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Randy Bachman is a Canadian treasure. Not only did he have chart-topping success in The Guess Who with songs like These Eyes, Undun, and American Woman, but he achieved even greater success with his band, Bachman, Turner Overdrive, selling nearly 30 million albums worldwide.
The iconic guitarist/singer/songwriter is bringing BTO to the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor this Friday June the 14th for what promises to be a “ride through musical history” of all of his greatest hits.

“I have a great love in my heart for Windsor.”


With a warm smile, Randy reflected, “It was at a Husky truck stop at one in the morning and a record label told us to get a new name. It was me and my brothers and Fred Turner, and at the time, if you were called Bachman or Turner, they thought you were like Seals and Crofts, two guys with acoustic guitars singing Summer Breeze, and we were rocking our faces off.”

“I was paying at the cash register, and there were magazines beside it. The magazine was called Overdrive. I looked at it and went, “Wow, centerfold.” I opened the centerfold and it’s not a naked chick. It’s the inside of a guy’s cab with leopard skin, a book, a little lunch pail, and all this stuff. And I say to Turner, this is an incredible name for an album, Overdrive.” And he says, “No, it’s an incredible name for the band.” So, I grabbed a napkin and I wrote “Bachman”, and under it, “Turner” and under that “Overdrive”. I phoned the label the next morning and he said, “Phenomenal name, but it’s too long.” I said, “Well, how about BTO?” He goes, “Wow!”

“We then went to get our album picture taken outside of Mushroom Studios in Vancouver. We found this big hill with a little gas station and a field, and because the grass was three or four feet high, it looked like we were in the prairies. The photographer was saying, “Randy, move over here, back up a little bit, and I fall over backward and I look down and there’s this thing in the grass. It’s a gigantic eight-foot wooden gear. I said, “Holy cow, this is amazing. And Fred says, “It looks like an overdrive gear from a Ferrari.” I asked the guy, “What is this? He said, “Oh, my brother runs a sawmill in Chilliwack and that’s the gear they used to make the mold for the metal gear that runs the sawmill. That became the front of BTO One.”

“Two years later, I was building a house, and I wanted a big room with a big wagon wheel light in the middle. My house was so big, the wagon wheel looked like a dime. So, I called the guy back and asked, “Do you still have that big wooden gear in the back?” He said, “Give me $100.” I bought three big hooks, a tow truck chain, sockets, light bulbs, hung it up and that became my main office. But that’s the history of the gear and it ended up being a life changer.”

“And then Rosalie played songs from Brave Belt, and then BTO. Boom. She also got us going with Shaking All Over in 65 and then with These Eyes. She was the one in Canada who played it. Nobody else would play it until it was a hit in the US, then suddenly CHUM is playing it and everybody else.”

2023 was a rough year for Randy Bachman. On January 12 of last year, his younger brother and BTO bandmate Robbie passed away. 106 days later his brother Tim died after a battle with cancer. Fred Turner, BTO’s bassist and gravelly-voiced singer is taking a pass on this tour but has given Randy his blessing to tour under the BTO name.

“When we play a show, you’ll see Fred on the screen and Robbie on screen playing drums. Fred will be singing Roll On Down the Highway and Let it Ride on screen, and everybody singing with him. I just finished a rock and roll cruise, and if you’re one of the original guys and you created the music, sang it, or played it, people want to hear that. There’s something about being together with five or ten thousand strangers, and for that moment in time, it’s like a gospel meeting where everyone is singing Taking Care of Business.”

Randy’s son Tal will be joining BTO for this tour. Tal had a big hit 25 years ago with “She’s So High” which is still played frequently on rock radio.

“I feel very blessed and fortunate. He played as my drummer when my drummer broke a leg riding the forbidden motorcycle. I always say to the guys in my band, no skydiving, no motorcycle riding, none of this stupid stuff where you’re going to break something and you can’t play your gig.”

“Tal drummed for me on a couple of albums and tours, and then when I had a serious issue with playing guitar he just came and sat in, and he quit school, which I thought was great. How many fathers call their kids and say, leave university behind, come on the road, let’s rock and roll? When he plays” She’s So High” during our show, people go crazy. A lot of people didn’t realize he was my son, so that’s great.”

Neil Young was another local musician in Winnipeg in the early ’60s who was among Randy’s circle of friends. They shared a lot of experiences and influences as teenagers and it was Neil who recommended to Randy that he ask Fred Turner to join his band Brave Belt in 1972.

“I lived in West Kildonan, which is the north part of town and Neil lived on the other side of the river, and Fred lived on the other side. We would all go to downtown Winnipeg every Saturday and two blocks apart were Hudson’s Bay, and Eaton’s. Both of them had a record department, and in between were all little record stores and music stores, and they had a restaurant. So, we would go down there every Saturday after watching Bandstand, and talk about who was on and meet Neil Young and Burton Cummings, all the musicians. We’d say, “Where’d you play last night?” so it was like our Internet. We’d always stop in between and look in the music stores We’d go and look in the window at these guitars that we just saw on American Bandstand. So, I bought one of the guitars. Two weeks later, Neil bought another orange Gretch. Mine got stolen in 76 and we found it two years ago in Tokyo. There’s a documentary being done about my guitar being gone for 47 years and how it found me.”

Like many kids in the ‘50s, seeing Elvis for the first time was a moment that changed his life.

“I played classical violin from the age of five to 14 and all you play is melody. You’re either playing melody or counter melody. I realized after a time, when I auditioned for the Winnipeg Junior School Symphony for second violin, I wasn’t reading the music, I was playing by ear.

When I go there, I keep making the same mistake. The guy says, “Bar 32, 2nd violin, it’s an e flat, not an e-natural. Let’s take it from the top. We take it from the top. I get to the same place, I play the same note. Second violin. What don’t you understand about an e flat? I don’t know what an e flat is. So, there’s 85 kids laughing at me. I pack up the violin and I go home.”

“My mother says, how’d it go? I said, “I’m never going back. I am quitting violin. Everyone’s laughing at me. I can’t read the music that they’re all playing.” The next day my aunt who was a little bit older than me comes over and they’re watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan. They’re going crazy in our living room watching a little black and white tv. I said, “What’s that?” She said, “That’s called rock and roll, that’s called Elvis, and that’s a guitar.” Well, I want to do that.”

One of the biggest influences in Randy’s early years was American/Canadian guitarist Lenny Breau. Lenny’s unique fingerstyle technique and jazz chords can be heard in many of Randy’s compositions.

“So, I started to play guitar, but I was entranced by Elvis because that was on the radio at the time. We’re talking about Winnipeg so kind of a country rock station and now they’re going to rockabilly. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis, a little bit of Chuck Berry coming in, and a band comes to town from Maine. The main guy was like Roy Rogers, a Nudie suit, cowboy hat, fringes. He was called Hal Lone Pine. His wife was called Betty Cody. And his son, who played guitar, went by Lone Pine Junior, real name was Lenny Breau. And they played live on the radio every Saturday on CKY at noon. I’d listen and they’d say, “We’re going to take a break and let junior play.” And I’d hear this wonderful guitar music coming out of my radio.”

“They went to different car lots every Saturday doing car promotion, and there would be coffee and donuts. When they played at my end of town, I’d get on my bicycle and ride there because I wanted to see junior play. There is this guy standing there playing an orange Gretch, and it sounds like three guys playing.”

“I’m staring at him, and I see his thumb is going, boom, boom and his fingers are playing the lead line. So, I said to him, “I need to learn to play like that, where do you live? He told me the address and I said, “Wow, I’ve got girlfriends that live right across the street. They’re twins and I go to their house every day for lunch. Can I come over to your house and learn to play this way?”

“So, the mother would make us soup and a sandwich, the twins would go back to school, and I’d go across the street to Lenny’s house.”

“Six months later, my mother says, “There’s something wrong with your report cards. It says you’ve missed 62 afternoons.” I said, “I have something to tell you. I’ve been skipping school every afternoon, but I’ve now learned five Chet Atkins and three Merle Travis LP’s and a Chuck Berry LP and Dwayne Eddie. I’m now going to be a guitar player. And my mother says, “Okay, good luck.”

“When I met Lenny Breau, he’d been playing guitar for ten years. I played for like ten weeks. I was his conduit to kids his age because he quit school when he was ten. He could hardly read or write, but he was a musical maniac. He was now into Carlos Montoya, Howard Roberts and Barney Kessel. He was into jazz. I said, “I’ve got to learn those jazz chords.” So, he got me the Mickey Baker Guitar Course. – One, two and three. I recommend those to anybody. Once you learn that, wow.”

“When you hear an old Chet Atkins album, he did classical and country and jazz and hillbilly and rock and roll. He played on a lot of the Everly Brothers hits. Once you can play with all your fingers and you can pick it out in your head, to hear Dwayne Eddie play single notes like Rebel Rouser, it was a piece of cake. So, my first gig was with a band that evolved into The Guess Who.”

“Burton and I wrote lyrics and music that are very pop, but if you try to play it… People have said, “How did you write these eyes? How did you write Undun?” Well, you get this chord and play that chord and find a melody, a note in that chord and the next note in the next chord, and you make a melody line, and then some lyrics to fit the notes that you’re playing. That’s how you write songs.”

“I wrote every song differently with Burton. Some are from a title, some from a guitar riff, and some from a chord progression. You get whatever fits. You put it together.”

“I’ve never had and I don’t believe Burton’s ever had what they call writer’s block. You write from anything. I put on the TV and you get stuff that guys are saying on the news. Let it Ride, Taking Care of Business, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. These are all sayings I heard on the street or from people yelling at each other on Jerry Springer.”

Back in 2018, Randy released “By George – By Bachman”, a tribute album to George Harrison.

“I got invited to Liverpool by a friend of mine in Calgary who has the rights to the Beatles stage show. It was John Lennon’s birthday and the show was called “Let it Be”. I stayed at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel in the John and Yoko room. His half-sister Julia comes and gives everybody John Lennon glasses and bakes brownies that their mother used to make. He didn’t like birthday cake, he liked brownies with walnuts in them.”

“I went to The Cavern and saw all the Beatles stuff and then I thought, well, George was the youngest Beatle and I used to sing all the George songs when the Beatles came out. If you’re a lead guitar player, you were designated to sing George’s songs. Our drummer sang Ringo songs and the best singer sang Paul’s songs.”

“So, I knew a whole bunch of George’s songs and his birthday was coming up and you know the British saying, “By George.” I’ll call it By George, By Backman. I’ll get a bunch of George’s songs and treat them as a songwriter, I can’t do any better than he or the Beatles did but I will reinvent these songs as a songwriter and hopefully put a new, fresh coat of paint on them. Some of them were really fantastic and some of them fell flat, but I didn’t care. It was just fun. I went and closed BB King’s club in New York. I was the last guy to play there. The people in New York loved it.”

“Tal and I now do the Beatles Musical Mystery Tour on Sirius satellite. We’re into our third year now and we’re doing the big Beatles convention in July in Chicago. Their 50th anniversary of playing Soldiers field. We’ll be there for three days with Peter Asher and Billy J. Kramer and all these other guys who are still alive. Jerry Marsden, you know, Jerry and The Pacemakers. We’re having a lot of fun.”

In December of last year, Randy and Burton Cummings launched a lawsuit against the current band touring as The Guess Who. In April, Burton escalated the battle by terminating the performing rights agreements for all the Guess Who songs he wrote, removing the copyright protections that allow the band to perform any of his hit songs live.

“I’m with Burton on this, by the way. The two of us are doing this. It’s kind of unfair to people. It’s been going on for 20 years, but we weren’t really aware of it. Because of Covid, now everybody’s sharing on Instagram or YouTube, and we’re getting complaints because people now have access to us and our websites. “We went to see you guys and you weren’t there.” “We drove 400 miles and paid $600.00 for four tickets.”

These guys weren’t even born when the songs were hit songs. We can’t do anything to them for using the name. That was stolen and trademarked. We didn’t know about it, and if you don’t oppose a trademark or copyright, it becomes historical. But what they were doing was false impersonation, false advertising, which is what Burton got them for. And he made a good move on that to shut them down.”

“On this BTO tour we do every BTO hit and we do album cuts, like “Take It Like a Man”, “Give Me Your Money”, Blue Collar”. In the old days you didn’t have singles. You had very repetitive airplay on album cuts. I also take a moment in the show and say, “I was in another band called the Beatles, but they were called the Guess Who. And I do a three or four-song medley of Guess Who stuff and then again later on in the set because a lot of people just want to hear Undun, and so we do it.”

This is a ride through musical history based on Winnipeg, with stories about Burton Cummings, Fred Turner, Neil Young, and myself, and how we all came out of that. We’re all still alive and rockin’ in the free world. If you get to see Neil Young, I know he’s playing London, Ontario.

It might be the last time you ever get to see us because we didn’t go anywhere for three years and now, we get to go to all these places again and we can’t play them all at once.



As seen in the 2024 issue #70:

519 Issue 70 June 2024 - Web


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