With Canadian progressive rockers Rush now on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot, why haven’t fellow Canadian rock legends The Guess Who been inducted?
Along with Rush, this year’s Rock Hall nominees include Deep Purple, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Donna Summer, Chic, Albert King, Kraftwerk, Heart, the Marvelettes, the Meters, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Procol Harum and Randy Newman.
All of this is kind of timely for me, especially with Rush now getting the recognition they deserve from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Just the other day someone asked me if I knew whether The Guess Who was in the Rock Hall. After years of hearing The Guess Who’s hits on the radio, I just naturally assumed they were. After all, singer Burton Cummings, guitarist Randy Bachman, bassist Jim Kale, and drummer Garry Peterson have left a huge imprint on rock. Just ask Lenny Kravitz and he’ll tell you why he chose to cover “American Woman”.
To my surprise, after some quick research, The Guess Who has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As it stands now, Rush may soon be inducted while The Guess Who is still on the outside looking in at those they’ve inspired.
And in no way am I saying that Rush shouldn’t be up for the Rock Hall, that much is a no brainer.
But when it comes to classic rock, it doesn’t get any better than the The Guess Who’s 1970 #1 hit “American Woman” and the record’s original B-side “No Sugar Tonight”, also a Top 10 hit in the United States. And from the early formation of the band in 1965 to their break up in 1974, the guys of The Guess Who had over 20 singles hit the Top 100 chart, with six Top 10 hits that also included “These Eyes, “Laughing”, “No Time” and “Share the Land”. As well, The Guess Who had three Top 10 albums among the band’s many appearances in the Top 200.
On top of their game, The Guess Who did something truly remarkable in their home country and on a global level. By the time the band hit their peak in 1970, they sold more records than all of the Canadian recording industry and The Beatles that same year.
Although the Canadian guys of Rush deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was the success of The Guess Who that actually paved the way for bands like Rush in the U.S.. The Guess Who was the first Canadian band to break out and hit #1 in the U.S. and were the first legitimate rock act from Canada to compete with the major acts of the late 60s and 70s, including The Beatles. And like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings became one of rock’s greatest (perhaps forgotten) songwriting teams. And beyond The Guess Who, none of this includes Randy Bachman’s success with BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive) and the many hits in the solo career of frontman Burton Cummings.
Look, I’ll admit, this may not be a fair comparison given how the core of Rush has remained intact for nearly 40 years, has over 20 gold records, with 14 platinum albums (3 multi-platinum) to land band behind The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kiss for the most gold and platinum albums by a band in music history. The influence of Rush on rock as been massive. Unlike a lot of bands, they own their own unique space in rock and were groundbreakers in the progressive rock movement.
Can you name one band that sounds like Rush? How about a band that creatively equals Rush in songwriting? To quote a famous Canadian line of dialogue from the Trailer Park Boys, “They['ve] got these lyrics about how trees are talking to each other and how different sides of your brain work, or outerspace bullshit.” Enough said on that! Well, I will give Blue Oyster Cult a nod when it comes to trees talking and outerspace bullshit, but that’s a whole different story.
But this really isn’t about stats. It’s more about rock ground paved by one band so that another could find success. And this is where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is woefully and famously inconsistent. Seriously, Chic, the disco act famous for “Le FreaK”, gets a nod this year yet The Guess Who doesn’t? Nothing against Chic, they worked hard for their hits. To think that KISS is still on the outside of the Rock Hall is just baffling. If you’ve watched the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, you’ll know that it was KISS who helped put Rush on the map by including them their tour in 1975.
But to think of what The Guess Who accomplished in just three years between 1968 to 1970 before guitarist Randy Bachman left the band deserves to be recognized by the Rock Hall.
Do you think The Guess Who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?