In early 2000, Lenny Kravitz walked away from the Grammys with a best male vocal award for his performance of “American Woman.” His pale version of The Guess Who’s hard-edged hit received the recognition the original band never has. The appearances of that song in The Spy Who Shagged Me and American Beauty as well as prominent mentions of the band in Almost Famous did, however, start rebuilding some curiosity about the first band of prominence to emerge from the great white north. The Guess Who are one of the most tragically forgotten bands of their time. Perhaps it was the fact that they had no personal controversies swirling around them. They didn’t even have an out of control frontman to burn their name into the minds of the image conscious American public. It certainly wasn’t the lack of skill or material that rendered them nearly invisible. Songs like “These Eyes,” “No Time” and the still amazing single “Undun” have never left the airwaves. It couldn’t have been the fact that they were too “pop” in an era of political turmoil and chaos because they also did “Share The Land” and “Hand Me Down World.” They even directly took on Vietnam-era America with “Guns Guns Guns” and “American Woman.” I recently had the chance to speak to Randy Bachman and he believes it’s partially because they’re a Canadian band that they don’t receive the recognition they deserve. The guitarist states, “I honestly have to say that there’s a huge disappointment within the band (and) within Canada that we have never been considered for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. (The bands in there have) obviously paid their dues, but some of them have had two or three hits and vanished. The Guess Who have had two dozen hits. There’s just some overlooked thing there.”

   So hoping to polish up their overlooked name and history, original singer Burton Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman have put aside their bad blood and reunited for their first American tour together in 31 years! After selling out every show in Canada on their initial reunion jaunts, The Guess Who turn their eyes on us with a mission to put on the greatest show possible. They’ve even snagged Joe Cocker as their opening act and Bachman promises, “It’s just going to be a continuum of when he starts to when we finish. It’s going to be a four-hour blast for people. I think we have nine cameras, three huge screens, lasers, the old fashioned Fillmore light show. That whole thing is there. We’ve got a new digital sound system that sounds great. A lot of money was spent on the stage and production.” That investment seems to be paying off. So far the tour has been a huge success with critics and fans alike. “Suddenly we’re playing together and drawing more crowds, selling more records and making more money than we did in the ‘70s. Because of Lenny Kravitz (covering “American Woman”) our crowd is 10 and 12-year olds up to 65-year olds,” says Bachman proudly. He seems thrilled and overwhelmed at the response of the audience to the tour. When asked about the older fans, he responded, “They still like to rock. It’s amazing when you look out in the audience and you see a guy who looks like your old high school principal. He’s 65 or 68 and he’s bald with glasses, he’s overweight, he’s struggling with his medication (laughs) and he’s suddenly standing on a chair rocking out. At that moment, he’s twenty years old and he’s boogieing to the song as he did when he was twenty.” That feeling is not limited to the crowd, though, as Bachman adds, “(The reunion) is (like time traveling) because many times onstage in the middle of a song, I look up and I see a twenty-year old Burton Cummings at the piano. And when I see him at twenty, I feel twenty-five (laughs). It’s just very weird, ‘cause there’s sweat in your eyes and you close your eyes and suddenly you have this (feeling of) “How many times have I played this song? Where am I? Am I in Thunder Bay?” And you open your eyes and suddenly you know “I’m in Atlanta or New York and there’s Burton and he looks twenty, but he’s really fifty. It’s a very incredible thing.”

   The most satisfying part of the tour to Bachman seems to be the healing of old wounds with his former band mates. After their nasty breakup, a lot of unkind words were leveled at each other. Though Randy went on to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive and enjoy even more success, the lack of resolution with his first band haunted him. With this current tour, they’ve all had their chance to finally make amends. “There’s a wonderful feeling of closure, a wonderful feeling of forgiving and being forgiven for whatever. We are each others’ oldest friends.  I mean, how often do you see a guy that you played hockey with when you were nine or ten? We decided to leave the old stuff buried. Everything’s very positive and we’re all really grateful to be there,” acknowledges the guitarist.

  This tour is a chance for us all to regale in the legacy of one of the most underrated bands in rock history. Hidden under the shadow of their own great music for three decades, they return into the spotlight to give us all a chance to celebrate their talent with them. Randy Bachman says it best himself when he simply says, “Let’s cheat time for a couple of hours and boogie.”

Chris McKay/



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