Burton Cummings Takes Drastic Measures Against Guess Who ‘Cover Band’

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Former Guess Who members Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings performing “American Woman” in Winnipeg, Aug. 28, 2021

Burton Cummings, the former frontman of the Guess Who, and the co-writer of most of their biggest hits like “No Time” and “These Eyes,” has taken extreme measures to ensure that the group that owns the band’s name can never again perform those songs in public. Cummings revealed the drastic decision of his “nuclear” option in an interview that appeared today (April 11, 2024). He and the group’s other most prominent member, Randy Bachman, had filed in federal court in Los Angeles a false advertising lawsuit on October 30, 2023, in response to a group of hired musicians who have been touring and recording using the band’s name. In addition, according to the lawsuit, these hired musicians have been using photographs that include Cummings and Bachman to create the false impression that the hired cover band is the original Guess Who. Earlier this week, a federal judge denied the current band’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

In the interview with Rolling Stone, Cummings revealed that he has terminated the performing rights agreements for the Guess Who songs that he wrote. Translation: no one other than the songwriters themselves are permitted to perform them in public. [Though the laws are not well known to the public, all venues must pay annual fees to such organizations as ASCAP and BMI for blanket licenses for songs to be performed to an audience. Music venues including stadiums and small clubs pay these pro-rated fees as do radio stations, as well as restaurants, and other venues where music is used to enhance an experience. The annual payments are then distributed to thousands of copyright holders via a complex formula.]

This week, Cummings and his publisher notified the attorneys for the “cover band,” as he calls them, of his action. As a result, the magazine reports that several of their dates were abruptly canceled “due to an unforeseen issue with the music licensing.”

“This doesn’t stop this cover band from playing their shows,” Cummings says, “it just stops them from playing the songs I own. If the songs are performed by the fake Guess Who, they will be sued for every occurrence.”

Rolling Stone noted that “like most ‘nuclear’ options, Cummings’ strategy doesn’t come without the risk of some mutually assured destruction. While terminating the rights complicates the current Guess Who’s performances, it may also significantly hit Cummings’ own earnings.”

“Yes, I’m going to lose some money, but we’re going to find out what’s worth what. I will not have this fake band going on any longer,” Cummings told the interviewer. “I’m going to lose some money, but… the name is worthless without those songs. So what are they going to do? ‘Hey, the Guess Who Is playing but we can’t do ‘Share the Land’ or ‘American Woman,’ we can’t do ‘These Eyes.’ Nobody’s gonna be there.”

Watch Cummings and Bachman perform “American Woman” in 2019

Jim Kale (a former bassist who was kicked out of the Guess Who in 1972), and Garry Peterson (the drummer who played with the group until it disbanded in 1975) are being sued for allegedly concocting a deceptive scheme that has falsely led fans into buying tickets for the cover band’s live shows and implying that Cummings and Bachman are performing at the shows when, in fact they have no affiliation with the cover band.

On December 15, the band legally known as the Guess Who, and led by Peterson, issued a statement about the Cummings-Bachman suit. “You may have heard that two of The Guess Who’s former members, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, have filed a false advertising lawsuit against The Guess Who,” it reads. “The lawsuit is meritless. Our advertising truthfully tells our fans who is in The Guess Who, including founding member Garry Peterson. We have filed a motion with the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

“We appreciate the support of our fans over the years and look forward to putting this behind us and making more great music.” The motion, filed on Dec. 7, spelled out the band’s numerous lineup changes throughout the years. “The Guess Who’s advertising affirmatively discloses the band’s ‘numerous member changes’ and identifies the ‘most recent and up-to-date version of the band’ with the current members’ names and photos. Thus, even if a fan knew Bachman and Cummings were once in The Guess Who but somehow did not know they left the band in the 1970s, the advertising makes clear they are not in the band today. Plaintiffs’ false advertising claims are therefore facially implausible and should be dismissed. The filing can be read in its entirety here.

The lawsuit, filed October 30, 2023, also claimed that Kale and Peterson have been removing images of Cummings and Bachman from the landing pages of music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music and replacing them with pictures of the Guess Who cover band in an effort to boost sales of tickets for live performances. The suit additionally states the defendants have been using songs written by Cummings and Bachman to promote the cover band without obtaining proper licenses.

Burton Cummings posted this image on his Facebook page on Nov. 22, 2023

In the U.S., the Guess Who earned nine Top 20 singles including their 1968 breakthrough hit “These Eyes” and the #1 smashes “American Woman” and “No Sugar Tonight.” In their native Canada, that number is over 25.

Watch the Guess Who perform “American Woman” on The Midnight Special in 1974

The cover band’s actions are alleged to have impeded both Cummings’ and Bachman’s own ability to book live performances in the United States and tarnished the band’s legacy. The plaintiffs seek in excess of $20 million in damages as well as a court order directing Kale and Peterson to take corrective measures notifying the public and all venues where the cover band is playing with truthful advertising.

Bachman, who turned 80 on Sept. 27, teamed with Cummings for a series of 2022 reunion concerts (that had previously been postponed due to the pandemic) where they performed classic rock hits from the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive as well as Cummings solo material. There was talk of more to come, but that appears to have subsided for now.

“With this lawsuit, Randy [Bachman] and I hope to set the record straight and protect fans from imposters trying to rewrite history,” says Cummings, who turned 77 on Dec. 31. “Even after we’re gone, the legacy of The Guess Who will live on, and we want to make sure that legacy is restored and preserved truthfully.”

Bachman adds, “Burton [Cummings] and I are the ones who wrote the songs and made the records. It’s Burton’s voice and my guitar playing on those albums. Anyone presenting and promoting themselves as The Guess Who are clones who are ripping off our fans and tainting the legacy of the band. It’s about time for the real story to come out.”

Bachman has recently resurrected the name Bachman-Turner Overdrive for concerts and has announced several dates for 2024. Tickets are available here and here. Cummings has announced his first U.S. tour in years. Tickets to see him are available here and here.

A Bachman-Cummings 7-disc collection is available here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

25 Comments so far

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  1. Batchman
    #1 Batchman 30 October, 2023, 19:53

    It’s not fair to legitimate cover bands (and tribute bands) to call what those two guys were doing a “cover band.” They were indulging in fraud plain and simple. Even the bands who called themselves Fleetwood Mac etc. were involved in legal struggles over the rights to the name. These two were just being deceptive.

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  2. Timflyte
    #2 Timflyte 31 October, 2023, 00:57

    I thought the drummer , Peterson , has the rights to the name ?
    Both Bachman & Cummings quit the band , and Gary soldiered on. Wasn’t Jim an original member too ?
    This seems to fall into the category of what happened with The Byrds & CCR .
    The main guy , singer , songwriter quits and then when he’s no longer doing as good as before , he wants the name back for recognition.
    Lots of oldies & do wop acts touring with no original guys , but as people die and get replaced , sooner or later they wind up with none of the guys on the record.
    The most highly successful of the acts doing this is The Eagles , with only the drummer left of the original four.
    This case will be decided by a judge and will have little to do with who sang or wrote what , but on the merits of case law and who owns the name.
    The earliest Guess Who songs , didn’t include Burton , but did include Peterson.
    Randy states he wrote & played the guitar , but that was on the very early albums and on the first 3 successful RCA albums . Then he left and other guitar players and writers came in and wrote ” share the land ” and ” hand me down world ” .
    The Guess Who has had a lot of members.
    Not sure about the picture end of it. If there’s a old picture of the Guess Who , of course Randy & Burton are in it , but Gary & Jim are probably in the photo too.
    Hopefully we’ll read here the results of the lawsuit.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rocking Chair
    #3 Rocking Chair 31 October, 2023, 01:21

    Due to U.S. red tape and visa restrictions, Bachman-Cummings had to cancel their tour 3 times during the COVID pandemic. Now they can come to the U.S., they are not touring together. So disappointing!

    Reply this comment
    • Ron Fowler
      Ron Fowler 14 April, 2024, 02:39

      Yes it is disappointing. Randy is touring as Bachman Turner Overdrive, but he’s the only BTO guy in it.

      Reply this comment
  4. Tyre
    #4 Tyre 31 October, 2023, 05:08

    Go Burton and Randy.. put a stop to this you’re entitled to it
    These guys been doing this too long and have watered the brand

    Reply this comment
  5. Wylde Bill
    #5 Wylde Bill 3 November, 2023, 19:57

    I don’t know. Both those guys were in the original band. Yes it’s bogus to put out material feigning that B-C are in the group now and/or pretending their replacements were there in the day. If not for that, I’d say let it ride.
    I saw the Loving Spoonful without John Sebastian. Quite entertaining.

    Reply this comment
    • Musk Ox
      Musk Ox 5 November, 2023, 17:20

      Bill they are using the images of Bachman and Cummings in their promotional materials to pretend they are in the Band to sell tickets which of course would sell tickets. It is fraud plain and simple for they have nothing to do with it. Also this is no different when Cook and Clifford toured as Creedence without Creedence. At least they called it Creedence Clearwater Revisted than Revival. Also Loving Spoonful were not pretending that Sebastian was in the reunion tour which is totally different and Sebastian did not object to them using the name.

      Reply this comment
    • Ron Fowler
      Ron Fowler 14 April, 2024, 02:40

      Until recently, the Lovin’ Spoonful had two of the original members, Joe Butler and Steve Boone. Joe sang some songs on the albums, but now he’s retired. It’s just Boone and a bunch of nobodys.

      Reply this comment
  6. Musk Ox
    #6 Musk Ox 5 November, 2023, 17:24

    These guys put out a new Guess Who album 5 years ago or so which was terrible. Using the name is fraud and no different than when Michael Clarke toured as the Byrds back in 1989 and 1990 forcing the others except Gene Clark to fight against that and do a few reunion shows too.

    Reply this comment
  7. mak
    #7 mak 15 December, 2023, 21:00

    I’m waiting for the Beatles (with out the Beatles) tour

    Reply this comment
  8. 122intheshade
    #8 122intheshade 15 December, 2023, 22:23

    Somewhere, George Treadwell is having a good laugh.

    Reply this comment
  9. Thomas K. Arnold
    #9 Thomas K. Arnold 16 December, 2023, 00:23

    I wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times more than 30 years ago in which the opening line read, “The oldies concert trail is littered with deception.” My story took to task the faux Byrds led by Michael Clarke, but today, as original members have died out, the situation has gotten even worse. Foghat and the Guess Who with only their original drummers, Yes without Jon Anderson, and, on the recent Happy Together tour, the Vogues and Classics IV without a single original – same as the Grass Roots, who I mercifully saw just before Rob Grill died and was still in the band. Call it a tribute band, just don’t masquerade as the original. And now there’s Foreigner, with a big headlining tour but no Lou Gramm and only one original member who isn’t even making it to most shows. Stop! Nothing wrong with “tribute” bands, but call it that – don’t masquerade as the original, which you are doing by using the original band name. Too many people don’t read the fine print and think they’re getting the real deal. But I don’t see this sordid practice ending because thanks to the casinos legacy bands are making more money than ever – and, sad to say, many of the fans don’t care if the original guys are no longer in the band.

    Reply this comment
    • Batchman
      Batchman 16 December, 2023, 20:43

      It’s not fair to include Yes in this list. Yes has been without Jon Anderson on many of their recordings, starting with “Drama” in the 1980s. The group currently has one member from the classic lineup of 1972, and if Squire and White hadn’t died they would also be in the group today. Maybe Yes without JA doesn’t sound like the Yes you and I remember from their peak, but they’re definitely the same band with some personnel changes.

      Reply this comment
  10. Mike S.
    #10 Mike S. 16 December, 2023, 09:42

    The post Cummings Guess Who has gone through about 6 vocalists. The key here is the cover band Guess Who is using deceptive advertising in that they are giving people the false impression Cummings and Bachman are still in the band. If the present Guess Who stop this, it can all go away. The present Guess Who do not play concerts in Canada, which should illustrate to people they know what they are not getting. In the U.S., people are less likely to notice. What the new band is doing is wrong.

    Reply this comment
  11. Max
    #11 Max 16 December, 2023, 10:34

    Most ex-band members from this era have written more legal motions than original music. I’ve seen this “cover” band and they were very good. I believe Peterson owns the rights the Guess Who name.

    Reply this comment
  12. Ron Fowler
    #12 Ron Fowler 16 December, 2023, 15:03

    Ironic, as Randy Bachman is currently pushing a new lineup of Bachman-Turner Overdrive WITHOUT Turner – and using photos of Fred Turner and his brothers Rob and Tim!

    Reply this comment
    • mcrossdc
      mcrossdc 12 April, 2024, 01:18

      Turner is still in the band and they are writing new music now. He just isn’t currently touring as planned.

      Reply this comment
  13. redroc
    #13 redroc 16 December, 2023, 17:29

    I do not see the problem. Original and founding band members leave and are usually replaced. Peterson and Kale are the two cofounders who remained, so that does not make them a cover band. I believe what truly angers Bachman and Cummings is Gary’s purchase of the band rights. Claiming they were the two who wrote and played the songs doesn’t give them any individual rights. The songs are the property of the band. Furthermore, although they initially wrote many, the finished product was in collaboration in the final product among all four. I have been a die-hard fan of The Guess Who starting with the late Chad Allan. I have not purchased any music from succeeding lineups, nor listened to their music, and don’t intend to. I offer again that Gary Peterson and Jim Kale are as legitimate The Guess Who as any other founding member. How does that make them a cover band! Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings lawsuit is frivolous.

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  14. Dr. Bristol
    #14 Dr. Bristol 19 December, 2023, 13:02

    If Peterson owns the band name, he has every right to use it. And leveraging the history of the band is not a problem either. Using Bachman’s or Cummings’ name or likeness is the issue. But sometimes despite best efforts, the promoters will ignore the directives in their attempt to make money.

    The irony is that if they billed themselves as a Guess Who tribute band they’d probably get more gigs. Sadly, copycat bands dominate the live music schedule these days.

    Some of these “one member left” bands are killer – Foghat and Cactus come to mind. It’s easy enough as a fan to find out whether the band behind the name is legitimate or not. Anyone duped these days should only blame themselves.

    Reply this comment
  15. 122intheshade
    #15 122intheshade 12 April, 2024, 00:27

    As I recall, Randy was quite miffed when Burton bought the songwriting copyrights years ago. He got over it, apparently.

    If the Peterson-Kale band just played the early Quality Records music, they’d be cool. That was some great garage-band music.

    Reply this comment
  16. LVDISC
    #16 LVDISC 12 April, 2024, 01:40

    If anyone should have a beef about cover bands, it would be Mark Farner and Grand Funk Railroad.

    Reply this comment
  17. Bluestime
    #17 Bluestime 12 April, 2024, 02:19

    Gary Peterson and Jim Kale do own the name, but they don’t have the rights to play the Cummings/Bachman songs without their permission. So good luck with concerts without the classic Guess Who songs !!!!

    Reply this comment
  18. Max
    #18 Max 12 April, 2024, 08:22

    Cutting off your nose to spite your face, Burton. Thinking of Fogerty and Creedence, the Byrds, Kansas, Chicago, Yes. The list goes on and on….

    Reply this comment
  19. Zantac
    #19 Zantac 13 April, 2024, 00:17

    I have seen this new “Guess Who” about a half dozen times and they are dynamic. The lead singer is D. Sharp, and he plays guitar. They have another lead guitar player, and just added a bass player who toured with Tommy James as a “Shondell” and also played bass with the Happy Together Tour. Their new keyboardist is a talented Teddy Zig Zag (anybody use his papers?). So if they cannot use Bachman’s songs there are still plenty of hits for them to use. Not only that, but they have their own music, and it really is Derrick Sharp’s showmanship that gets the crowd going. I think that is the real reason that Bachman and Cummings are pissed. There is a real star in the group now and they are making money!!!!

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