Canadian Allan Kowbel began using the stage name Chad Allan and began forming groups as early as 1958. In 1962 the group had become Chad Allan and the Reflections and the group included Randy Bachman on guitar, Jim Kale on bass, Garry Peterson on drums, and Bob Ashley on keyboards. Their first few singles didn’t do too well, but in 1965 they released Shaking All Over as Chad Allen and the Expressions (another group called the Reflections had a hit with (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet. The record got up to #22 in the US and was a number one single in Canada.
Bob left the group and was replaced by Burton Cummings. Chad began having trouble singing and decided to leave the group and return to college.
The new group recorded an album to follow up their single, and the record company inserted the words “Guess Who?” between the title Shaking All Over and the group’s name, Chad Allen and the Expressions. The intent was to fool record buyers into thinking it was secretly a British Invasion group, but it doesn’t look like anybody was fooled. Of course, by now Chad Allen was gone, so from that point on the group was billed as The Guess Who.
The Guess Who appeared weekly on a Canadian television show performing covers of current hits. That led to a promotion with Coca-Cola, and that led to a new contract with a new production company and a new label and…a hit record. In 1969 they released These Eyes, which sold over a million copies and reached #6 in the Hot 100.
They followed up that surprise success with three more top ten singles and the number one smash American Woman in 1970. Pat Nixon prohibited the group from singing that song at the White House, perhaps due to the sound of the lyric, “Good-bye American Bitch.” They probably played the B-side of the record instead – No Sugar Tonight.
The band recorded several songs towards their next album, but Randy left the group due to his unhappiness with the drugs and other lifestyle choices the rest of the group was making (and, no doubt, because his conversion to Mormonism left him at odds with the rest of the group). Those recordings were set aside, and Randy was replaced by a series of guitar players.
The next single did not do as well as those Randy had played on. Hand Me Down World only got as high as #17 in the US although it kept their string of top ten Canadian singles going. The band even played the song on The Midnight Special.
The Guess Who had a half-dozen more top forty records before Burton left in 1975. Burton subsequently had a few solo hits from 1976 to 1977 beginning with the top ten record Stand Tall.
Randy formed Brave Belt in 1971 and that group eventually morphed into Bachman-Turner Overdrive and BTO and had a number of hits.
Jim was the first group member to realize that the group’s name had never been registered and became the owner of the name “The Guess Who.” He formed and led various groups on the oldies circuit through his permanent retirement 2018. Randy and Burton joined Jim’s group a few times, and they all even recorded a live album together in 2009. There is still a group appearing with the name although Garry is the only original member still playing in it.
It’s been forty years, but they still haven’t had a call from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.