From their roots as Chad Allan & The Reflections, The Guess Who rose to become the most popular Canadian rock band of their generation and one of the few Canadian bands to gain any recognition outside their own country.
Changing their name from Chad Allan & The Reflections to Chad Allan & The Expressions in 1965, they achieved a #1 single in Canada with a cover of the Johnny Kidd and The Pirates hit Shakin’ All Over.
Bob Ashley was replaced on keyboards by Burton Cummings, who also contributed joint lead vocals.
The name ‘Guess Who’ was chosen as an attempt to deceive buyers into thinking that the group was a big name British outfit. Chad Allan left and the group elected to continue as a quartet, with Cummings’ singing and songwriting shaping the group into something far more dynamic than in their past.
Substantial Canadian success followed with brief forays into the UK charts, including His Girl (1967).
Albums such as It’s Time (1966) and A Wild Pair (1967) were increasingly successful, but it was Wheatfield Soul (1968) that really established them as a commercial force to be reckoned with.
These Eyes reached the top of the domestic chart and earned the band a more lucrative American contract with RCA. Singles such as Laughing, Undun and No Time provided further hits.
The band’s only US #1 single, American Woman, followed in March 1970. An album of the same name also entered the US Top 10 in 1970 and is widely considered to be The Guess Who at their finest.
Randy Bachman, a devout Mormon, was tiring of the group’s lifestyle, however, and he departed to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He was replaced by Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw, but they failed to bridge the gap that his departure had left.
By 1972, Leskiw and Kale had also departed to be replaced by Don McDougall (guitar) and Bill Wallace (bass). Further line-up shuffles undermined the band’s progress, although Canadian success continued.
They enjoyed their last hit in 1974 with Clap For The Wolfman, but Cummings disbanded The Guess Who the following year.
After a million-selling debut solo single, Stand Tall, Cummings produced an uneven but enthralling sequence of solo albums, the best being his eponymous debut in 1976.
Several unsuccessful reunions were attempted in his absence until 1987, when Cummings and Bachman toured together as The Guess Who for the first time in years.
But when Kale and Peterson enlisted a few helping hands to record Lonely One (1995) as the first new Guess Who album in 15 years, the critical reaction was venomous, with Goldmine magazine describing it as “pathetic and desperate”.