Rock Roots Section
The Hillman Rock Legends Series

Photo Album III
Five Decades of Photos

Click for full screen image

Guess Who ~ Xmas 1965

Chad Allan 1966 UMSU Poster

Guess Who ~ Winnipeg Stadium 1966

From the John Einarson/Randy Bachman Collections

Randy and Burton ~ New York ~ 1968

Randy jamming wth Prime Minister Harper

Still rockin' in Vancouver

Chad Allan on CBC-TV's Let's Go

The Brave Belt Days

A rare glimpse of early Canadian rock
High school dance recording of band 
that became the Guess Who released after 46 years
Vancouver Sun ~ February 09, 2008 ~ John Mackie

In 1962, someone set up a microphone in front of a young group at a high school dance in Winnipeg. Forty-six years later, the recording is being released. The group was Chad Allan and the Reflections, which would later achieve fame and fortune as the Guess Who. And the long-delayed recording is a charming glimpse into pre-Beatles rock and roll in Canada.

The songs on Early Roots are mostly covers. Guitarist Randy Bachman leads the group through a letter-perfect version of the Ventures' instrumental Walk, Don't Run, while piano player Bob Ashley rips it up on another instrumental, Bumble Boogie, originally recorded by the immortal B. Bumble and the Stingers. But if there's a revelation, it's the lovely version of I Love You More Than I Can Say, a Buddy Holly-style song written by Holly's former bandmates Sonny Curtis and Joe Allison. In 1961 it was a hit for Bobby Vee, a Holly soundalike from Fargo, N.D.; in 1980, it was a hit for Leo Sayer. Chad Allan's vocal is subdued and heartfelt, subtly channelling Holly in a vocal hiccup. It's a reminder that once upon a time, Allan was arguably Canada's top rock and roll singer, equally proficient on ballads like I Love You More Than I Can Say and rockers like the Guess Who's breakthrough hit, Shakin' All Over.

But that was a long time ago. Sadly, all that rockin' and rollin' did a number on Allan's voice, which is more or less shot. "My doctor told me not too long ago that my right vocal chord is actually paralysed," says Allan, who turns 65 March 29. "Which means my left vocal chord is doing most of the work. So it is a bit thrashed. As a matter of fact, it's a miracle I'm able to talk right now." His voice ailing, Allan left the Guess Who in 1966, before they made it big. He later formed a band called Brave Belt with Bachman, but quit it as well, just before the band changed its name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Thus, he now lives in a small apartment in Burnaby with his wife Christine rather than in a mansion. And he still makes his living playing, rather than living off royalties. Most of his gigs are at old folks' homes, where he plays piano, guitar and accordion. "I can sing when I play the seniors' homes and hospitals," he explains. "I sing to the extent to lead them in singalongs; that seems to work fairly well."

Allan had the tape which became Early Roots. Actually, his father William Kowbel did. (Chad Allan is a stage name -- he changed it because his real name, Allen Kowbel, wasn't "very commercial.") "My dad was the librarian," says Allan. "He collected and compiled all this stuff way back from when we started in the late '50s and '60s. He kept scrapbooks and saved posters and stuff." William Kowbel passed away in 2005, five years after his wife. After his death, Allan moved stuff out of their Marpole apartment with Marty Kramer, an old Winnipeg chum who has worked on and off with the members of the Guess Who for decades.

Kramer spotted the 1962 tape, which was probably recorded at Melrose school in Winnipeg, where Allan and the band's then-manager Brian Roberton (the man who taped the show) had gone to school. He hatched a plan with Jamie Anstey and Larry Hennessey (of JACK-FM's Larry and Willy show) to release it on CD, plus make copies of some early '60s gig posters to sell. The disc kicks off with four studio tracks, including the eerie lament Tribute to Buddy Holly, the Reflections' debut 45.

Buddy Holly was Allan's hero. "When he passed away in 1959, ohhh," recalls Allan. "It was February, wintertime in Winnipeg, and I remember coming back from school. I saw the newspaper lying on the front step as I was coming in. The headline was 'Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly die in a plane crash,' and whoa -- I felt like a brother had died. Because I was learning all his songs: I would play those records 'til they were like white, the 45s."

Allan didn't write Tribute to Buddy Holly, Geoffrey Goddard did. It was a minor hit for Mike Berry in England, largely because of the imaginative production by the legendary Joe Meek. Allan heard it through his high school friend Wayne Russell, a music nut who would send away to England for the latest hits."The British would take chances, whereas Canada seemed kinda conservative," says Allan. "He would bring out [45s by] Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Cliff Richard, Shane Fenton, all these bands. Gerry and the Pacemakers. We knew of the Beatles way before they hit North America, because Wayne had all this stuff. I would take tapes of these songs to the guys. 'Who are these Beatles? The harmonies are just amazing!'"

In any event, Tribute to Buddy Holly is impossibly rare. It was released on Canadian-American records, which agreed to press and distribute the initial run of 300 copies if the band gave the label $100. The first 100 singles are even more collectible -- the label mistakenly pressed Allan's ballad I Just Didn't Have the Heart on the A-Side, but listed it as Tribute to Buddy Holly. It was corrected on later editions. Both songs appear on the new CD.

Some of the early Reflections posters are also reproduced in the CD booklet. One advertises "a terrific three-hour show of distinctive vocal and instrumental stylings" at a roller rink in Winnipeg Beach, a resort town. "We were basically set up in the middle, and they would roller skate all around us," Allan chuckles. "They started roller skating at midnight, for 75 cents or a dollar."

The CD and posters were originally supposed to come out last September, when the original Guess Who (that is, pre-Burton Cummings) was going to reunite for a one-off show in Winnipeg. But the show never happened and the CD wasn't released until now. It's available at Neptoon records on Main Street in Vancouver. Copies of the posters should be available for sale at the next Vancouver Record Collectors Association show, April 6 at the Croatian Cultural Centre.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Framed print – Canadian Recording Artists (The Guess Who)
This stunning art print is part of the latest issue in Canada Post’s ongoing series honouring Canadian recording artists. This summer, 3 other iconic bands join the series: The Tragically Hip, Rush and Beau Dommage.

Designer Louis Gagnon of Paprika drew on feedback from the groups to focus on what fans recognized most about their beloved artists. The result: a stamp featuring the iconic logo of The Guess Who, that every fan loves.

The challenge was to balance history with the present to create something classic and lasting. The current band members were present in the development process and gave their input all the way through. To keep everything united, Gagnon showed each group’s graphic logo and kept colour tones and textures consistent.

About The Guess Who

The Guess Who got their start in Winnipeg in 1962 when singer and songwriter Chad Allen joined Jim Kale, Randy Bachman, Garry Peterson and Bob Ashley to form Chad Allen and the Reflections. In 1965, the band’s single “Shakin' All Over” was released to radio stations in a plain white record jacket bearing only the words “Guess Who?”. Intended to pique curiosity, the name immediately caught on.

Over their career, The Guess Who have recorded 14 top-40 hit singles, sold millions of albums, won 2 JUNO Awards and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canada's Walk of Fame and the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. In 2002, the band received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

While its membership has changed over the years, the group continues to record and perform to sold-out audiences across the globe.

About the Canadian recording artists series

Through the popular Canadian Recording Artists stamp series, Canada Post makes a tribute to remarkable musical icons. Artists honoured in in the past included Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Bruce Cockburn, Robbie Robertson and Ginette Reno. 

Chad has been featured on the HiFi Channel
Below are some stills from that documentary

CHAD ALLAN: 1. Anecdotes 2. Interview 3. Discography 4. Reflections 5. Clipping
PHOTOS/SCRAPS: 6. Photos I 7. Photos II 8. Photos III 9. GW Bios Clips 10. GW Degrees
ORIGINALS: 11. Jim Kale 12. Kale/Peterson 13 Mosaics/Discs 14. Press 1 5. Photos IV
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Chad is featured in the ROCK ROOTS section of our book.

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