Randy Bachman hopes that recent legal actions against the current version of the Guess Who will help other key members who've lost control of their original groups.

Bachman co-founded the band in 1966 just before Burton Cummings joined. They combined to co-write many of the Guess Who's best-known songs, including the Top 10 hits "These Eyes," "No Time" and "American Woman." Bachman left in 1970 to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive and then the Guess Who split in 1975.

Cummings joined Bachman in a handful of Guess Who reunions but the group eventually moved forward on a permanent basis without them in the late '80s. Original bassist Jim Kale obtained the rights to the name and was soon joined by fellow cofounder Garry Peterson on drums.

READ MORE: How the Guess Who Carried on After Randy Bachman

Kale retired in 2016 and Cummings and Bachman allege in a 2023 lawsuit that Peterson doesn't appear at every Guess Who concert – leaving the lineup without any core members. At the same time, Bachman and Cummings said some of the group's promotional material featured their images. The duo described that as tantamount to fraud.

Bachman said he and his long-time bandmate might never have known if not for social media. "Because everybody was shut down for the last three years, there's no newspaper, there's no Rolling Stone," Bachman tells UCR. "So everybody started communicating with us personally with Instagram, with YouTube, with TikTok."

Fans started sending "shots they had taken with their iPhone," Bachman says. They said, "'We drove 600 miles to see you and [instead saw] a bunch of guys who weren't even born when these songs were hit songs.' 'We spent 100 bucks each, and there's eight of us, and the songs don't even sound like you guys.' '"American Woman" now has a flute solo – and that doesn't fit.' Stuff like that. They started communicating with us directly."

When the legal process continued to drag on, Cummings turned to a drastic, unprecedented option: He terminated the rights agreements on his songs to keep the Guess Who from performing them in concert. The current version of the band was forced to cancel a string of scheduled concerts. Otherwise, Bachman believes they might have continued on forever.

"You can't really stop that because they own the name; they trademarked the name," Bachman concedes. "But it's false advertising; it's fraud to say that. And the thing is, when they're promoting it, they're playing 'These Eyes' and 'American Woman' and 'No Time,' which is me on guitar and Burton singing it – and we wrote them. So, it was a brilliant move to pull the performance [rights] on that away from those guys. Now they can sit and talk. We can talk and do some business."

Former Guess Who Members Losing Big Money

They're admittedly losing a huge source of income, but Bachman and Cummings say the sacrifice is worth it to wrest back some level of oversight of the group they helped build. They also think their efforts could have a positive impact on bands in similar situations, like Little River Band.

"Well, the lawyer who figured this out, I believe she set a precedent," says Bachman, who is auctioning off some 200 of his signature guitars later this month. "I think there should be a court of fairness in the world. Do you know what I mean? I remember there used to be three Fleetwood Macs, three Platters – three whatever. Some guy who swept the floor once or, you know, carried a suitcase claims the name, and he goes out and does the songs."

Graeham Goble, Glenn Shorrock and Beeb Birtles co-founded Little River Band in the mid-'70s but eventually drifted out of its lineup – then lost control of the trademark. "They can't even play as Little River Band and that's totally unfair," Bachman says.

Little River Band is now led by Wayne Nelson, who joined in time to sing on Little River Band's early-'80s hits "The Night Owls" and "Take It Easy on Me." "I mean, I knew all the guys – Glenn Shorrock and Beeb Birtles and the whole band," Bachman adds. "They have to tour as Shorrock Birtles [and Goble], using their own names rather than Little River Band."

Bachman confirmed that he can still perform the Guess Who songs he co-wrote during his own concerts, since he retains co-authorship rights. He was unsure, however, whether these legal actions would also preclude Lenny Kravitz from singing "American Woman." Kravitz charted with a cover of the song in 1999 after its inclusion on the soundtrack for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Bands With No Original Members

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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