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Randolph Charles "Randy" Bachman, OC OM (/ˈbækmən/; born September 27, 1943) is a Canadian musician best known as lead guitarist, songwriter and a founding member of the 1960s and 1970s rock bands The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Bachman was also a member of Brave Belt with Chad Allan, Union and Ironhorse, and has recorded numerous solo albums.
He is also a national radio personality on CBC Radio, hosting the weekly music show, Vinyl Tap.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Karl (Charlie) Bachman and Anne (Nancy) Dobrinsky, Bachman is of half German and half Ukrainian ancestry. At age three, he won a singing contest on CKY's King of the Saddle program and age 5 he had started studying the violin in the Royal Toronto Conservatory system. He studied violin until the age of 12 when he grew dissatisfied with the structured lessons. He found that while he couldn't read music, he could play anything if he heard it once; he referred to it as his phonographic memory.
At age 15, Bachman saw Elvis Presley play on Tommy Dorsey's television show and the sight of the guitar around Presley's neck inspired him. He learned three chords from his cousin, then started practicing on a modified Hawaiian dobro. At age 16, Bachman met up with Lenny Breau; over the next two years Breau taught Bachman finger picking and also introduced him to the music of Chet Atkins.
In 1959 Bachman bought a ticket to see Les Paul in concert at a Winnipeg supper club but could not get in as he was too young. He instead helped Paul set up before the show and also helped him reload everything into the car after the show. Still a budding guitarist at this point, Bachman asked Paul if he could teach him a guitar lick; Paul ended up teaching his version of "How High the Moon".
He was initially a good student at school until he took up the guitar, when he focused on that instrument to the exclusion of his education. He passed Grade 9 at Edmund Partridge Junior High School, but repeated both the 10th and 11th grades, initially at West Kildonan Collegiate. In his second year of Grade 11, he was placed in a class of students who mostly either "flunked or dropped out and came back", and was asked to be class president by the teacher, who thought he had "discipline and determination" because he had been playing violin since the age of five. He was expelled from West Kildonan in the middle of that year because of his "lack of studiousness", and finished his schooling at Garden City Collegiate. He went on to study business administration at what is now Red River College, but did not graduate.
The Guess Who:
In 1960, Bachman and Chad Allan co-founded Al and The Silvertones in Winnipeg. By 1962, the band changed their name to Chad Allan and the Expressions and later to The Guess Who. In 1965, the Guess Who had a #1 hit in Canada with their cover of Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over", which also charted in the U.S. at #22. In 1966, Chad Allan left the band and Burton Cummings became the primary vocalist. Between 1966 and 1968, The Guess Who labored mostly in their home country, releasing a few singles that managed to crack the Top 40 in Canada. In early 1969, the group finally broke through internationally with the hit song "These Eyes", co-written by Bachman and Cummings. The Guess Who released three successful albums over the next two years: Wheatfield Soul (1969), Canned Wheat (1969), and American Woman (1970), which brought them mainstream attention. Bachman wrote or cowrote (primarily with Cummings) most of the group's songs during this period.
In early 1970, the single "American Woman" hit #1 on the U.S. charts, a first for a band from Canada. A group composition, the song critiques the "ghetto scenes" and "war machines" of the U.S., reflecting the Guess Who's experiences of extensive touring in large American cities. With the Vietnam War at its peak, many American males went to Canada to escape US Military service. Bachman left the band at the height of its popularity, shortly after the release of American Woman. He has been quoted as leaving due to the other band members' lifestyle choices conflicting with his then-Mormon beliefs, and because he wanted to spend more time with his brothers and other family members. He was also suffering health problems from the constant touring and needed to be under a doctor's care, something that was difficult to do while on the road.
Brave Belt and Bachman-Turner Overdrive:
Before his departure from The Guess Who in May 1970, Bachman recorded a solo album for RCA Records, Axe, over three days in March 1970. The following year, he formed the group Brave Belt with Chad Allan. Brave Belt released its first LP, Brave Belt I, in 1971. It had much more of a country-rock sound than a rock 'n' roll sound, a departure from both Axe and the albums by The Guess Who. Robbie Bachman, one of Bachman's brothers, was the drummer for Brave Belt, despite being barely 18 years old. Fred Turner subsequently joined Brave Belt on bass and vocals, resulting in a much heavier sound, which led to the departure of Chad Allan, though Allan still contributed two songs to Brave Belt II in 1972.
Left with a three-member lineup, Tim Bachman was added to Brave Belt as the second guitarist. This lineup then signed with Mercury Records in 1973 and changed their name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, often referred to as "BTO". They released their first self-titled album, Bachman-Turner Overdrive in May 1973.
In December 1973, BTO released their second LP, Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. This album brought the band much more success than their debut, largely due to the hits "Takin' Care of Business", which charted at #12 in the U.S., and "Let It Ride", which rose to #23. In 1974, they released the LP Not Fragile, which hit #1 on the album charts. It also contained the #1 single "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" (written by Bachman) and the hit "Roll on Down The Highway", which charted at number 14.
BTO stayed on the charts through the mid-1970s with their next two albums, Four Wheel Drive and Head On and charted more hits with "Hey You", "Take It Like a Man", and the jazz-oriented "Lookin' Out For #1". In late 1976, with the recording of the Freeways album, some disagreements surfaced within the band. Bachman wrote all but one song and sang on every song but two. Some of the other band members felt that they didn't have enough good material to record and wanted to delay the record. The album did manage to chart at #70 in the U.S., but had no hit singles. Bachman left the band in mid-March 1977.
Post Bachman-Turner Overdrive:
After his departure from BTO, Bachman recorded a solo album called Survivor. It did not chart in the U.S. He formed a band with bassist/singer Tom Sparks, called Ironhorse, which released its debut album in 1979. It contained the single "Sweet Lui-Louise", which charted at #36 in the U.S. and #26 in Canada, and did well in Europe, particularly Italy. After the tour for this album, Tom Sparks left the band and was replaced by Frank Ludwig. With Ludwig, Ironhorse released a second album, Everything Is Grey, in 1980. In comparison to the rock sound of the first album, the follow-up album had a more pop sound. In 1981, Fred Turner rejoined Bachman and the band released an album under the name Union. (The Turner-led BTO had broken up in early 1980.) Union released one album, titled On Strike.
1980s and 1990s reunions:
Bachman joined The Guess Who reunion in 1983 with Burton Cummings and other members of the American Woman era. They did a tour of Canada and released a live video performance of it. After The Guess Who reunion ended, Bachman rejoined a new BTO reunion, consisting also of Fred Turner, Tim Bachman, and Garry Peterson of The Guess Who on drums. Robbie Bachman and classic lineup guitarist Blair Thornton chose not to join the reunion. Bachman stayed with this version of the band until 1987, and they put out an album in 1984. The classic Not Fragile lineup reformed in 1988 and toured together until 1991, when Randy again left the group. It was the last time he played with BTO. The Guess Who reunited, including Bachman, on August 8, 1999 in Winnipeg for a performance at the end of the XIII Pan Am Games.
Bachman played on several tours with The Guess Who until July 31, 2003. Both he and Burton Cummings left the band and formed Bachman Cummings. In 2000, he made a guest appearance on The Simpsons as himself with his former Bachman-Turner Overdrive bandmates, C.F. Turner and Robin Bachman. Simpsons creator Matt Groening (whose father is originally from Winnipeg) is a well-known BTO fan. Homer Simpson yells at Bachman to "get to the working overtime part" while playing "Takin' Care of Business".
In 2001, Bachman received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba, along with the other members of The Guess Who. In 2005 Bachman was awarded the Order of Manitoba, the highest award in the Province of Manitoba. Bachman, along with The Guess Who, was also the recipient of The Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's foremost distinction for excellence in the performing arts, in 2002. In 2008, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Bachman has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame twice. First as a member of the Guess Who in 2001, then as a solo artist in 2012.
In the summer of 2005, Bachman started hosting the coast-to-coast show Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio One, where he plays audio recordings and reminisces about personal encounters with famous artists and musicians from his 50-year career in rock. This show runs from 7-9 pm every Saturday night, and can be accessed via the CBC Radio One web site and Sirius channel 159. There is a replay of the Saturday show on the following Friday night at 11 pm. It also repeats on CBC Radio 2 on Sundays at 6 pm.
On July 2, 2005, Bachman performed at the Canadian leg of the global Live 8 megaconcert organized by Bob Geldof.
Bachman helped Kalan Porter on his CD 219 Days. He suggested that Kalan do a drone on his violin on one of his songs, "In Spite of It All". He was also featured in his song "And We Drive", playing a guitar solo near the end of the song.
Bachman tours with his own band, the Randy Bachman Band, and the Bachman-Cummings Band. He has also created a popular theatre show called "Every Song Tells A Story", featuring Bachman live and unplugged with his band, telling the stories behind the writing of his famous hits from the 1960s and 1970s. Bachman and Burton Cummings toured throughout Canada as Bachman & Cummings in the summer of 2006 with Toronto, Ontario's The Carpet Frogs.
Bachman has also released an album of original melodic jazz songs called Jazz Thing, which is available on his official website.
Bachman & Turner Reunion and Heavy Blues:
Bachman and Fred Turner completed a new Bachman & Turner CD that was released in September 2010. A radio pre-release single, "Rollin' Along", was posted in June 2010 for sale on iTunes. The pair launched a two-year world tour (2010-11) under the name Bachman & Turner, which started at the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2010. Other confirmed dates included the High Voltage Festival in London, UK in July 2010 and the Manitoba Homecoming Event in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A new website, http://www.bachmanandturner.com, was launched on April 19, 2010. A sample single, "Rock n' Roll Is the Only Way Out", is posted on the site.
In 2015, Bachman released Heavy Blues, an album inspired by a love of classic 1960s blues rock and featuring musical contributors including Neil Young, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Robert Randolph, and the late Jeff Healey.
Bachman has stated that his guitar sound was influenced by his early violin studies, saying "when I wanted to play a rock solo, I played like it was violin... Violin is mostly slow, melodic stuff. So my guitar solos tend to be smooth, slow lines."
Guitar influences he has mentioned in interviews include Lenny Breau, Leslie West, Wes Montgomery and Hank Marvin.
Bachman's first marriage was to Lorayne Stevenson (1966 to 1977). With Stevenson, Bachman had six children, including Tal Bachman, a recording artist best known for his 1999 top-20 hit song "She's So High". He then married Denise McCann (from 1982 to 2011), and they had one child. They resided on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.
During his early Guess Who years, his Mormon religious beliefs conflicted with the sex, drugs & rock n roll lifestyle of the other band members and caused some bitterness between Bachman and bandmate Burton Cummings.
Bachman has had gastric bypass surgery to reduce his weight.
Bachman had a successful operation on his shoulder in November 2007 to repair a torn rotator cuff, which he has blamed on his decades-long use of heavy, vintage guitars.
Randy Bachman has seven children from two marriages, twenty-six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Despite German-Canadian custom, Bachman says his surname is pronounced /ˈbækmən/ (with a short 'a' sound as in "back"), and he uses this pronunciation when referring to himself. The more common pronunciation of "bock-mən", especially on American radio, became so widespread, however, that he did not bother correcting people after BTO became popular.
1992 Any Road - referred to on the cover simply as Bachman,
1993 Bob's Garage - live 5-track mini-album recorded for a radio show in Seattle,
2001 Every Song Tells A Story,
2004 Jazz Thing,
2006 Bachman-Cummings Songbook - a compilation that features tracks from The Guess Who, Burton Cummings, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.,
2006 The Thunderbird Trax - a compilation of previously unreleased material recorded by Bachman and Cummings in Bachman's tool shed in 1987.,
2007 Jazz Thing II,
2008 Takin' Care of Christmas - a compilation of Bachman performing classic Christmas songs, with the title track being a reworked version of BTO's "Takin' Care of Business".,
2010 Bachman & Turner, with former BTO vocalist/bassist Fred Turner.,
2015 Heavy Blues,
2001 Every Song Tells A Story,
2005 Live 8 Barrie - performs Takin' Care of Business with The Carpet Frogs. Burton Cummings was scheduled to perform with Bachman, but was unable to attend.,
2006 Jazz Thing Live in Toronto (featuring Curtis Stigers, Joel Kroeker, Tal Bachman, Stephan Moccio and Denise McCann Bachman),
2006 First Time Around (with Burton Cummings and The Carpet Frogs as Bachman-Cummings Band)