By Dave Pehling
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The current touring version of legendary Canadian rock band the Guess Who brings classic hits along with songs from their recent album release The Future IS What It Used To Be to Yoshi’s in Oakland this Sunday.
The Winnipeg-based group was founded in 1965 by guitarist/vocalist Chad Allen, but the musician had been leading bands under a variety of different monikers starting back in 1958. It was the line-up of Allen, keyboard player Bob Ashley, guitarist Randy Bachman, bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson that was operating under the name Chad Allen and the Reflections that released a number of singles without making much of a mark. The success of the US group the Reflections with their single “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” was about to force another name change, but when their record label released the band’s 1965 garage-rock cover of Johnny and the Pirates “Shakin’ All Over” anonymously credited to “Guess Who?” the gimmick name ended up sticking.
While the band had continued singles success in Canada, it did not have any international success until after the addition of new keyboardist/singer Burton Cummings in 1966 and the departure of Allen that allowed Bachman and Cummings to take over leadership of the rechristened Guess Who. The pair’s songwriting partnerships scored a hit with “These Eyes” from the band’s 1968 venture into British-influenced psychedelic pop.
The Bachman/Cummings team would produce a string of major radio singles over the next few years, rising to stardom on the strength of the double A-sided 45 “Laughing”/”Undun” and the subsequent breakthrough album American Woman that featured such FM radio standards as “No Time,” “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” and the title track. Even with Bachman’s departure in 1970 (he went on to found another hitmaking band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive), Cumming’s powerful voice and new songwriting partner Kurt Winter would help maintain the Guess Who’s popularity up until the outfit’s dissolution in 1975.
In the decades since that original break up, the group has reconvened both with and without Bachman and Cummings to tour and occasionally record new material. Though reunions of the classic American Woman line-up of the Guess Who stirred the most interest, the longtime rhythm section of Kale and Peterson would anchor their own version of the band with a variety of different lead singers and guitarists filling out the group.
With Kale announcing his retirement from the road earlier this year, the current touring version of the band features Peterson, ten-year band veteran Derek Sharp on vocals and guitar, Will Evankovich on guitar and harp, longtime keyboard player Leonard Shaw and hard-rock journeyman Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake and Blue Oyster Cult) taking over on bass. The Guess Who recently released their first album in 23 years with The Future IS What It Used To Be. Offering a tuneful mix of Rolling Stones swagger, high-harmony vocals and hook-laden, ’80s pop-rock sensibilities, the record purposely aimed to capture an old-school sound by using vintage gear. Styx mainstay Tommy Shaw — who Evankovich worked with as the producer to the last Styx album — co-wrote three tunes. The band performs some of those songs live alongside its ’60s and ’70s hits during two shows at Yoshi’s Sunday night.
The Guess Who
Sunday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. $79-$125