The Guess Who

Guess Who, TheFrom: Winnipeg, MTB, Canada

The Guess Who started out as a local hit in their home country before they made it big across the border. Singer/guitarist Chad Allan formed the band in 1958, initially calling it Al and the Silverthornes. In 1962, they became known as Chad Allan & The Reflections. The band consisted of Allan (vocals, guitar), Bob Ashley (keyboards), Randy Bachman (guitar), Jim Kale (bass) and Garry Peterson (drums). The Reflections chose their name because it was close to the British group the Shadows, their biggest influence.

Chad Allan & The Reflections’ first single, “Tribute To Buddy Holly,” was released on Canadian-American Records in 1962, and then signed with Quality Records, releasing several singles in 1963/1964 that failed. One of those failed singles was mis-credited to  Bob Ashley & The Reflections. The band was forced to change their name in 1965 once the American band the Reflections had a hit with “Just Like Romeo & Juliet.”

It was under the band’s new name, Chad Allan & The Expressions, that they landed their first hit. In 1965, Chad Allan & The Expressions did a rendition of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over,” reaching #1 in Canada, #22 in America, and #27 in Australia. Quality Records tried to build some mystery around the single, crediting it to “Guess Who?” The hope was that the “Guess Who?” credit was a deliberate mask for several performers working under a pseudonym. Whether or not people were fooled by the antics of Quality is unknown. However, even after it was revealed that the song was actually performed by Chad Allan & The Expressions, disc jockeys continued to announce the group as Guess Who?, forcing the band to rename themselves. On their first two albums, the band was credited as both the Guess Who and Chad Allan & The Expressions.

After the release of “Shakin’ All Over,” the Guess Who found major success in Canada but very little success anywhere else. Ashley left the band in ’65 and was replaced by Burton Cummings (keyboards, vocals) in early 1966. A few months later, Allan left the band and Cummings took on the role as lead singer. The Guess Who? (the question mark was dropped in 1968) dropped the subtitle of Chad Allan & The Expressions around this time. While playing in Saskatchewan in, the Guess Who would cross paths with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, playing many of the same venues.

The Guess Who continued to release top 40 singles in Canada in “Clock on the Wall” and “His Girl,” a song that even reached the UK charts in 1967. Upon their tour of the UK, the band was met with financial disaster, not getting any airplay, and not landing any gigs. However, the band was saved later in 1967 when they landed the job as the house band for the CBC television show Let’s Go. The Guess Who made enough money to pay off their debts and further their credibility in Canada. While on the show, the Guess Who were noticed by many important people in the industry, including record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson. Richardson contacted the band about participating in an advertising project for Coca-Cola, something that turned out to be the recording of a split LP with the Staccatos, later known as the Five Man Electrical Band. A Wild Pair featured the Guess Who on the first side of the album and the Staccatos on the second.

The line-up of the Guess Who began to change, and as a result, so did their sound. Cummings and Bachman were the main composers and moved to a sound based off of rock, blues, and jazz. It is believed that Richardson had such faith in the band that he mortgaged his house to finance their next recordings. These recordings would become the album Wheatfield Soul, featuring the U.S. top 10 hit “These Eyes.” The song sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The 1970s saw the Guess Who take on more of an edgier sound. The album American Woman was released in 1970, and the title track became the band’s only #1 hit in America. “American Woman” was also the first song from a Canadian artist to be #1 on the Hot 100 since the Crew Cuts 1954 version of the Chords song, “Sh-Boom.” The song “No Time” was also a top five hit in the U.S.

The spring of 1970 saw Bachman sidelined due to a gall bladder attack, but the Guess Who continued on touring with American guitarist Bobby Sabellico. Conflicts between Cummings and Bachman led to Bachman’s departure, after one more show show at the Fillmore East on May 16, 1970. Upon his return to Winnipeg, Bachman formed the band Brave Belt, later evolving into Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He was replaced in the Guess Who by Kurt Winter of Brother and Greg Leskiw. Winter was now the main songwriting partner with Cummings, and the Guess Who continued to release a number of hits with songs like “Hand Me Down World,” “Share the Land,” “Hang On to Your Life,” “Albert Flasher,” and “Rain Dance.”

Lewski left before the highly acclaimed show/album Live at the Paramount, and was replaced by Don McDougall. Kale also left the band to be replaced with Winter’s former band mate from Brother, Bill Wallace. The Guess Who would then go on an overseas tour with Three Dog Night in late 1972. Cummings, Wallace, and Winter wrote the last big hit for the band in “Clap For The Wolfman.” The song reached #4 in Canada and #6 in America, and was a tribute to disc jockey Wolfman Jack. McDougall and Winter left the band in June 1974, and Domenic Troiano was brought in as the new lead guitarist, as well as Cummings’ main songwriting partner. The Guess Who broke up in 1975.

Artist information sources include: Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1966 album Wheatfield Soul
Wheatfield Soul

  • Friends Of Mine
  • These Eyes

From the 1969 album Canned Wheat
Canned Wheat

  • 6 A.M. Or Nearer
  • Key [Edited Version]
  • Laughing
  • No Time [Original Version]
  • Undun

From the 1970 album American Woman
American Woman

  • American Woman
  • No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
  • No Time
  • Proper Stranger
  • Talisman
  • When Friends Fall Out

From the 1970 album Share The Land
Share The Land

  • Hand Me Down World
  • Hang On To Your Life
  • Share The Land

From the 2001 compilation This Time Long Ago
Guess, The - This Time Long Ago

  • Sitar Saga

From the 2001 compilation Shakin’ All Over!
Shakin' All Over!

  • Use Your Imagination