It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but he lived… lives it
Winnipeg legend Randy Bachman adds new chapter featuring son to remarkable history in music
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Randy Bachman is ready to add a new tale to the volume of rock ’n’ roll stories he’s collected during 60-plus years in the music business.
The former Winnipegger, who co-founded both the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, returns to Club Regent Event Centre tonight and Sunday for shows entitled The Greatest Stories Ever Told.
He’s excited about his latest work, in which he and his son Tal collaborated on a record and film project.
“I am so grateful to have this,” the Canadian rock royal says. “They call me the 12-hit wonder — six with the Guess Who and six with BTO. I’m looking forward to changing that to 13-hit wonder when I have a hit with Tal as Bachman-Bachman.
“The album was done during COVID… there’s all kinds of personal stories in there and things that happened to me and my health.”
A documentary following the two of them that will accompany the record focuses on Bachman’s long-lost orange Gretsch guitar, which was stolen in Toronto in 1976. An internet sleuth discovered the guitar in a rock video by Japanese singer TAKESHI; Bachman recovered the instrument in Tokyo on July 1.
At least, he thinks the film focuses on the guitar.
“It was done in real time, but they won’t let me see any of the footage. They’re holding it back so it’ll be a surprise,” he says.
Father and son wrote Lost and Found: The Magic Guitar, which appears on the new album. They played together during the pandemic; some performances were streamed on the internet. A record deal followed, but producers set out some ground rules.
“We were given a mandate to not sound like the Guess Who, to not sound like BTO, to not sound like Randy Bachman, to not sound like Tal Bachman, but to sound like something new,” Bachman says. “It’s a little bit like early Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Traveling Wilburys, Jeff Lynne. It’s a lot like Buffalo Springfield, a mixture of country and rock and harmonies and guitar.
“(Tal) wrote a couple songs and I wrote a couple and we wrote the other half together, and it’s really something to collaborate with your son.”
The 79 year old will entertain Winnipeg audiences this weekend with memories of working on massive hits such as American Woman and Takin’ Care of Business and weird tales from his lifetime in the music business.
“Basically it’s the history of Winnipeg — music coming out of Winnipeg — with the odd little mention of Neil Young, the Guess Who and BTO songs and my son Tal, who was born in Winnipeg, as well,” he says.
‘To sit down, intimately, like at a casino or at a theatre, and tell the stories behind the songs, that really is a special moment to see the audiences’ facial reactions. Some of them are in tears, some of them are laughing.”
Bachman honed his storytelling chops for years on Vinyl Tap, the popular Saturday night show he hosted on CBC radio for years, which came to an end last year. He revived the show on the CORUS radio network across Canada last spring, and local FM station Power 97 airs it on Sunday nights.
He’s hoping to spin it off into a podcast, but obtaining rights to play the songs he chooses — spanning the entire history of rock and pop — in their entirety would have him navigating copyright hurdles that radio stations don’t encounter.
People who listened to the Guess Who in the 1960s and ’70s never lost their love of the band and its catalogue through the years, something that was clearly evident last summer at Shaw Park when the pandemic-postponed Unite 150 concert brought Bachman and Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings together again.
The duo toured together over the summer in Canada and the U.S., as well.
“I marvel at it, and I especially marvelled at it when I was with Burton Cummings and we closed Saturday night at the PNE (in Vancouver). “To see that many people reacting to the songs of all ages — teenagers, 20s, 30s… 60 year olds, it’s quite amazing to me.”
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.