The Guess Who was Canada’s most popular rock band of the 60s and early 70s. The group had its roots in a band called Chad Allan And The Reflections, formed in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1962. That group itself came out of two others, Allan And The Silvertones and the Velvetones. The original line-up of Chad Allan And The Reflections comprised Allan (Allan Kobel on guitar/vocals, Jim Kale on bass, Randy Bachman on guitar, Bob Ashley on piano and Garry Peterson playing the drums. Their first single, ‘Tribute To Buddy Holly’, was released on the Canadian American label in Canada in 1962. Ashley then left the group and was replaced by Burton Cummings, formerly of the Canadian group the Deverons, who shared lead vocal duties with Allan for a year. In 1965 the group released its first album, Shakin’ All Over. In order to give the impression to potential buyers that the group was English, Quality printed ‘Guess Who?’ on the cover, prompting the group to take those words as its new name. In 1966 Allan departed from the group. He was briefly replaced by Bruce Decker, another ex-Deveron, who quickly left, leaving the group as a quartet with Cummings as chief vocalist.
Although they faded from the US charts for three years, the Guess Who remained popular in Canada. In 1967 they had their first UK chart single with ‘His Girl’, on the King label. A brief, disorganized UK tour left the group in debt, and it returned to Canada, recording Coca-Cola commercials and appearing on the television program Let’s Go, which boosted their Canadian popularity even further. They continued to release singles in Canada on Quality, and on Amy and Fontana Records in the USA. In 1968, with financial backing from producer Jack Richardson, the Guess Who recorded Wheatfield Soul in New York, released in Canada on Richardson’s own Nimbus 9 label. The third single from the album, ‘These Eyes’, written by Cummings and Bachman, reached number 1 in Canada and earned the group a US contract with RCA Records. The single reached number 6 in the USA in spring of 1969. That year, the group’s second album, Canned Wheat Packed By The Guess Who, also charted, as did ‘Laughing’, the b-side of ‘These Eyes’, itself a Top 10 hit, and ‘Undun’, which reached number 22 in the US. The group’s busy year was wrapped up with a number 5 single, ‘No Time’.
In March 1970, the hard rocking ‘American Woman’ became the Guess Who’s U.S. number 1 The b-side ‘No Sugar Tonight’ also received considerable radio airplay. American Woman became the group’s Top 10 album in the U.S. during this time. In July 1970 Bachman left the group, finding the group’s rock lifestyle incompatible with his Mormon religion. He resurfaced first with Chad Allan in a new group called Brave Belt and finally with Bachman Turner Overdrive (minus Allan), which itself – ironically – became a popular hard rock group in the 70s. A Guess Who album recorded while Bachman was still in the group was cancelled. Bachman was replaced in the Guess Who by guitarists Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw. Another US Top 10 single, ‘Share The Land’, finished up 1970 for the group. They continued to release charting singles and albums in the early 70s, including ‘Albert Flasher’ and ‘Rain Dance’ in 1971, and their Greatest Hits reached number 12.
With 14 Top 40 hit singles, two of which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100; and a long running record of proven successful live shows; The Guess Who, Canada’s first international rock superstars, are one of the best buys in the live entertainment market today.
Benefitting from the emergence of “classic rock” radio stations throughout North America, The Guess Who has seen its fan base broaden to include more of the baby boomer generation, on down to today’s teenagers. However, it is the strength and the highly regarded reputation of their live performances that has tremendously increased their popularity.
It is a popularity that has also been earned through repeatedly demonstrating themselves to be a band that truly appreciates their audience and is willing to put forth the extra effort to ensure a memorable experience at every show. Whether it is setting aside time for radio and television interviews, participating in “Meet & Greets”, or signing autographs at the merchandise table until the last fan has left, The Guess Who is truly both a promoter and fan friendly band.