In the late 1960s, The Guess Who had a regular TV gig on the CBC show “Let’s Go.” The producer, Larry Brown, encouraged Bachman and Cummings to write some original material. So, one evening in 1966 while Bachman was waiting for Lorayne Stevenson (his future first wife) to get ready for their date, he began playing some random chords on her piano. He thought the words “These arms” would go nicely with the chords, and recorded his ideas in a Hilroy notebook. The next Saturday, he showed the chords to Cummings, who suggested moving them around and making the first line “These eyes cry every night for you.”
As Cummings later told the “Toronto Star,” they completed These Eyes in just thirty minutes. And as Bachman described in his book “Vinyl Tap”: “From that we wrote a song that would forever change our lives.”
The Guess Who introduced the new These Eyes on “Let’s Go,” where producer Jack Richardson heard it. With Richardson daringly refinancing his home to support the project, in 1968 the band recorded the song at New York City’s A&R studios, with lead singer Cummings playing those now instantly-recognizable staccato opening chords on a Hohner electric piano.
These Eyes became The Guess Who’s first gold record. In Canada it topped out at No. 1 on CHUM February 15, 1969, and No. 7 on RPM. With Richardson’s PR people promoting the song in the USA, it reached No. 4 on Cashbox and Billboard’s No. 6.
The gold record was presented to the band on the “American Bandstand” TV show. The Guess Who’s breakthrough was capped by a 1970 Juno for Top Vocal Instrumental Group, repeated the following year.
A hit 1969 cover by soul singer and saxophonist Junior Walker appeared rapidly (No. 16 on Billboard). These Eyes has since been recorded as reggae (Coxsone Dodd, Stranger Cole), pop (Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole), hip-hop (Maestro), rock (Lawrence Gowan), soul (jacksoul), and R&B (Angie Stone). Michael Cera sings it in the comedy film “Superbad.”
Guitarist Randy Bachman and vocalist/keyboardist Burton Cummings are the formidable Winnipeg-based songwriting duo behind The Guess Who and such hits as American Woman, Laughing, and No Time. Bachman went on to further international success with the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, solo albums, and a national radio show, and Cummings is a platinum-selling solo recording artist. Their many accomplishments include Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards and recognition in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.