Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Guess Who, BTO co-founder talks shop (exclusive interview)

NORWALK, Ohio — The opening riff of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” is a memorable one for classic rock fans.

Legendary guitarist Randy Bachman co-founded
The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
(Photo courtesy of randybachman.com)
But its creation was purely instantaneous. As was another big hit — “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

“They were written on stage as instant jam sessions,” co-writer Randy Bachman said in a phone interview today with this NORWALK REFLECTOR reporter. “I broke a string and played some riffs.”

In those kind of magical music moments, Bachman said, “You get off stage and try to remember it.”

“That’s what happened with ‘American Woman’ and ‘Takin’ Care of Business,’” the guitarist added.

Bachman had broken a guitar string while playing a concert with The Guess Who at a curling arena in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

With a new string, he said he started tuning his guitar — and out come the opening riff to what would become “American Woman.”
Guitarist Randy Bachman uses these photos on his official website.

“Everybody’s head snapped around,” he said, knowing he had just played something special.

Bachman then turned to lead singer Burton Cummings to continue capturing the moment.

The single "American Woman"
 was released March 28, 1970,
backed with another classic tune by
The Guess Who.
“I said, ‘Sing something,’” said Bachman, the co-founder and principal songwriter for The Guess Who. “The first thing he sang was ‘American woman.’”

The Guess Who tweaked the song for the next few gigs and recorded it Aug. 13, 1969, two weeks after Bachman first strummed that now-classic riff. Released as a single in March 1970, “American Woman” eventually reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bachman, after leaving The Guess Who in May 1970, went on to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, better known to rock fans simply as BTO. Throughout his career, Bachman’s hits have garnered him the coveted No. 1 spot on radio playlists in 20-plus countries and he has sold more than 40 million records.
This is the front cover of HEAVY BLUES.

Over the years, he has released several solo albums.

“(They were) forays into trying to do something and hoping it catches,” Bachman said.

On April 14, he is releasing his latest recording, HEAVY BLUES, under the fitting moniker Bachman.

“We cut the album in five days,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to record.”

The band Bachman opens its tour April 1 in Milwaukee. The tour comes to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on April 4.

HEAVY BLUES features a list of Bachman’s contemporaries — a who’s who of rock music — including Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph and the late Jeff Healey.

“I know them or knew of them,” said Bachman, who admits he was lucky to have such great guitarists play on his album.

“If you never ask, you never get (such musicians),” he added.
British guitarist Peter Frampton, seen here in 1980,
plays on the title track of Randy Bachman's
upcoming solo album, HEAVY BLUES.

Bachman considers HEAVY BLUES a way of honoring artists with blues influences such as Bo Didley and Chuck Berry as well as what he calls the British “power trios” of the late 1960s: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin and Cream.

“I don’t think this blues is a fetish thing,” Bachman said.

Frampton plays on the title track.

 “He’s such a respected guitarist,” said Bachman, who believes this is “some of the best playing I’ve heard from him.”

Not surprisingly, Frampton has a connection to one of Bachman’s bands. Also, he and Randolph — another guitarist on the album — have the same manager.

“(He) used to be my lawyer back in the BTO days. … Frampton opened up for BTO back in the day,” Bachman said.

The guitarist agrees the music industry is full of “good ol’ boy” professional connections, much like sports — but in a positive way.

“Nobody has met just once,” Bachman said with a chuckle.

Want to hear more from my interview with legendary guitarist Randy Bachman? Come back to Cary’s Comics Craze, where he shares why “every gig is a challenge,” the advantage of being a rock musician who lives in Toronto and more connections with Peter Frampton and Robert Randolph. Also, go to Randy Bachman's website for more biographical information.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This feature/interview was written for the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper, where I cover the criminal justice beat and Norwalk City Schools.

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