The Guess Who

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The Guess Who
The Guess Who in 1970 (L–R: Kurt Winter, Garry Peterson, Greg Leskiw, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale)
The Guess Who in 1970 (L–R: Kurt Winter, Garry Peterson, Greg Leskiw, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale)
Background information
OriginWinnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Years active
  • 1965 (1965)–1975 (1975)
  • 1978 (1978)–1979 (1979)
  • 1983
  • 1999 (1999)–2003 (2003)
Spinoff of
  • Al & The Silvertones
  • Chad Allan & The Reflections
  • Chad Allan & The Expressions
Members See also List of The Guess Who members

The Guess Who was a Canadian rock band formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1965. The band found their greatest success in the late 1960s and early 1970s, under the leadership of singer/keyboardist Burton Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman, with hit songs including "American Woman", "These Eyes", and "No Time".

During their most successful period, The Guess Who released eleven studio albums, all of which reached the charts in Canada and the United States. Their 1970 album American Woman reached no. 1 in Canada and no. 9 in the United States, while five other albums reached the top ten in Canada. The Guess Who charted fourteen Top 40 singles in the United States and more than thirty in Canada.[1] In the early years before Canadian Content broadcast rules were enacted, unlike other Canadian acts who tended to downplay their nationality, the band made a name for itself by proudly celebrating it and they became hailed for that self-confidence.[2]

The Guess Who officially broke up in 1975, although a nostalgia-oriented lineup organized by former bassist Jim Kale has toured and recorded under The Guess Who name since 1978,[3] often performing without any original band members on stage.[4]


Predecessor groups (1958–1965)[edit]

In 1958, Winnipeg singer/guitarist Chad Allan formed a local rock band called Al and the Silvertones.[5][6] After several lineup changes, the band stabilized in 1962 under the name Chad Allan and the Reflections, which included Allan and keyboardist Bob Ashley, plus future Guess Who mainstays Randy Bachman on guitar, Jim Kale on bass, and Garry Peterson on drums.[6]

Chad Allan and the Reflections released their first single, "Tribute To Buddy Holly", on Canadian-American Records in 1962.[7][8] They then signed with Quality Records and released several singles in 1963–64, which gained some regional notice around Winnipeg but made little impact in the rest of Canada. One single was credited, perhaps mistakenly, to Bob Ashley and the Reflections.[9]

In 1965, the group changed their name to Chad Allan and the Expressions after an American group called The Reflections released the hit single "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet".[10] Chad Allan and the Expressions released the garage rock album Shakin' All Over in January 1965.[11] That album's single, "Shakin' All Over", earlier recorded by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, was the band's first major hit, reaching no. 1 in Canada, no. 22 in the United States, and no. 27 in Australia.[12][13] Their Canadian label, Quality Records, disguised the single by crediting it to Guess Who?, as a publicity stunt to generate speculation that it was by a more famous British Invasion band working incognito.[12][13]

After Quality Records revealed the band to be Chad Allan and the Expressions, disc jockeys continued to announce the group as Guess Who?, effectively forcing the band to accept the new name.[13] They released their second album, Hey Ho (What You Do to Me!) in late 1965; it was credited to Chad Allan and the Expressions with "Guess Who?" displayed prominently on the cover.[13]

Early years (1965–1968)[edit]

Keyboardist Bob Ashley left the band in January 1966 due to the rigors of touring.[13] He was replaced by 18-year-old Burton Cummings (formerly of Winnipeg group the Deverons) who also took on lead vocal duties in conjunction with Chad Allan on the band's first album, released under the band name The Guess Who? (The question mark would be dropped later.) Just a few months later, Allan departed; he returned to college and then became a media personality with the CBC.[14] This left Cummings as the sole lead singer.[15] After Allan's departure in 1966, guitarist Bruce Decker, a former bandmate of Cummings in the Deverons, joined for a few months.[16]

The Guess Who released its first album, It's Time, with Cummings on vocals and keyboards, Bachman on guitar, Kale on bass, and Peterson on drums,[13] in the summer of 1966.[17] Decker, despite being pictured on the cover of the album, did not participate in the recording. Conversely, some contributions by Allan (recorded before he left the group) can be heard on the album,[citation needed] though he is not credited or pictured on the album cover.

The Guess Who continued to release singles that were moderately successful in Canada, and "His Girl" entered the UK charts in 1967.[18][19] The band travelled to the United Kingdom to promote the single, but this was a financial mistake as the song quickly dropped off the charts. They were unable to book shows or obtain work visas while in the UK, and returned to Canada heavily in debt.[citation needed] Later in 1967, The Guess Who were hired as the house band for the CBC Radio show The Swingers,[20] and as the house band for the CBC Television program Let's Go, which was hosted by their former bandmate Chad Allan.[21] They initially performed hit singles by other artists, but the CBC producers encouraged them to develop more of their own music as well. This gave The Guess Who greater exposure in Canada and financial stability for the next two years.[22]

After seeing The Guess Who on Let's Go, record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson contacted the band about participating in an advertising project for Coca-Cola.[21] This project became a split album titled A Wild Pair with Ottawa band the Staccatos (themselves soon to renamed Five Man Electrical Band). The album could only be purchased by mail order from Coca-Cola.[21] Richardson served as The Guess Who's producer until the band's breakup in 1975,[23] and they were managed during that entire period by Don Hunter.[24]

"American Woman" era (1968–1970)[edit]

Richardson signed the Guess Who to his Nimbus 9 label and production company, and personally financed the recording of a new album in late 1968. The band was also signed to RCA for distribution outside of Canada. The Guess Who transitioned to a more mature pop-rock sound with soul and jazz influences.[25] Their second studio album, Wheatfield Soul, was released in early 1969 and achieved success in both Canada and the United States.[26] The single "These Eyes" reached the top ten in the United States[27] and became a gold record with sales of more than one million copies.[28] The follow-up album Canned Wheat was released in September 1969,[29] and featured the double-sided hit singles "Laughing" and "Undun".[16][30]

For their third studio album, the band adopted more hard rock influences. American Woman was released in January 1970 and became a Billboard Top 10 hit.[31][32] It was their first album to top the Canadian albums chart, and their first to reach the top ten on the American Billboard album chart.[33] The title track, written by Bachman and Cummings (though all four original members are credited),[34] reached No. 1 in both countries[35][36][37] and was also a substantial hit in the United Kingdom. This made The Guess Who the first Canadian band to achieve a chart-topping single in the United States during the Billboard Hot 100 era. (Canadian doo-wop group The Crew Cuts had a number one single in 1954, before that chart was instituted.)[38] "No Time" and "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" also reached high on the singles charts in both Canada and the United States.[32]

Continued success (1970–1974)[edit]

While American Woman became a success in the early months of 1970, Bachman recorded an all-instrumental solo album titled Axe with Peterson on drums.[13][39] The Guess Who began recording a follow-up to American Woman, completing seven tracks. (The tracks were withheld and not released until 1976 under the title The Way They Were.)[40] Bachman then took a break from touring with The Guess Who due to illness, with American guitarist Bobby Sabellico filling in temporarily. Bachman played a final show with the band and then exited the band in May 1970; his relations with Cummings had deteriorated and his recent conversion to Mormonism caused dissatisfaction with the band's rock 'n' roll lifestyle.[16] Bachman later formed the successful hard rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive.[41]

Indicating a move into more intricate arrangements and vocal harmonies, while shooting for album rock radio,[42] the Guess Who replaced Bachman with two guitarists from the Winnipeg rock scene: Kurt Winter from the band Brother,[43] and Greg Leskiw from the band Wild Rice.[16] Winter brought some songs from his previous band and became one of the Guess Who's primary songwriters.[43] Leskiw occasionally contributed lead vocals. On July 17, 1970, the band was invited to perform at the White House for US President Richard Nixon's family and guests, but they were asked not to play "American Woman" due to its apparent criticism of the United States.[30] However, in 2020, songwriter Burton Cummings admitted the song isn't a criticism of America. Additionally, he said the White House never asked them to drop the song. That whole urban legend was created by the group's manager as a publicity stunt.[44]

The expanded lineup quickly recorded the album Share the Land, which was released in late 1970 and became another substantial hit in both Canada and the United States.[42] Songs from the albums Wheatfield Soul through Share the Land were compiled for the album The Best of The Guess Who, which became another successful release in both countries in 1971.[45]

The band's commercial fortunes and chart performance then declined in the United States, perhaps due to an inability to be taken seriously by the fans of album rock radio,[46] though they remained very successful in their native Canada. They released the albums So Long, Bannatyne in mid-1971,[47] and Rockin' in early 1972.[48] Both albums displayed more progressive and experimental elements. Shortly after the release of Rockin', Leskiw suddenly left the band in the middle of a US tour.[49][16] Leskiw was replaced on short notice by guitarist/singer Donnie McDougall, a veteran of the Winnipeg rock scene who had most recently played with the Vancouver-based Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck.[13] With McDougall on board, the band recorded the album Live at the Paramount at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle in May 1972; it was released in August[50] and included some songs that had not appeared on previous studio albums.[51]

Just two months after McDougall joined The Guess Who in 1972, founding bassist Jim Kale was dismissed from the band; he then joined Vancouver band Scrubbaloe Caine who released one album and achieved some Canadian hit singles in the mid-1970s.[52] Kale subsequently formed and played with the Jim Kale Band, followed by the Ripple Brothers,[53] before falling on hard times later in the decade.[54] The Guess Who replaced Kale with Bill Wallace, who had played with Kurt Winter in their early Winnipeg band Brother.[16] This lineup released the albums Artificial Paradise in early 1973,[46] #10 in late 1973 (the title of which represented their number of original albums up to that point),[55] and Road Food in early 1974.[56] Road Food included the single "Clap for the Wolfman", which was a hit in both Canada and the United States, and the band's first top ten American single since 1970.[57] The novelty song was a tribute to disc jockey Wolfman Jack, who lent his voice to the recording.[56]

Breakup of The Guess Who (1974–1975)[edit]

For undisclosed reasons, guitarists Winter and McDougall were dismissed from the band in June 1974.[43] They were replaced by a single guitarist, Domenic Troiano, who had founded the successful Canadian band Bush[58] and had also served briefly with James Gang.[59] Having grown up in Toronto, Troiano was the first member of The Guess Who not to hail from Winnipeg. He had also collaborated with an earlier version of The Guess Who on an aborted movie soundtrack in 1970 and had played on Randy Bachman's album Axe that year.[60] The lineup of Cummings, Troiano, Wallace, and Peterson released the albums Flavours in late 1974[60] and Power in the Music in mid-1975.[61] Due to Troiano's songwriting influence, these albums moved toward jazz rock; Cummings was unhappy with the stylistic change and the group broke up and disbanded in October 1975.[13]

The Guess Who members after 1975 breakup[edit]

Following his departure from The Guess Who in 1970, Randy Bachman went on to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, which has continued into the 2020s.[62] Burton Cummings embarked on a lengthy solo career.[63] Meanwhile, other original members drifted into relative obscurity.

In 1976, Garry Peterson linked up with Toronto singer and ex-Domenic Troiano associate Roy Kenner and American guitarist Bobby Sabellico in an R&B band, Delphia, which went unsigned and left no recordings.[64] Peterson then worked as a night clerk in his father-in-law’s hotel[65] and an insurance salesman to make ends meet before eventually making his way back to music. He played drums in the backup band accompanying Cummings from 1979 through 1983,[66] followed by Bachman’s reunited BTO from 1984 through 1986.

After being kicked out of The Guess Who in 1972, Kale joined Vancouver band Scrubbaloe Caine until 1974. He subsequently formed the Jim Kale Band followed by the Ripple Brothers.

Domenic Troiano resumed his solo career, releasing three more solo albums by 1979 before forming a band called Black Market.[67] Bill Wallace joined several local musicians, including Greg Leskiw, to form Crowcuss.[68] Kurt Winter eventually retired from the music industry and died in 1997 at age 51.[69]

Classic lineup reunions[edit]

Members of the classic-era Guess Who reunited a number of times over the years, the first being when Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Garry Peterson, and late-classic-era bassist Bill Wallace reformed for a CBC television special in November 1979.[70] This was followed by a short tour of notable Canadian cultural venues in 1983,[71] resulting in the live album Together Again! (known as The Best of The Guess Who – Live! in the United States).[72] In May 1997, with their hometown of Winnipeg facing severe floods, Cummings and Bachman reunited for a fundraiser for disaster relief, organized by Canadian actor Tom Jackson.[73] At the request of the Premier of Manitoba, Cummings, Bachman, Kale, and Peterson appeared together at the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games at Winnipeg Stadium on August 8, 1999.[74] This inspired plans for a reunion tour, though Kale dropped out. Another lineup featuring classic-era members Cummings, Bachman, Peterson, Donnie McDougall, and Bill Wallace engaged in a lengthy reunion tour from 2000 to 2003, including playing the halftime show at the 2000 Grey Cup.[75] On July 30, 2003, this lineup 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.[76] Since 2003, Bachman and Cummings have collaborated occasionally under the name Bachman-Cummings.[77]

Dispute over "The Guess Who" name[edit]

In 1977, former bassist Jim Kale, who was fired from the band in 1972, asked Burton Cummings for permission to use the Guess Who name for a single reunion concert,[78][79] but Kale went beyond the scope of Cummings’ initial permission and hired other musicians to perform as the new The Guess Who.[4] In 1987, Kale discovered that the name The Guess Who had never been trademarked, and filed registration applications with the United States trademark office for the band name The Guess Who,[80] unbeknownst to the other original members. Kale used his newly registered mark to start a new band in the United States, hiring a variety of musicians whom he called "The Guess Who."[78][79] During this period, Kale temporarily retired multiple times, leaving no original band members performing on the nostalgia circuit. Per U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, the U.S. trademark for live performances (but not records) of Kale’s new "The Guess Who" has been owned by a partnership between Kale and drummer Garry Peterson since 2006.[81] Kale has since retired but has continued to hire musicians with no historic connection to the band,[4] whom he allows to use the name as a Guess Who nostalgia band. Albums from Kale's version of The Guess Who have not been released through a major label and have not charted. Drummer Garry Peterson sometimes appears in the current Guess Who lineup, though the current band also performs as a cover band without any original members present.[82][83]

Both Cummings and Randy Bachman have been highly critical of Kale/Peterson's version of the Guess Who, calling it "the fake Guess Who", and calling the current band's concerts "fake bullshit shows."[80] Kale himself referred to his own potential iteration of the group as "a band of trained monkeys."[84] The dispute has been compared to John Fogerty's dispute with his former bandmates over the use of the name Creedence Clearwater Revisited.[4] Bachman and Cummings have toured and recorded together under the name "Bachman-Cummings".[85][86]

Early in 2023, Bachman and Cummings sent multiple cease-and-desist letters to the current Guess Who, accusing the Peterson-led nostalgia band of misleading the public.[87] In October 2023, after having received no response to the letters, Bachman and Cummings launched a "false advertising" lawsuit against Kale and Peterson, claiming that the current band has used the band name, photos of Bachman and Cummings, and original recordings, “to give the false impression that Plaintiffs are performing as part of the cover band.”[88] Bachman and Cummings are seeking $20 million in damages.[89] A hearing pertaining to the lawsuit and Kale and Peterson's counterclaims was scheduled for January 2024.[90] In April 2024, a federal judge denied Kale and Peterson’s motion to dismiss the Bachman and Cummings suit.[91]

A few days later, still in April 2024, Cummings arranged to have legal permission pulled for any public performance -- by anyone -- of any Guess Who material Cummings had written or co-written. This legal gambit would leave both the performer and the owner of the performance venue liable for damages if any Cummings-authored Guess Who work was performed for an audience. This left the current iteration of The Guess Who unable to perform most of the group's biggest hits, including "These Eyes", "American Woman", "No Time", and "Share The Land", amongst others. The group's early April concerts were immediately cancelled. Subsequent Guess Who concerts have since been cancelled on a rolling basis through the months, with the group's website usually showing upcoming concert appearances a week or two ahead, which then are cancelled shortly before the concert date. Further legal developments are expected.[92] [93]


The band's star on Canada's Walk of Fame. Signatures, from top left clockwise: Garry Peterson, Burton Cummings, Bill Wallace, Randy Bachman, and Donnie McDougall.

The Guess Who's original members, Cummings, Bachman, Kale and Peterson, were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.[94] In 2001, the original members of The Guess Who received honorary doctorates from Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. For Cummings, this was a special honour because he had not graduated from high school.[95] That same year, the group was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[96][97] The signatures of then-current band members Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Peterson, and Wallace are engraved into the commemorative stone. In 2002, the then-current remaining performing original members, Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Peterson, and Wallace received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement for their contributions to popular music in Canada.[98] In 2018, a number of master tapes of the band's recordings, possibly including unreleased material, were donated to the St. Vital Museum in Winnipeg.[99]


Classic era members

  • Chad Allan – vocals, rhythm guitar (1962-1966)
  • Bob Ashley – keyboards, backing vocals (1962-1966)
  • Randy Bachman - lead guitar, backing vocals (1962–1970, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2000-2003)
  • Jim Kale – bass, backing vocals (1962–1972, 1983, 1999, 2000)
  • Garry Peterson – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1962–1975, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2000-2003)
  • Bruce Decker – rhythm guitar (1966)
  • Burton Cummings – vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, flute, harmonica (1966–1975, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2000-2003)
  • Kurt Winter – lead guitar, backing vocals (1970-1974)
  • Greg Leskiw – rhythm guitar, vocals (1970-1972)
  • Donnie McDougall – rhythm guitar, vocals (1972-1974)
  • Bill Wallace – bass, vocals (1972-1975, 1979, 2000-2003)
  • Domenic Troiano – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals (1974-1975)

Current band members

  • Garry Peterson – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1983, 1987–present)
  • Derek Sharp – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano (2008–present)
  • Michael Staertow – lead guitar, backing vocals (2021–present)
  • Greg Smith – bass guitar, backing vocals (2023–present)
  • Teddy Andreadis – keyboards, harmonica, backing vocals (2023–present)


Albums by the classic era lineups:


  • 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).
  • 2004: Running Back Thru Canada DVD
  • 2007: Shakin' in Las Vegas (DVD with concert performance and four new songs)

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • 1995: American Woman: The Story of The Guess Who by John Einarson; Quarry Press, Ontario, Canada
  • 2020: Wheatfield Empire: The Listeners Guide to The Guess Who by Robert Lawson; Friesen Press, Ontario Canada

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Grey Cup Halftime Show
Succeeded by