name Allan Kobel), Bob Ashley, Jim Kale, Randy Bachman and Garry Peterson came together after two
local bands merged in 1962 in Winnipeg, Canada, 1962 and took the name Chad Allen and the
Reflections. For the bands' debut the band covered "Tribute To Buddy Holly",
originally recorded by UK artist Mike Berry & The Outlaws for legendary producer Joe
Meek. At this time in the early 1960's Allen obtained reel to reel recordings taken off UK
records, imported by a friend of his. The bands' use of material by artists like Cliff
Richard and The Shadows and Beatle tracks (yet to hit it off in the USA charts) helped to
make their repertoire unique in the area. After signing to Quality Records they attain
some success in the charts with Merseybeat influenced singles. In 1965 the group pick up a
copy of Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" single from 1960. As Allen recalled in
a recent interview:
were doing Beatles stuff, three-part harmony or more; wed be doing Beatles things
and people would come up and say "What is that?" "Oh, its the
Beatles. Havent you heard of the Beatles?" Nobody had..... We were getting real
good experience doing the British sound and just honing our harmonies. Anyway, obviously
we covered "Shakin All Over". Actually, the original recording was very
sparse..... ours was the actual worldwide hit. For one reason - there were holes in the
Johnny Kidd version. There was no rhythm guitar to speak of. And we added the clink-clink
piano and acoustic guitar and a lot of screaming. And ours became a hit. It was quite a
thing for a Winnipeg band to make it in the Billboard Top 100."
already licensed recordings by UK artists
including the Animals, the Kinks and Hermans Hermits amongst others.
Realising that Allen & co's
rendition of "Shakin' all Over" had a "British"
sound to it they credited the "Guess
Who?" and publicity hinted of a moonlighting UK band, all of which
assisted in making it a Canadian
chart-topper. The record went on to reach no. 22 in the US. The
flipside, "Til' We Met" (otherwise known under its real title
of "Where Have You Been") was a Merseybeat standard, having
been covered by Gerry & The Pacemakers on their debut album in 1963
The subsequent tie-in album
"Shakin' All Over" also included the bands' take of "A Shot Of Rhythm And
Blues", previously a minor hit for Kidd in the UK which ending two years out of the charts
for him. At the
insistence of Scepter records - who wanted the group to follow their big hit with material
aimed for the US - the LP was credited to "Guess Who" using
larger letters than those on the band's real name (see picture at top of
page) in an
attempt to fool the American public into thinking that (like the single
before it) a top group was was
behind the recordings in disguise. The use of two names, however, became
confusing to the public at large and before long the band were using
only the "Guess Who" name permanently.
The group registered more hits after
"Shakin'" becoming a top group in Canada, even so an aborted tour of the UK left the group in debt to the tune
of $25,000. The returned to record commercials and appear on the
tv program Let's Go, hosted by Chad Allan.
By 1969 they had secured a regular slot on CBC-tv's "Where It's At"
and it was here that the group attracted the attention of producer Jack Richardson, who
then was working for an ad agency. It was Richardson who got the band to record a
promotional album for Coca-Cola, after which he financed their album "Wheatfield
Soul" (on newly-created label Nimbus 9) by mortgaging his house. "These
Eyes", the third Nimbus 9 single which topped the Canadian chart, hit no. 6 in the US
on its way to becoming a million-seller and gained both group and label a US deal with
album " Canned Wheat" produced three Top 40 singles later that year.
In 1970, the Guess Who
scored their only US chart-topper, the ironically titled rocker
"American Woman" with scything anti-American putdown lyrics.
The "American Woman" album became their first to go U.S. Top Ten and first gold album, and the group performed for President and Mrs. Nixon and Prince Charles at the White House.
All was not harmony, though; Bachman had converted to Mormonism and fell
out with Cummings over the band's lifestyle. As a result he left the group in July 1970
to form Brave Belt with Chad Allan, which later evolved into Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The Guess Who were joined by Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw to replace him. "Share the
Land", the title track from their next LP made the Top Ten later
the same year and the Guess Who made regular showings thereafter.
1974 they registered their last top ten hit, "Clap for the Wolfman," featuring
the voice of legendary US radio DJ Wolfman Jack. The
bands shifting personnel coupled with the loss of direction lead to Cummings
breaking up the Guess Who 1975 to go solo. The line-up from what can
be called the 'glory years' reformed in 1983 and although the bands'
members can be constantly shifting they continued to tour through the
1990's mainly as a nostalgia act, occasionally with original members.