The Guess Who

The Guess Who

  • The Guess Who in 1970:
  • Kurt Winter, Garry Peterson, Greg Leskiw, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale
Background information
Also known as
  • Allan and the Silvertones
  • Chad Allan and the Reflections

  • Chad Allan and the Expressions
Origin Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Years active
  • 1965 (1965)–1975 (1975)
  • 1977 (1977)–present
Associated acts
Website Official website
Past members

The Guess Who is a Canadian rock band, formed in Winnipeg in 1965. Initially gaining recognition in Canada, the group also found international success from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s with numerous hit singles, including "No Time", "American Woman", "Laughing", "These Eyes", "Undun" and "Share the Land". Several former members of The Guess Who, notably Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman (of Bachman–Turner Overdrive), have found considerable success outside the band. Formed as a garage rock band,[1] their musical style encompassed the pop rock[2] and psychedelic rock[3] genres.

The band was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.[4] In 2002, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, for the Guess Who's contribution to popular music in Canada.[5]


Early years (1958–1965)

The Guess Who started out as a local Winnipeg band formed by singer/guitarist Chad Allan (real name: Allan Kowbel) in 1958 and initially called "Allan and the Silvertones". This was changed to "Chad Allan and the Reflections" in 1962, by which point the band consisted of Chad Allan (lead vocals/guitar), Bob Ashley (keyboards), Randy Bachman (guitars, backing vocals), Jim Kale (bass, backing vocals), and Garry Peterson (drums, backing vocals). The Reflections name was chosen since it was similar to the British group The Shadows, which was one of the band's biggest influences. All the band members were born in Winnipeg.

The band's debut single ("Tribute To Buddy Holly") was released on Canadian-American Records in 1962. Chad Allan and the Reflections then signed with Quality Records and released several singles in 1963/64, which were regional hits but did not make much of a mark across Canada. Quality even released an instrumental single, "Inside Out", on their Reo subsidiary, deliberately miscredited to Bob Ashley & The Reflections. By 1965, the group was forced to change its name to "'Chad Allan & the Expressions" after a U.S. group called The Reflections had scored a hit with "Just Like Romeo & Juliet".

It was at this point that the band scored their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over". This track reached #1 in Canada, #22 in the U.S (where Quality had licensed the track to the American Scepter label for release in the U.S.), and #27 in Australia. However, in an attempt to build a mystique around the record, Quality Records credited the single only to "Guess Who?" It was hoped that some listeners might assume the "Guess Who?" identity was deliberately masking several famous performers working under a pseudonym – given the "beat music" nature of the record, perhaps even members of The Beatles and/or other popular British Invasion bands. In concealing the identity of the band in this fashion, Quality Records may have been influenced by a similar ploy made the previous year by "The You Know Who Group", an American outfit whose Merseybeatish 1964 single "Roses Are Red My Love" had peaked at #43 in the US and at #21 in Canada. Later in 1965 The Four Seasons attempted a similar masking by recording under the similar nom de disque The Wonder Who?

It is debatable as to whether anyone was really fooled by the "Guess Who?" ruse, or if the record would have been a hit regardless of the artist credit. But the upshot was that, even after Quality Records revealed the band was "really" Chad Allan & The Expressions, disc jockeys continued to announce the group as Guess Who?, effectively forcing the band to rename themselves.[6]

Transitional years and Let's Go (1966–1968)

The immediate follow-ups to "Shakin' All Over" met with major success in Canada but very little elsewhere. After Bob Ashley, who was not used to the band's longer tours through western Canada, southern Ontario and into the US, brought about by the hit's success, left the group in late 1965,[7] Burton Cummings (from the popular Winnipeg group The Deverons) joined the band as keyboardist and co-lead vocalist (with Chad Allan) in early January 1966. This line-up only lasted for several months before Chad Allan left (in May 1966) to enroll in college, making Cummings the new full-time lead singer. By this point, the band's name had become "The Guess Who?" (the question mark would finally be dropped in 1968) and with Chad Allan gone, the "Chad Allan & The Expressions" subtitle was dumped once and for all. Burton's Deverons bandmate, guitarist Bruce Decker, was brought in after Chad left but was dropped by the end of that summer and the group was a quartet for the next four years or so, with Bachman teaching Cummings any extra guitar parts needed for live shows.[7]

Feeling that they'd "played out" all the venues in Winnipeg, the band began playing in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1966. While there, they crossed paths with a young Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, who played in many of the same venues as the group.

The group continued to release top 40 singles in Canada, like "Clock on the Wall" and even had one single, "His Girl", scrape the lower reaches of the UK charts in 1967. However, a trip to the UK to promote this single in February 1967 proved to be a financial disaster as the single dropped off the charts after only one week,[8] and the Guess Who found themselves unable to get airplay or to book any paying gigs without work visas. They returned to Canada within a matter of weeks, thousands of dollars in debt.

The band's fortunes were saved when, later in 1967, they landed a gig as the house band on the CBC radio show, The Swingers[9] and as the house band on CBC television show Let's Go, a music show oriented toward teenagers (and hosted, for a time, by their former band-mate Chad Allan).[10] The show aired 39 weeks a year and the paycheques from it allowed the Guess Who to pay off their debts and it also gave them further exposure in Canada. Although the band was initially hired only to perform the chart hits of the day on the show (in arrangements as close as possible to the actual hit records), after a time, the show's producer encouraged the group to write and perform their own material as well. The Guess Who stayed with Let's Go for two years; a compilation of some of their Let's Go performances was released on CD in 2005.[11]

Among those who noticed the Guess Who during their run on Let's Go was record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson.[10] He contacted the band about participating in an advertising project for Coca-Cola; this turned out to be the recording of a split LP with Ottawa band The Staccatos (soon to rename themselves the Five Man Electrical Band). The resulting album was called A Wild Pair, and featured the Guess Who on one side and The Staccatos on the other.[10] The album was only available for purchase through mail-order for the price of 10 Coca Cola bottle cap liners and $1 (to cover shipping expenses).[10] Guitarist Randy Bachman has stated in interviews that he believes A Wild Pair sold enough copies in Canada to qualify for gold record status; however, because the album was not sold through normal retail channels, no certified sales figures are available.

During their peak years up to their 1975 dissolution, the Guess Who were managed by Don Hunter.[12]

Initial international success (1969–1970)

Richardson, who produced their material on A Wild Pair, believed that the Guess Who were on the verge of an international breakthrough. Accordingly, he signed the group to his production company and record label Nimbus 9 (which handled their Canadian releases) and mortgaged his house to finance the group's next batch of recordings in September 1968, which would become the album Wheatfield Soul (March 1969) and included the ballad "These Eyes". This song, released in January 1969, became the group's first Top 10 US hit for their new label, RCA Records. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America.[13] Richardson would remain the group's producer through to their break-up in 1975.

The band quickly followed up Wheatfield Soul with the release of Canned Wheat in September 1969. The album featured the double sided hit single "Laughing" / "Undun" along with the initial recording of the song "No Time".

By the beginning of the 1970s, the Guess Who had moved toward an edgier hard-rock sound with the album American Woman (January 1970), the title track for which, "American Woman" (coupled with its B-side "No Sugar Tonight") was the group's only No. 1 hit in the U.S. "American Woman" also earned the Guess Who the honor of being the first Canadian group to have a No. 1 hit on the U.S. Hot 100. (The Crew Cuts from Toronto had a long-running US #1 "Sh-Boom" in the summer of 1954, but that was four years before the existence of the Hot 100.)[14] The band re-recorded "No Time" for the American Woman album, and the single became a Top Five U.S. hit, preceding "American Woman" by about three months.

Personnel changes and continued success (1970–1975)

In the spring of 1970, Bachman was sidelined by a gall bladder attack. The group continued touring with an American guitarist from Philadelphia, Bobby Sabellico. But differences between Bachman and Cummings (mainly due to Bachman's conversion to Mormonism) led Bachman to leave the group after playing one final show with them at the Fillmore East in New York City on May 16, 1970. New studio recordings (eventually released in 1976 as The Way They Were) were abandoned.

Bachman, who had already completed his first solo album, Axe, in March 1970,[7] returned to Winnipeg and later formed Brave Belt in 1971, which evolved into the hugely successful Bachman–Turner Overdrive.

Bachman was replaced by two guitarists, fellow Winnipeggers Kurt Winter, from the band Brother, and Greg Leskiw from a band called Wild Rice. Winter became the main songwriting collaborator with Cummings and the Guess Who continued on scoring additional hit singles such as "Hand Me Down World", "Share the Land", "Hang on to Your Life", "Albert Flasher", and "Rain Dance" while the albums Share the Land (October 1970) and The Best of The Guess Who (April 1971) continued to mine gold status for the band.

On July 17, 1970 the band was invited to perform at The White House for the Nixon family and its guests, but they were asked to eliminate “American Woman” from their set list as a “matter of taste.” “I think someone in the White House — and you can be assured that it wasn’t Mrs. Nixon — pointed out, and they were right, that 'American Woman' was a bit controversial because it wasn’t about American women, it was about commentary,” recalled drummer Garry Peterson in Mike Morsch’s book Vinyl Dialogues: Stories Behind Memorable Albums of the ’70s as Told by the Artists. “But I guess Mrs. Nixon found out, and she said, 'Well, this is not appropriate, we can’t have this.' So they came to our people and said, ‘We would rather you not play this song.’”

According to Peterson, the band was just fine with keeping "American Woman" off the set. "Our attitude was, ‘Fine. We’re here to entertain people and make them feel good. We’re not here to cause problems. So if you’re hiring us and paying us and you don’t want us to play our biggest hit, that’s up to you,’” he noted. “We’re a Canadian band. We weren’t getting on a soapbox and saying, ‘You shouldn’t be in this war!”

The group's next releases, So Long, Bannatyne (July 1971) and Rockin' (February 1972), showed a dropping off in sales, as the band began to experiment with looser and more progressive stylings

Leskiw, after differences with Cummings, left the band suddenly after a show in Corpus Christi, Texas on March 17, 1972. The band played their next show in Fort Worth as a four piece before flying in Donnie McDougall (from the bands Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck and Vicious Circle) from Winnipeg for the next gig in Phoenix on March 19.[7]

In May 1972 they recorded their favorably reviewed album Live at the Paramount (August 1972), which was recorded at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.[15]

After the Paramount shows, bassist Jim Kale was let go, reportedly after the recording of the first night at the Paramount was unusable when Kale was inebriated and out of time. He went on to join Scrubbaloe Caine. Winter's former band mate from Brother, Bill Wallace, came in to take over bass guitar duties. This preceded an overseas tour with Three Dog Night in November–December 1972 to Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

The Guess Who's next studio album, the highly acclaimed Artificial Paradise (January 1973), was another sales disappointment to the band, as was #10 (June 1973).

Cummings, Wallace and Winter wrote the Guess Who's last big hit, "Clap for the Wolfman", which reached #4 in Canada and #6 in the U.S. and which was an homage to disc jockey Wolfman Jack, who lent his voice to the recording. The song appeared on Road Food (April 1974), which also contained the hit "Star Baby"(#39), pulling the band out of their career slump, albeit temporarily.

McDougall and Winter were dropped in June 1974. In an interview, Cummings explained why: "They were drinking a bit too much. We got tired of babysitting them". Next up for the guitar slot was hotshot Toronto guitarist Domenic Troiano (from the groups Bush and Mandala, and fresh from a stint in James Gang), who became the new lead guitarist for the band and Cummings' chief songwriting collaborator. Troiano had worked with Cummings, Wallace and Peterson in Los Angeles the month before on a soundtrack to a movie, A Fool, A Fool, I Met a Fool, that was never released.

But the resulting albums, Flavours (October 1974) and Power in the Music (July 1975),[7] had the band moving even further away from the sound of their earlier hit records and Cummings, feeling more and more out of sync with the jazzier & progressive leanings of Troiano and the others, decided to pursue a solo direction and the Guess Who broke up in October 1975. Cummings then went on to forge his own successful career.[16][17]


In November 1977 CBC approached the band about a reunion. Cummings and Bachman, who were working together at the time, were not interested since they were busy with their solo careers. Kale, Peterson, Winter and McDougall did respond, however. Kale was on tour in Kenora, Ontario, and contacted Cummings and Bachman about using the Guess Who name. They both gave him their blessing for the one-time use, but soon after, Kale found out that the name "The Guess Who" had never been registered. He promptly drove back to Winnipeg to register it, and maintains control of the band name to this day.

Bassist Kale decided to continue on with the Guess Who from that point, initially joined by returning members Kurt Winter (guitars) and Don McDougall (lead vocals and guitar), as well as new recruits David Inglis (lead guitars) and Vance Masters (drums). Masters had been drummer in the Winnipeg group Brother with Winter and Bill Wallace.

The Guess Who, 2008

A new studio album called Guess Who's Back was recorded at Roade Recording Studios in Winnipeg and released in Canada on the Aquarius label to minimal attention in July 1978. Winter dropped out shortly after the album's release, but the remaining quartet soldiered on and recorded a second Aquarius album, All This For a Song, retooling some of this album's songs for an American release in February 1979 on the Hilltak label, also titled All This For a Song. Four of the eight tracks contained on Guess Who's Back also appear in the American version of All This For A Song, some in re-recorded form; the rest of the album's tracks are new. As was the case with Guess Who's Back, this album, featuring a more guitar based sound and minus Cummings' distinctive voice and piano, was a commercial and critical flop.

Ralph Watts, who had been recording engineer on Guess Who's Back, joined the band on the road on guitar and keyboards during the second half of 1978 but left after landing the house engineer position with Century 21 Recording Studios.

In the meantime, Bachman, Cummings, Peterson and Wallace got together for a one-time-only appearance as "The Guess Who" for the CBC Television special Burton Cummings: Portage & Main, filmed on November 4, 1979 and aired on CBC on February 2,1981.

Kale left the band for a spell (in 1979–1980) and was involved with other projects as the others (McDougal, Masters, guitarist Bobby Bilan, bassist Brian Sellar and keyboardist Jimmy Grabowski) continued on touring as "The Guess Who" without him. But by 1981, he had taken back the Guess Who name and that year a completely new Guess Who line-up (Kale, former Crowbar drummer Sonnie Bernardi and guitarists Dale Russell and Mike McKenna) put out a new studio LP called Now And Not Then on the El Mocambo label, featuring new vocalist/keyboardist Brent DesJarlais. The album was released only in Canada and Germany (on Line Records).

At this point, the band found themselves in ever increasing demand to play shows, mostly in the US, from fans who remembered fondly their 60s & 70s hits but were mostly unaware of the current non-involvement of Burton Cummings, who'd been the singer of those hits. Kale and DesJarlais toured as "The Guess Who" in 1981, joined by Brian Tataryn (guitar), Ken Curry (drums) and a returning David Inglis (who was gone again by 1982).

In 1983 Bachman, Cummings, Kale and Peterson (the "American Woman" line-up) reunited as "The Guess Who" to play a series of Canadian gigs and record the Together Again live album and video at the Canadian National Exhibition bandshell on June 29, 1983. The concert and subsequent releases were the first time Bachman had performed many of the songs written and recorded after his departure. Four new studio recordings were also made (with audience noise overdubbed on the album).

After the reunion, Cummings resumed his solo work, Bachman took Peterson with him to a Bachman-Turner Overdrive reunion album and tour, and Kale once again resumed touring with various musicians under "The Guess Who" banner. In the fall of 1983, Russell and Bernardi joined Kale in a GW lineup that also contained singer Trevor Balicky and keyboardist Mike Hanford (from the popular 60s Winnipeg outfit Gettysbyrg Address). In 1985 Balicky was succeeded by former Stilettos singer Bob Fuhr and then Kenny Carter (in 1986). Terry Read (formerly with The Lyme) came in briefly to sub for Hanford in 1986.

In 1987 a four-song cassette of new material from the Kale/Russell/Bernardi/Hanford/Carter line-up appeared, called Guess Who '87. In one of the few mainstream reviews it received, Craig MacInnis of the Toronto Star opined, "The playing is roadhouse sloppy and the songs are pure junk."

After the BTO reunion played itself out, Drummer Peterson returned to the Guess Who just after the release of Guess Who '87 but from this point on the GW mostly concentrated on the by now very lucrative US nostalgia circuit, appearing on bills, like Super 70s (in the summer of 1988) with Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Rare Earth, Mark Farner and Ray Sawyer (of Dr. Hook) and Dick Clark's American Bandstand Tour in 1989.

In 1989 Tom Whinnery stepped in for Hanford but was himself replaced by keyboardist/flautist/saxophonist Leonard "Lewsh" Shaw (from Ian Thomas's band) in 1990. And vocalist Terry Hatty (ex-Sam Moon) took over from Carter in 1991.

A new Guess Who studio album on Aquarius, Liberty (also issued as Lonely One on the Intersound label), with Terry Hatty singing, was released in July 1995. As with Guess Who 87, virtually no attention was paid to it in the mainstream press and the few reviews of the album were almost all overwhelmingly negative.

In May 1997 with their hometown of Winnipeg facing a potentially disastrous flood that had already taken cities south of the border, Bachman and Cummings reunited in Winnipeg for the first time in 10 years in an emotional fund raiser for disaster relief organized by Tom Jackson.[18]

In 1997 former Coney Hatch singer Carl Dixon joined the current GW lineup and Kale (who still owned the Guess Who trademark) stepped down from touring later in 1998, as popular bassist Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve (ex-Streetheart) was called in as his successor.

The Guess Who in the 2000s

On August 8, 1999, Cummings, Bachman, Kale and Peterson reunited once again in response to a personal request from the Premier of Manitoba to appear at the closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games at Winnipeg Stadium.[19]

The following year, Cummings, Bachman, Kale and Peterson were joined by Don McDougall as they were offered a reunion tour. In the meantime, the current lineup of Dixon/Shaw/Russell/Sinnaeve continued to tour, finishing up already booked dates with drummer Charlie Cooley filling in for Peterson, who was rehearsing for the reunion tour with the others. The reunion led to a cross-Canada and US tour for the band beginning in 2000, although health problems precluded Kale's involvement. Bill Wallace, who was Kale's replacement in 1972, was brought in as his successor once again and this line-up of the band played and toured regularly through the end of 2003. A live album and DVD release, Running Back Thru Canada, followed the 2000 tour.

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

In 2001 the band received honorary doctorates at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. For former lead vocalist Cummings, it was a privilege to receive the doctorate, since he did not graduate from high school. That same year the group was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[20] It was the then-current iteration of the group that received this honour: only the signatures of Bachman, Cummings, McDougall, Peterson and Wallace are engraved into the commemorative stone.

In 2003 The Guess Who 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.[21]

As of 2004, Bachman, Cummings, McDougall and Wallace ended their association with the band, and Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, who lawfully own the trademark "The Guess Who",[22] resumed their Guess Who touring schedule of around sixty dates a year, with "Lewsh" Shaw back on keyboards, Carl Dixon on vocals and 1979-1980 GW guitarist Bobby Bilan, who was replaced by Laurie MacKenzie in 2006.

In 2007 Bachman and Cummings renewed their association as collaborative recording artists: unable to use the Guess Who name, they issued the album Jukebox as "Bachman Cummings".

The Guess Who continue to perform live dates on a regular basis. Dixon continued as the group's lead singer through 2008, until he was injured in an automobile accident in Australia on April 14 of that year, which left him unable to perform with the group.[23][24] Derek Sharp replaced him in the lineup and Dixon has since made a full recovery.

Drummer Brian Tichy (formerly of Foreigner and Whitesnake) filled in for Peterson in the summer of 2010 and again for some shows in 2013 and 2015.

In September 2012 Stan Miczek (from Sass Jordan's band) came in briefly to fill in for Kale.

The current Guess Who line-up consists of Derek Sharp (vocals, guitars, since 2008), Will Evankovich (guitars, backing vocals, since 2014), Leonard Shaw (keyboards), Jim Kale (bass) and Garry Peterson (drums).[22]

On January 30, 2016 Carl Dixon appeared as a guest with the band, singing and playing alongside Sharp, for the very first time since his 2008 accident, at South Florida Fair West Palm Beach. Charlie Morgan (ex-Elton John and Orleans) filled in on drums for Peterson at this show.[22]

In the summer of 2016, bassist Jim Kale decided to take time off from the road and was subbed, first by Brent Fitz, then by Michael Devin (from Whitesnake), followed by Rudy Sarzo (ex-Quiet Riot).[22]


Original Canada LPs


The Silvertones

Allan and the Silvertones

Chad Allan and the Reflections

Chad Allan & the Expressions (Guess Who?)

The Guess Who



See also


  1. John Tobler (1991). Who's who in rock & roll. Crescent Books. p. 1988. ISBN 978-0-517-05687-5.
  2. Robert Miklitsch (1 February 2012). Roll Over Adorno: Critical Theory, Popular Culture, Audiovisual Media. SUNY Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7914-8187-5.
  3. Shirley R. Steinberg; Michael Kehler; Lindsay Cornish (2010). Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 377. ISBN 978-0-313-35080-1.
  4. "Juno Awards". Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  5. "The Guess Who biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  6. Einarson, John. American Woman: The Story of The Guess Who; Quarry Press, Ontario, Canada, pp. 35-39
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Einarson, John. American Woman: The Story of The Guess Who; Quarry Press, Ontario, Canada,
  8. "The Guess Who - His Girl". Chart Stats. 1967-02-18. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  9. The Guess Who - Canada's First Supergroup (Part One) Rewind with Michael Enright. Retrieved Sep. 10, 2014.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Edwardson, Ryan. Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music. University of Toronto Press. pp. 130–131.
  11. "The Guess Who - Let's Go - Music".
  12. "Billboard - Google Books". 1973-09-29. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  13. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 259. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  14. Adam White & Fred Bronson (1988). The Billboard Book of Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-8285-7.
  15. "Live At The Paramount Review". Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  16. "The Guess Who Bio, History, Info on JamBase". Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  17. "Canadian - Guess Who". Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  18. "CBC Television Special: Rockin' on the Red River". CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  19. "'Best ever' Pan Am Games end". CBC News. 9 August 1999. Archived from the original on 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  20. "The Guess Who". Canada's Walk of Fame. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  21. "CBC News - Toronto Rocked". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  22. 1 2 3 4 "The Guess Who". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  23. "Canadian singer Carl Dixon fighting for life in Melbourne". Herald Sun. April 16, 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  24. Perkins, Martha (2009). "Lucky to be alive, happy to be home". Haliburton Echo. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
Preceded by
Grey Cup Halftime Show
Succeeded by
Sass Jordan and Michel Pagliaro
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