It’s been more than 50 years since the Guess Who lit up the charts with American Woman, and a group of dedicated fans are hoping to see the iconic Winnipeg band enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
GuessWho4TheHall, a national grassroots campaign, is hoping to collect one million signatures by the end of February in an attempt to bring the band and its stellar career to the Hall’s attention and make the Guess Who only its sixth Canadian inductees — joining the likes of The Band, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Rush.
GuessWho4TheHall’s executive director Jenny Motkaluk told Global News the idea was sparked by a group of Winnipeg music fans who were talking about what they’d been listening to during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the conversation turned to the Guess Who, and the fact that they’d never even been nominated for induction into the Hall.
“We decided that it was time that we did something about it,” said Motkaluk. “Of course, being from Winnipeg, we leveraged our networks across the country and decided to build this campaign so we can say loud and proud: Winnipeg loves the Guess Who, Canada loves the Guess Who, and music fans around the world love them.”
“The truth is, I think, for the fans, we love the music and we want to celebrate the legacy. The music of the Guess Who and the legacy of the Guess Who is part of our national identity.”
Motkaluk said the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the “mecca” for rock music, and that Canada has already honoured the band with as many accolades as it can.
Bands are eligible for induction into the Rock Hall 25 years after their first official release, so the Guess Who — whose first recordings as Chad Allan the Expressions date to the mid-1960s — certainly meet the requirements.
The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987, Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001 and received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement in 2002, on top of a laundry list of other honours.
“We think it’s time to celebrate them,” said Motkaluk.
“From a grateful nation to this band and their legacy, we want to say, ‘we love you, and you deserve a place among your peers’.”
The author of a book about the band said the Guess Who, as one of the first Canadian rock bands to have any kind of international success, definitely paved the way for Canadian acts who followed in their footsteps.
“(The Hall of Fame) is probably more important to a lot of Guess Who fans than it is to a lot of the band members themselves,” Robert Lawson, author of Wheatfield Empire, told Global News.
“So to put them on the map and maybe bring back some recognition for the band, especially in the States, where I don’t think they are as well-known as they once were… they definitely have enough hits and enough popularity at their height, more so than some other artists who are in the Hall. Probably for that reason alone, they should have been at least nominated at this point.”
Lawson said it will likely be a long journey to get the band into the Hall, based on the organization’s complicated selection process and internal politics, but he’s happy to support any effort to raise the band’s profile.
“The band is definitely eligible… so there’s no reason for it not to happen,” he said.
“I’m all for anything that brings more conversation about the Guess Who and about Burton Cummings to get more music out there and to make people aware of it.”
The Guess Who remain classic rock radio staples in Canada, and especially at home in Winnipeg, with instantly recognizable singles like These Eyes, No Time, Undun, No Sugar Tonight, and Running Back to Saskatoon, but their rise down south hinged on 1970’s American Woman LP, which broke them into the U.S. top 10 for the first time.
Guitarist Randy Bachman, who left the group shortly after American Woman, had subsequent success with projects like Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and frontman Burton Cummings enjoyed a successful solo career after leaving the Guess Who five years later.
Both have reunited — in various arrangements — with their Guess Who bandmates numerous times over the years, as well as recording and touring together as Bachman Cummings due to legal disputes over the use of the band’s name.
On Tuesday, the Manitoba150 organization announced the duo would be headlining a rescheduled concert at the Manitoba Legislature in honour of the province’s 150th anniversary.
Broadcaster and writer Alan Cross, host of The Ongoing History of New Music, said it’s a no-brainer that the band should be inducted, but the Hall doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to acknowledging acts from outside the U.S.
“The Guess Who were a massive international success in the late ’60s and early 1970s,” said Cross. “In 1970, they sold more records than the Beatles. They were a tremendously huge act from a small prairie city that a lot of people never heard of… and yet they managed to get their music to all corners of the planet.”
“If you can put Whitney Houston in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which I still don’t understand, why can’t you look at the Guess Who? At least give them consideration.”
Although The Guess Who has undergone countless lineup changes and new incarnations since the Bachman/Cummings glory days, a version of the band featuring original drummer Garry Peterson continues to record and perform today. The band’s most recent album, The Future IS What It Used To Be, was released in 2018.
Fans can get involved with the GuessWho4TheHall campaign at https://www.guesswho4thehall.com/.
With files from Marney Blunt