BILL and SUE-ON HILLMAN: A 50-YEAR MUSICAL ODYSSEY
ROOTS AND WINGS SECTION
Shakin' the music scene
Without Chad Allan, two of Canada's biggest bands
may never have been created
By: John Einarson
Winnipeg Free Press ~ November 24, 2013
Yes Virginia, there really was a Guess Who without Burton Cummings.
In the spring of 1965, the Guess Who put Winnipeg on both the national and international musical map with their raucous recording of Shakin' All Over. The voice on that recording, a No. 1 hit across Canada and a No. 22 hit on the coveted American Billboard Hot 100, was Chad Allan -- a year before Cummings would join the band on keyboards.
The fact is, there would not have been a Guess Who without Chad Allan.
As Randy Bachman acknowledges in his forthcoming book, Tales From Beyond The Tap, "There can be no denying that without Chad Allan, Burton Cummings and I may not have had the successful careers we've enjoyed. He was the catalyst for our success, whether he realized it or not."
The Guess Who story begins in East Kildonan in the late 1950s when guitarist/accordion player Allan Kowbel (aka Chad Allan) formed Allan's Silvertones with some high school friends. The lineup would remain somewhat fluid until Jim Kale on bass and piano player Bob Ashley, both from St. Vital, joined up in early 1961. Kale worked at the wheat board with Gary Bachman, so when the Silvertones needed another guitar player, Gary recommended his older brother Randy audition. After he became lead guitarist, the band found itself without a drummer. Randy suggested his high school friend Garry Peterson. Reconstituted under a new name, Chad Allan & the Reflections -- Allan, Kale, Ashley, Bachman and Peterson -- quickly became the talk of the town. "We were the best jukebox band in the city," states Kale.
They were also one of the first local rock bands to record, beginning with Tribute To Buddy Holly in 1962. More records followed (along with a name change from Reflections to Expressions) until Shakin' All Over. The success of that single and the rigours of touring both here and in the United States took its toll on Ashley, who bowed out at the end of 1965. Burton Cummings was recruited from The Deverons to replace him. With Allan and Cummings sharing lead vocals the Guess Who became a powerhouse.
"Oh my god, we were like the best band anywhere," gushes Bachman. "We could literally do anything -- any tunes, any style." However, it would be short-lived. Throat problems along with a simmering resentment over Cummings' presence and popularity led Allan to quit in June 1966 following the release of the group's It's Time album. "I was saddened to leave," he revealed to me years later, "but it wasn't my band anymore." Indeed, his name had been absorbed into the Guess Who moniker and his role diminished.
"I found it very difficult to be on the same stage with Cummings," he stated. "Our personalities were diametrically opposed." Manager Bob Burns described their relationship as "a very polite merger. There were some professional jealousies."
As Cummings explained, "In hindsight, if I had been him I would have quit, too. Right there in front of him he was losing his band. But it wasn't me trying to take over. I was still in awe of being in the band with these guys. It's just that what I had to offer was more new and exciting to the kids. Allan was never much of a screamer but I wanted to be shrieking and the kids loved that. Randy encouraged me a lot to sing more because he liked that harder rock sound."
Chad's departure would ultimately prompt Bachman and Cummings to forge a songwriting relationship that bore fruit three years later with a string of million-selling singles beginning with These Eyes. Allan hosted CBC TV's Let's Go (ironically backed by the Guess Who), completed his university degree, and played lounges around town.
Following Bachman's abrupt ouster from the Guess Who in 1970, he and Allan hooked up for what was initially a Chad Allan solo album that quickly transformed into the country-rock band Brave Belt, with Chad on lead vocals. More Bachman's baby than Allan's, the singer bailed out during sessions for a second Brave Belt album, unhappy with the addition of Fred Turner's gritty vocals. Dunrobin's Gone nonetheless remains one of Allan's finest compositions and a Canadian country-rock classic. With Allan's softer style out of the picture, Brave Belt quickly morphed into multi-platinum hard rockers Bachman-Turner Overdrive and conquered the world.
"Chad never bought into the band vision," notes Bachman. "He didn't have the dream or the determination to look beyond Winnipeg." Allan released several solo singles including the rather prophetic Ballad Of A Middle Aged Rocker before moving out to Vancouver, where he taught songwriting at Kwantlen community college and performed in lounges. As gigs dried up, he took to playing seniors' residences, trading on his Guess Who notoriety.
While it's easy to write Chad Allan off as the Pete Best of Canadian music who, like the Beatles' original drummer, missed the ship when it finally sailed in, doing so ignores the pivotal roles he played in the creation of two of Canada's most successful bands. While he may not have gone the distance, he was nevertheless the key instigator of both and worthy of more than a footnote in the evolution of Canadian rock music. In his day he was the undisputed kingpin on the Winnipeg music scene and deeply respected and admired. "Back then, Chad Allan was a big star on the local scene, and no one should forget that," emphasizes Randy Bachman.
"I do get a tinge every now and then when I think about it," he later admitted, "but aside from missing out on some good times and money, there was no other way it could have happened."
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When COUNTRY ROCK went into OVERDRIVE
BTO hit top of rock pantheon,
but band wouldn't have happened without Brave Belt boot camp
By: John Einarson
On the evening of Sunday, March 30, former Winnipegger Randy Bachman will become the only Canadian Music Hall of Fame member inducted twice. In 1987 he was inducted along with the other members of the Guess Who. Now he enters with post-Guess Who megastars Bachman-Turner Overdrive. While the Guess Who put Winnipeg on the North American music map, BTO put it on the international map. Randy's current stature as Canadian music elder statesman is well-earned.
Between those two multi-platinum bands there was Brave Belt, Randy's first band endeavour after he left the Guess Who. Brave Belt was a commercial failure, a country-rock experiment that cost Randy almost all of his Guess Who nest egg. But it was the hard lessons learned from that failure that helped propel BTO to the top of the rock music pantheon by the mid-'70s.
What initially began as a solo album by original Guess Who singer/guitarist Chad Allan transformed into a band once Randy came onboard.
"I wanted to make a fresh start with a new band," says Randy, who recruited youngest brother Robin on drums. "I knew that if I did a pop band again it could never be as good as the Guess Who, and I could never find a singer as good as Burton Cummings. Rather than be a second-rate Guess Who, instead I went totally anti-pop."
Taking his cue from fellow Winnipegger Neil Young and his former band Buffalo Springfield, Brave Belt became a country-rock band. "Country music was always a big influence for me from the time I was a kid," says Randy.
Young's intervention scored the band a recording contract with Reprise in 1971. The label had high hopes Randy could deliver hits like he had done with the Guess Who. Unfortunately, this was 1971; country rock would not become commercially viable until the Eagles arrived two years later. Audiences expected Randy the American Woman power-chord cruncher, not a laid-back country picker. The band struggled to gain acceptance. Gigs were few and far between, with Randy feeling the weight of a Guess Who backlash against him. "They blackballed me," he says.
Prior to the release of Brave Belt's debut album in early 1971, Randy recruited local rock music veteran C.F. 'Fred' Turner to beef up the lineup. "I wanted a guy who had a strong, distinctive voice; a guy who could really belt it out. Fred Turner had that refrigerator-sized voice."
The one time Pink Plumm and D-Drifters member signed on. "I just figured maybe it was time I took a chance," Turner explains. "This was my last shot."
It was a shot that would later pay off in spades -- but not before a couple of years of struggling, what Randy later termed Brave Belt boot camp. The band travelled in a beat-up Econoline van eschewing hotels for campsites. "We had a Coleman stove and we would bring a loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from home," recalls Randy. "Or we would cook up some soup." Hardly the rock-star lifestyle, but it fostered a sense of unity within the band. "It really helped us cope when the big success as BTO finally came."
At odds with Turner's grittier voice, Chad Allan bowed out during sessions for Brave Belt II, but not before recording one of the finest Canadian country-rock songs, Dunrobin's Gone.
"That song should have been called She's Gone and She Won't Be Back, and that hurt the record's chances because no one knew what the title meant unless you were from East Kildonan in Winnipeg," notes Randy. "People would phone in to radio stations asking them to play She's Gone and She Won't Be Back and they'd look on their playlists and say, 'We don't have that record.' " Both Brave Belt I and II sold poorly.
The band's epiphany came at a two-night gig in Thunder Bay, when the promoter fired them the first night following tepid response to their country-rock style. Unfortunately no replacement band could be booked in time, so the promoter approached Randy asking if they could come up with a rockier sound they could do the second night. That night the band pulled out all the stops and won over the crowd with a set of rockin' dance tunes. Randy realized his country-rock experiment was doomed and set about retooling Brave Belt as a meat and potatoes blue collar rock band.
"Being a survivor for all those years in the Guess Who, I knew that no matter how much you like something, if it isn't working you have to change it," he acknowledges. A few months later the band found its new name at a gas station when Turner spotted a truckers' magazine called Overdrive. Bachman-Turner Overdrive was born.
Adding brother Tim Bachman on second guitar, the band still found itself fulfilling Brave Belt contracts and playing coffee houses and country music venues. At one gig in Calgary, they supported country music star Tommy Hunter. When the promoter discovered he'd booked a hard rock act he refused to pay them. It took Hunter's intervention for the band to get their cheque.
Randy had been supporting Brave Belt from his Guess Who royalties, paying each member a weekly salary as well as financing sessions for a third album, all to the tune of some $97,000 by early 1973. Having logged more than 20 record label rejections for the album, he was all but tapped out and ready to fold the band when Mercury Records offered a contract.
"Charlie Fach at Mercury in Chicago called me and told me to forget about the country-rock thing, go remix the tracks and add some heavier guitars. That's how Brave Belt III became the first Bachman-Turner Overdrive album." And the rest, as they say, is history.
"Brave Belt was important for me because I needed to go through that to figure out what I do best," says Randy.Join John Einarson Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon for My Generation on UMFM 101.5
Ref: Winnipeg Free Press ~ March 22, 2014
Bachman's second collection will satisfy rock 'n' roll fans
Reviewed by: George MacLean
Randy Bachman has been taking care of business for more than five decades. Writer, broadcaster, producer and founding member of the two biggest bands from Winnipeg -- the Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive -- he built an astounding career in music, but with its share of setbacks.
Working with his longtime collaborator and music historian John Einarson, Bachman answers questions from his CBC Vinyl Tap radio show that don't "fit" a segment. Written in Bachman's typical guarded but factual way, it will satisfy any rock 'n' roll aficionado.
Big band and jazz music played regularly in Bachman's household, but it was the mid-1950s rock 'n' roll of Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry that sparked his musical talents. In one of the best parts of the book, Bachman lays out the most influential music in his life, from Les Paul to his friend Neil Young.
Some stories appeared in different forms in his autobiography Takin' Care of Business (2000, co-written with Einarson) and his previous Vinyl Tap book Vinyl Tap Stories (2011). Snippets have also appeared on his radio show and interviews.
It's a fun read and an easy page-turner, but many of the main themes -- his 1960s and 1970s hits, working with his brothers, his strained relationship with Burton Cummings and his business-minded approach to music -- are familiar.
He pulls no punches. Brothers Timmy and Robbie are dealt with harshly (as they have been in past books). Family is fundamental, but his inability to reconcile with his siblings is over dollars and cents. The blunt talk about money is sometimes cringe-inducing (as it was in Takin' Care of Business), and his (unexplained) scheme to insulate Canadian artists from taxes is odd. Unfortunately, these bits are wedged between terrific stories from the heyday of classic rock 'n' roll.
Cummings plays prominently in Bachman's life. Co-writer and bandmate, Cummings re-entered Bachman's life several times, recently during their reunion tour of Canada. Bachman calls him one of the most influential people in his life, but blames him solidly for their unsettled relationship. Again, business keeps Bachman from reconciling with his old friend and partner.
Surrounded by music's decadence, Bachman is set against drugs and alcohol, which killed or hurt many friends and peers. He has no regrets about staying clean, though it got him kicked out of bands, and led him to fire bandmates, including a brother or two.
For gearheads and recording enthusiasts, there's a lot here to satisfy. Mixing guitar tracks for Bachman-Turner Overdrive II may not excite the casual reader, but the details are excellent and insightful.
Bachman is rather hard on younger music fans. He says kids see music as disposable, and don't care about the artists or how music is made. Album covers indeed may be a lost art, but Bachman doesn't contemplate how the digital generation has more information online, and much more music at their fingertips, too. Despite what Bachman says about changes to commercial radio, it isn't that different today than the 1970s -- today's bubble-gum pop will be classic nostalgia for a future generation.
He hasn't lived here for decades, but still calls himself a "kid from Winnipeg." Winnipeggers will appreciate Bachman's numerous shout-outs, like "socials," which (delightfully) he doesn't explain, as well as locales from Garden City to Crescentwood.
One of Winnipeg's major musical exports, Bachman has not forgotten his professional or geographical roots.
National Post ~ March 29, 2014
70-year-old Randy Bachman may have a Hall of Fame spot,
but he isn’t going away
Randy Bachman, Canadian musician best known as a founding member of the rock band "The Guess Who," speaks to the National Post before performing at Toronto's Massey Hall on March 16, 2014.
Backstage at Toronto’s Massey Hall before a sold-out performance of his Vinyl Tap tour, Randy Bachman, 70, father of eight, schleps his Don Cherry frame to two separate meets and greets, with premium ticket purchasers and clients of a local Lexus dealership, respectively. Wearing a long black scarf, black comfort shoes, and an Ed Hardy-esque rocker T, Mr. Bachman, blessed with more hair than most of tonight’s giddy crowd, rarely breaks character. He spins anecdotes as easily as the popular DJ spins records — telling tales he repeats variations of on his CBC radio show, just renewed after nine years for another three; in his two volumes of memoirs, and from the stage during his concert. As he says, not 15 minutes from curtain: “I don’t want to be, ‘Whatever happened to?’ I want to be, ‘Look at what this guy’s doing now!’”
On Sunday night at the Juno Awards on his home turf in Winnipeg, Mr. Bachman will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame for the second time, with his band mates in Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the group he started after breaking up with Burton Cummings in The Guess Who. For Randy Bachman, the event’s an exclamation mark after a flurry of work that he hopes will propel a new album that he says will resemble the lean (and popular) crunch of The Black Keys. He says getting to this moment hasn’t been easy. He knows he can be a hammerhead. After two broken bands and two failed marriages, he acknowledges that he comes off strong.
“I am relentless, like you’d find in a Richard Branson, Conrad Black or Shaq O’Neal,” he says. “You learn, after years of being screwed, you can’t trust or depend on anyone — it’s you, and if you let yourself down, you hit a bottom and believe me, you don’t want to go there.” Mr. Bachman’s been up and down, rich and poor, fat and not-so-fat, and he believes that the timing is right for an epic musical comeback. Don’t snicker. If Rick Rubin can reinvent Neil Diamond, and Jack White can save Tom Jones, you have to wonder: could Randy Bachman be cool again?
Born in West Kildonan, Man., in 1943, Randy Bachman, the oldest of four brothers and a business graduate from the Manitoba Institute of Technology, released his first album with Burton Cummings in The Guess Who in 1966. Together, the two men wrote These Eyes, No Sugar Tonight, Laughing, Undun, No Time, and American Woman, with a riff Mr. Bachman concocted during a sound check at a hockey rink in Waterloo, Ont.. Publishing disputes and lifestyle choices broke up the band, all of which was exacerbated when Mr. Bachman adopted the Mormonism of his first wife Lorayne. About her, Mr. Bachman, a lapsed Lutheran, says two things: 1) For her, he wrote These Eyes; 2) She was Miss Regina Roughrider, 1965. “For me to join a religion that believed in God and taught kindness and abstinence of drugs and alcohol, was like joining AA,” Mr. Bachman says. “When the rest of the band was drinking, when I’d say I’m a Mormon they’d leave me alone.”
Eventually, Mr. Bachman and Mr. Cummings became rivals, and Mr. Bachman wrote the Cummings diss track, Hey You, with BTO. Like Paul McCartney before and Dave Grohl afterwards, Mr. Bachman would become that rare rock ‘n’ roll animal — a performer that makes it big with two separate bands.
Michelle Siu for National Post
Michelle Siu for National PostCanadian musician Randy Bachman, best known as a founding member of the rock band "The Guess Who," performs at Toronto's Massey Hall on March 16, 2014.
“BTO was just this desperate attempt to say, ‘Listen to me one more time,’” he says. “I don’t want people walking out on me. I’m there to entertain them. If they walk out it’s, ‘Why are you leaving? What’s wrong?’”
People, however, or at least audiences, haven’t walked out, at least not during his 12 big songs, including BTO’s Taking Care of Business and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. Critics, on the other hand, sometimes cover their ears.
“He’s not as good as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell, and I don’t think he’s so stupid as to think he’s as good as them, he’s not a great musician,” says Robert Christgau, the old Village Voice music critic, the Pauline Kael of rock tunes. “There’s no way you can say his bands had any swing to it, but the music has a matter-of-fact efficiency, very businesslike.”
Ewan Currie, singer for Saskatchewan’s The Sheepdogs, who are closing the Junos with a BTO tribute, says tastemakers often miss the point: “There’s a temptation to write off his music as not important, but that reeks of snobbery,” Mr. Currie says. “Randy, he’s not like Lou Reed or Steven Tyler, with drug addiction and that stuff people think rock ‘n’ roll’s supposed to be; rather, he does his thing with a blue-collar approach. He doesn’t have an air of rock ‘n’ roll superstar about him and that’s fine by me.”
When ranking the all-time great Canadian rock stars, it’s hard to know where Mr. Bachman sits. Based solely on record sales, his 40-million albums sold would find him near the top. However, “artists” like Rush, k.d. lang, Feist, Blue Rodeo, Arcade Fire and The Tragically Hip inspire more reverence. Denise Donlon, who’s held senior positions at Sony Music Canada, CBC and MuchMusic — it was she who paired Lenny Kravitz with The Guess Who at the 2000 MuchMusic awards — says Mr. Bachman’s likability is tied to the fact that he comes off like a Canadian football fan.
“If you saw Randy on the street, you’d go up to him and say, ‘Hey man, I love that song,’ but if you saw Gord [Downie of The Tragically Hip], you might go, ‘He’s too cool,’ or even Neil Peart [Rush’s drummer], you might just wave from your car,” she says. “When he did his huge weight gain, people were genuinely worried that he was a walking heart attack, but when he lost all that weight, it was such a great relief — ‘wow, Randy just saved his own life.’”
Mr. Bachman’s always had an appetite — for audiences, for airplay and, indeed, for food. Prior to the Massey Hall gig, the only time he interrupted his reminiscingwas when he spotted a tray of burger sliders. “Get me four of those,” he commanded, as he began to confess to his lifelong vice. “Buckets of chicken, whole chocolate cakes — eating with me was like eating with John Candy or John Belushi,” he says. “Not drinking or doing drugs, you have to do something. It used to be a box of Oreos or Dad’s cookies with a gallon of milk and then I’d just lie there in this weird sugar shock.”
A lifelong music junkie, it’s not surprising that even his gastrointestinal surgery in 2001 comes with a rock anecdote. The doctor who cut his digestive system apart, he explains, was the same one who worked on Brian Wilson’s daughter Carnie, author of the pop hit Hold On. “He took my stomach, which was the size of a basketball, and made it the size of a golf ball — I lost 160-pounds,” Mr. Bachman says. “I get up every morning and I’m grateful for this new body. After the surgery, I even took four months off from work.”
For the rest of the guys in BTO, including singer Fred Turner, who Mr. Bachman hired at the recommendation of Neil Young, the Juno tribute feels less like a siren sound of another comeback and more like a fun night on the town. Blair Thornton, who joined the group after Randy fired his brother Tim — now a realtor in Abbotsford who recently had a disturbing sexual-assault charge dismissed — says he’s moved well beyond his rock ‘n’ roll youth, and even retired from his rock ‘n’ roll middle age. Thornton never subscribed to Mr. Bachman’s strict Mormon rulebook — which eschewed premarital sex, as well as drugs and booze — but says the band gelled onstage. Even today, he views his former bandleader with a mixture of frustration and awe.
“Randy’s a force of nature and his nature hasn’t changed, which works well when you have to do things, but not so good when you want time to reflect,” says Mr. Thornton, who hasn’t played with BTO since their last run through casinos and fairs in 2004. “Randy, he’ll just keep trying to run stuff up the flagpole. You have to admire a guy like that – takes a tremendous amount of work.”
Mr. Bachman currently owns homes in Los Angeles, Toronto and London, England, and is weathering a second divorce. While one music industry insider estimates that Mr. Bachman earns $250,000 annually from Taking Care of Business royalties alone, Mr. Bachman clearly still carries the wounds of a tough five-decade career. He sees the detritus in his wake as the price of his craft.
“My marriages came to a critical mass, a critical point, when my bands ended and suddenly I’m home and we realize, ‘Gee, I don’t even know her, she doesn’t really know me and we don’t even like each other anymore.’ That love thing is kind of gone,” says Mr. Bachman, who sought advice from a psychic after the end of his first marriage, where, in addition to losing his family and his rock group, he also found himself $1-million in the hole. “Back then, 1983, my band got called back to play the Molson Amphitheatre for $400,000 and we got $100,000 each and life’s just like that. You want to jump off the bridge, but you pick up the guitar and life slowly rebuilds.”
Tal Bachman, 45, Randy’s oldest, works with his father. A musician himself, Tal Bachman researches his dad’s segments on Vinyl Tap and, though he had a public fallout with the Mormon church — his turn in Bill Maher’s documentary-style takedown of organized religion, Religulous, is striking — he still holds his father in high regard. “When my parents split up, I stuck with dad because he seemed to be the more stable parent,” says Tal, who compares his father not to a rock star but to a craftsman, a perfectionist forever deconstructing what makes a hit song. As for his breaking from the church, Tal says his father respects his freethinking. He believes that Mormonism, for Randy, might have been a way of surviving the times. “Devoutly believing could come in handy when you’re in a fish bowl and every other fish is going berserk, vomiting, being dragged to hospital, literally dying,” he says. Having grown up around his father’s career swings, Tal’s a believer that now could be his dad’s moment. “When I was a little kid, with BTO he had this radiant drive like, ‘I know where I’m going, I know how to get there, and if these guys don’t want to do it the right way, they’re gone,’ and I assume that’s what it was like with The Guess Who,” he says. “With dad, there’s been a time or two in his life when he didn’t feel that way, but he’s swung back – and for that, I can see the possibility of another act.”
Mr. Bachman reaches nearly a million listeners on the radio each week and last year, across the country, he played close to 100 shows. A Hall of Famer — twice even, come Sunday night — he’s a guy who went back down to the minors and continued to get in the ring. In his mind, he’s still the scrappy fighter from Winnipeg who built audiences for two bands one bar at a time (without having a drink). He calls his as-yet un-recorded new album “a knockout.”
“The new stuff is about the song and the performance. It’s that I’m here and I’m touching you,” he says. “I want to get to that point right away.”
Of course, the new record could be hot or it could be awful. Mr. Bachman’s last album of original rock tunes, 2010’s Bachman & Turner, amounted to less than a slider tray. But there’s nobody questioning that he’s willing to put the work in. When the crowd at Massey Hall, on its feet, demanded an encore, no one in the building had any doubt that their grizzled old hero would return. He still hadn’t dived into Hey You.
Ultimate Guess Who reunion highly unlikely
Winnipeg Free Press ~ April 1, 2014
Randy Bachman is inducted into the
Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 2014 Juno Awards.
Winnipeggers wore Juno Awards weekend as if we had received the best award of all. Which we did, in a way.
I haven't seen our beleaguered "Disaster City" this proud of itself -- or mentioned so affectionately and so often on the national stage -- since the return of the Jets. But the proudest Winnipeggers of all had to be Randy Bachman, Fred Turner and the rest of the boys in Bachman-Turner Overdrive, inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame here in the city where they began.
Actually, the only place I've sensed Bachman being prouder of his roots is in his latest book, Tales Beyond The Tap, which he was autographing Saturday at McNally Robinson. It's a memoir of sorts, structured around 20 questions posed by Free Press contributor and Bachman pal John Einarson, each set at the beginning of a chapter. I was captivated. Especially by what Bachman revealed about his pride in his late father, his single-mindedness about wanting to be a musician and the way parts of the book overflow with his obvious affection for our city.
Inevitably, it also includes the other stuff. What Bachman refers to as "the sad legacy of the Guess Who... the residue of bitterness and recrimination." I had reason to expect that and more from the book. In November 2012, I received an email from Bachman. He had been in town to see Neil Young and the Sadies perform. Coincidentally, that weekend, I had written a column about his former bandmate, Jim Kale, who owned the right to the Guess Who name, and Kale's venom-dipped relationship with Burton Cummings. In his email to me nearly a year and a half ago, Bachman alluded to his own unresolved issue with Cummings and suggested someone should write a book that exposed it.
It now appears Bachman did it himself. Or at least a one-chapter version of the sticking point that, over the years, Bachman says has cost him millions of dollars in royalties. And sleep. The chapter explaining why is set up with this question: "Your relationship with Burton Cummings has been a roller-coaster. Will you ever work with him again?"
Bachman goes on to relate the story in sometimes anguished tones, starting in 1968 when Bachman and Cummings agreed to a deal that gave their publishing rights to their producer's production company, which essentially amounted to 50 per cent of whatever the songs they wrote earned. The other 50 per cent -- the writing royalties -- went to Bachman and Cummings. But the production company also received half the record royalties, which meant they were taking 75 per cent of total song earnings.
Then, around 1980, the production company's rights became available because of a bankruptcy. By chance, Cummings found out first. And, as Bachman writes: "Burton wasted no time in contacting his lawyer in L.A., Abe Somer, who brokered the deal for Burton to acquire all the Guess Who songs, from These Eyes onward. All the songs, including the ones I wrote alone or with Burton, now came under the control of Shillelagh Music, Burton's publishing company."
The bottom line? Cummings receives 75 cents of every dollar the songs earn; Bachman gets 25 cents. During the years, the tours and the Guess Who's induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Bachman kept quiet and collected his cheques. He also sued over the perceived wrong and lost.
"He was a kid when I invited him into the band," Bachman writes. "I was his big brother, picking him up for gigs and bringing him home as his mother insisted. I taught him about publishing and shared everything equally with him in our little publishing company. Then having him grab it all and not tell anybody was hurtful. He needs to fix it."
Bachman also writes about wanting to do a Guess Who reunion next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first hit, Shakin' All Over. Of course, for the ultimate Guess Who reunion, Bachman would need to reunite with Cummings. "I still want to celebrate the songs," Bachman says in the book, "but I'm not going to do so with him unless he rights the wrong between us."
When he contacted me nearly a year and a half ago, Bachman wanted someone to write a book about all this in hopes it would "shame" Cummings "into making things right." Evidently, that's what he's trying to do in his own book. But Burton Cummings is not about to be shamed. Which, if Bachman remains true to his promise, means he and Cummings will never perform together again.
FREE PRESS COMMENTS
"Unless he rights the wrong between us...." oh please Ranbach. You just lost out to a guy who was quicker on the draw and had a smarter lawyer while you collected guitars. Too bad so sad. Get over it.
Interesting point of view from Randy. I wonder how you would explain when Tim or Robbie brought songs to the table you insisted on redoing the arrangement or adding a few words and then publishing the songs through your own company you told them if it wasn't done that way it would not be recorded by BTO. This was your way of insuring you would get credit on the record and the publishing rights which meant a higher personal payout for you. That was a long standing source of animosity between the brothers. Ah Randy, how easy it is to remember the slights done to you but how you forget what you did to others. By the way seems to me that you benefited from Burton being in the band, so taking him home was no big deal right. You needed a lead singer, he wrote a giid song and the Derons constantly was the band of joice among Winnipeg teens so better he was with you. He did a business deal and because he was smarter and quicker than you were, you feel it necessary to complain? Hey you made money touring with him a few years ago. Thought you forgave him then? Come on man...step up. Or is it just about the money?
I enjoy the music of both these men regardless of their personal differences. It would be nice if they could reconcile those differences but at the moment that seems unlikely. Both of them are to be congratulated for their accomplishments.
It's a little sad when a guy has one sole focus in his life: PUBLISHING. All he's ever cared about, and all he ever will. But if he got to those songs first....based on his OTHER dealings with OTHER songs...he's likey to have done the same thing. So he thinks ol Burt is gonna get an accountant to go back 30 years and count all the quarters he owes Randy...? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!
I would suspect that both men in this squabble, are a little bit wrong & a little right. They will come to realize that the collection of currency as a lifelong goal, usually does not involve taking the high road. Maybe they should both sit down and listen to their song "Share the Land"
Bachman is no angel either. He did the same thing to his band mates in BTO. Read the book "Randy Bachman: Takin' Care of Business by John Einarson"
We might never know the exact truth about this. It's a real shame though that there is still friction after so many years between these two and other members of the Guess Who and B.T.O. Burton and Randy are really Winnipeg's favorite sons.
I guess Cumming's response would be Looking out for Number One.
Cummings always was and still is a jerk. That's why I still call it The Walker Theatre...the EGO doesn't deserve to have anything named after him.
MANITOBA MUSIC MUSEUM COMMENTS
If RB's version is true this speaks badly of BC. You can sometimes say there are two sides to a story but either BC bought all these rights from a bankrupt production co or he didn't.
NO respect at all for Cummings greed and arrogance...I love the songs but can't stand the man.
My guess (given RB's past history of suing everybody in aight), is that he would have done exactly what Burton did if given the opportunity, and then let the courts decide. Exactly what Burton did. Randy you taught him too well.
The 2 will go to their grave as the hatfields and mccoys of music!!
Another Guess Who reunion EH??? Think I'll be staying home and listening to Budgie that night
They should both just shut up once and for all and be thankful for all the good fortune that seems to have followed them all their lives!!!!!
In a nutshell...... ego·tism - noun: : the feeling or belief that you are better, more important, more talented, etc., than other people
Forget about the ingrates of GW and BTO who only care about money and let's start celebrating Streetheart and Harlequin and The Pumps who still rock the party.
There are a lot of " wrongs to be righted " in that camp !
Born on this day (March 29) in 1943, Chad Allan (Allan Kowbel), Guess Who, Brave Belt. Beginning in East Kildonan with Allan's Silvertones, Chad was a major music mover 'n' shaker on the local music scene assembling the city's top players in Chad Allan & the Reflections (later Expressions) who began releasing records in early 1963. The band's cover of UK band Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over" topped the charts across Canada by the spring of 1965 and even made it to #22 on the US Billboard charts. Released under the moniker "Guess Who" the band's name was quickly changed to The Guess Who. In December 1965 keyboard player Bob Ashley left the group to be replaced by ex-Deverons' member Burton Cummings. The band continued to release records both in Canada and the US, many written by Chad Allan.
In June 1966 Chad left the group citing vocal problems. He went on to host CBC TV Winnipeg's Let's Go (backed by the Guess Who) and perform in local clubs as Chad Allan with the Sticks *& Strings. He also recorded under his own name. After Randy Bachman left the Guess Who in May 1970 he teamed up with Chad that fall to form the country rock band Brave Belt. Chad's composition (written with Barry Erickson) "Dunrobin's Gone" was the best-known song and a minor hit. Chad left the band in 1972 and the band morphed into Bachman-Turner Overdrive after revamping their sound to a hard rock approach. Chad released further solo albums including "Beowolf" with arranger Victor Davies before moving out to Vancouver where he continues to live, performing occasionally at seniors residences.
Make no mistake, Chad Allan was a king maker. Without him there would be no Guess Who and without them, no BTO and maybe no Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings careers. In 1987 Chad received the Order of the Buffalo Hunt from the province and in 2015 he was awarded the Order of Manitoba for his contributions to music both in Manitoba and Canada.
|CHAD ALLAN:||1. Anecdotes||2. Interview||3. Discography||4. Reflections||5. Clipping|
|PHOTOS/SCRAPS:||6. Photos I||7. Photos II||8. Photos III||15. Photos IV||Chad: Order of Manitoba|
|ORIGINALS:||11. Jim Kale||12. Kale/Peterson||13 Mosaics/Discs||.||.|
|PRESS||9. GW Bios Clips||10. GW Degrees||14. Press 1||Press 2||.|
BILL and SUE-ON HILLMAN: A MUSICAL ODYSSEY
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