Musical talent often flowers at an early age. In Randy Bachman’s case, it was at the tender age of three when he won a Winnipeg radio talent show contest. Though he began his musical journey on the violin, he became interested in guitar as a young teenager. At age 13, in his hometown of Winnipeg, he met one of the biggest musical influences of his life, fellow teenager and brilliant jazz guitarist Lenny Breau.
Following this enriching formative period, Randy saw Elvis on TV and was bitten by the rock and roll bug. In his late teens, he began his career as a pop musician, hooking up with Chad Allan in the early 1960s to form Chad Allan and The Expressions which would later become The Guess Who.
The band name came by fluke, courtesy of a clever promotional gimmick for the release of their first hit in 1965, Shakin All Over. Back then, Canadian musicians had spotty luck in gaining airplay with their music. So, a plain album cover went out, containing the words, Guess Who? Some people thought they had a new British band on their hands. The hook worked – disc jockeys played the music and the name stuck.
When Burton Cummings joined the group, Randy met his match and the two young lads became a highly potent songwriting duo. The gold and platinum hits came: These Eyes, Laughing, No Time, and the granddaddy of them all, American Woman. The song was the first No. 1 Billboard chart hit for any Canadian band and remained in the top spot for three weeks.
By 1970, The Guess Who had sold more records than the entire Canadian recording industry, even outselling The Beatles that year. But 1970 was also the year that Bachman decided to leave the band to pursue his own ambitions. He linked up with his younger brother, Rob, Chad Allan, and eventually Fred Turner to form a country-rock outfit called Brave Belt.
After two mildly successful album releases, Brave Belt almost packed it in. But an 11th-hour offer from a record label injected new life into the boys. They changed their name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive and decided to give it one last try. Incredibly, Randy enjoyed a ride at the top of the charts all over again, cranking out several monster radio hits, beginning with Takin’ Care of Business and followed by You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, which reached Number 1 in more than 20 countries. Other Bachman-penned hits included the jazz-influenced Lookin’ out for #1, Let it Ride, and Hey You.
Bachman’s career has been built upon his infinite capacity and desire to create music. He has released numerous albums throughout the years, and has simultaneously written songs for and produced the albums of other artists. His production/writing work with Canadian rock band, Trooper, generated gold and platinum records in the 1970s and, in 1975, he won a Juno for his work with them.
His musical genius led him to collaborate with contemporaries, like the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson. But Bachman is equally enthusiastic in working with developing songwriters. He has written songs for Juno-nominated female vocalist Maren Ord, Canadian Idol winners Ryan Malcolm and Kalan Porter, as he continues to help other young artists get established in the music business.
In 1987, The Guess Who was inducted into the Canadian Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. The band came back to stand tall in their hometown of Winnipeg, when they headlined the Pan-American Games in 1999. The same year, Lenny Kravitz covered their signature hit, American Woman, introducing a new generation to this timeless rock and roll gem. The song can be found on many movie soundtracks, most notably in “Austin Powers 2, The Spy Who Shagged Me”. Successful Guess Who reunion tours followed across North America in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Many have recognized Bachman’s touch with both music and lyrics. Hal Leonard published a Bachman song collection, complete with arrangements for choir, marching band and jazz ensemble; artists as diverse as James Last and Alabama have recorded his songs. In 2001, SOCAN recognized him and Cummings jointly for their success with These Eyes and No Time. The honour was only a tiny symbol of his success, as he has earned more than 120 gold and platinum album/singles awards and amassed more than 40 million records sold over his 40-year career.
Bachman entered the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and was given a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award that same year. His former high school in Winnipeg named its music complex after him and his personal archives are housed in the National Archives of Canada. The publishing house, McArthur and Company, issued his autobiography, “Takin’ Care Of Business,” in 2000.