The Guess Who’s original songwriters, Canadian electric guitar icon Randy Bachman and vocalist Burton Cummings, are suing the current lineup of the band for false advertising – alleging the group is using “false and misleading tactics” to trade on Bachman and Cummings’ reputation and back catalog.
The complaint document, filed in a California court, relates to the nostalgia circuit group put together by the pair’s former bandmates Jim Kale and Garry Peterson and currently touring as The Guess Who.
Peterson is the only remaining member of the classic era lineup still in the group, but both he and Kale – thought to operate the group in a partnership – are named as defendants, alongside the band itself (referred to as “the cover band” in the suit).
“The claims herein arise from a deceptive scheme subsequently concocted by Defendants… falsely misleading the general public by giving the impression that this Cover Band includes performances by the highly regarded legendary musicians, Cummings and Bachman of the Original TGW.”
Among the allegations, the filing points to the use of original Guess Who recordings – featuring Bachman and Cummings – in promotional videos for tours and using images in advertising materials that imply Bachman and Cummings are affiliated with the group.
Elsewhere, the suit alleges the group have replaced original images of the group on streaming platforms with current line-up photos “for the purpose of implying that the Cover Band is the Original TGW in an effort to boost the Cover Band’s ticket sales for live performances.”
On the streaming front, the suit also alleges that the band is placing newly recorded material alongside The Guess Who’s classic recordings on streaming platforms for commercial gain.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Cummings and Bachman said they had sent multiple cease-and-desist letters prior to taking the legal action.
“They’ve taken mine and Randy’s history, the history of the Guess Who,” says Cummings. “And stolen it to market their cheap ticket sales in their fake bullshit shows. It takes away everybody’s legitimacy.”
“It’s really tainted our legacy; it’s tarnished it,” Bachman adds in the Rolling Stone piece.
“[Peterson] can be replaced by a drum machine; you can’t replace Burton Cummings’ voice – it’s the greatest rock voice out of Canada.
“My guitar playing was a one-of-a-kind thing I developed as a kid in Winnipeg. You can’t replace that, and if you do, why would you want to replace it when you can have the real thing?”
Bachman left The Guess Who in 1970, with Cummings following suit in 1975. The guitarist and vocalist wrote and performed on the group’s biggest hits, including American Woman, No Time, These Eyes, No Sugar Tonight, Undun and Share The Land.
The rights to The Guess Who name are currently owned by Kale. The bassist left the band in 1972 and later purchased the trademark in 1986. Kale has operated numerous lineups under the name ever since.
The filing lists numerous instances of fans and concert-goers complaining about the lack of Bachman and Cummings’ involvement in recent shows, with some saying they felt “duped”.
As a result, the suit is seeking damages exceeding $20 million and demanding that the group issue corrective statements to current and future concertgoers, cease using photographs of the original lineup and cease “promoting, offering for sale, or selling the Cover Band’s albums and songs on the same artist page of any streaming music or video platform that features the music catalog of the Original TGW.”