MERCED – What Canadian band knocked The Beatles off the top of the music charts for three weeks straight in 1970 with their hit "American Woman?" Answer: The Guess Who.
The Guess Who, the band who struck gold with smash songs including "No Sugar Tonight," "These Eyes" and "Laughing" is coming to the 2008 Merced County Fair. The band will perform Thursday, July 17 in the Merced County Fair's Outdoor Theatre.
Each night a headline entertainment act will perform in the fairgrounds' Outdoor Theatre. Opening the fair on Tuesday, July 15 is Craig Morgan, whose album "Little Bit of Life," has been on the top country album charts for over a year. Also performing at the fair on Wednesday, July 16, will be Rooney, a five-man band from Southern California, known for their rock/pop sound, The Spinners' timeless R & B sound, Friday, July 18, country music's rising star, Terri Clark, will entertain fairgoers Saturday, July 19 and Yolanda del Rio, one of Mexican regional music's biggest stars, wraps up the fair on Sunday, July 20. All Outdoor Theatre concerts are at 9 p.m.
As always, all fair headline acts are free with the price of admission. The 2008 Fair theme is "Come Rock With The Flock," a salute to sheep, one of the county's top agricultural products. The fair is July 15-20.
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The Guess Who became Canada's first international rock music superstars, starting out in 1962 in Winnipeg as Chad Allen & The Reflections and went on to produce 14 Top 40 hits. The band included Randy Bachman on guitar, Jim Kale, bass, Garry Peterson, drums and Chad Allen, vocals. The band became Chad Allen and the Expressions by the time they recorded a cover of "Shakin' All Over" in 1965. The song was a No. 1 single in Canada and reached the No. 22 slot in America. Burton Cummings joined the group that same year, replacing the keyboard player and sharing lead vocals.
Their first single and album, "Shakin' All Over," was released in a plain, white record jacket with only the question "Guess Who?" written on it. The marketing ploy capitalized on curiosity and the promise of another British Invasion band. It worked. After selling two million copies the band had its trademark name: The Guess Who. Following the success of "Shakin' All Over," the band toured the U.S. as part of Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Road Revue and in 1967, they landed a regular spot on the CBC-TV Show "Where It's At."
Experimenting with the sounds of freedom, psychedelic and garage rock that were filtering across the border, the Guess Who traveled to Minneapolis, where they did their first recordings in the U.S.
Their song "His Girl" gave the band a Top 20 hit in England, an offer to sign with a London record company and the opportunity to tour. They went to the United Kingdom but after putting out one album they returned to Canada. The band found a producer who believed so strongly in the group's talents that he mortgaged his home to finance their next album, "Wheatfield Soul," released in 1968.
The first single, "These Eyes," reached No. 1 in Canada, earning the band a U.S. recording contract. It was the beginning of the Canadian Invasion when "These Eyes" reached No. 3 in America in 1969, selling more than one million copies. Their second album, "Canned Wheat," also released in 1968, contained the Top 10 hits, "Laughing," "No Time," and the Top 40 hit "Undun" (the flip side of "Laughing").
But it was "American Woman" that gave The Guess Who a No. 1 single in the United States in 1970, bumping the Beatles from that spot for three weeks straight. The top 10 album, also titled "American Woman," contained the hits "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature," the other side of "American Woman," which also reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts for three weeks. The trend of having double-sided singles both going to No. 1 on the charts was a rarity, only achieved by Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The popularity of the band earned them an invitation to perform at The White House before Prince Charles and President and Mrs. Nixon. But the First Lady requested that the band not perform "American Woman."During the band's peak of success, Randy Bachman decided to leave the group and formed Bachman Turner Overdrive. Over the next few years the group continued to chart with singles "Hand Me Down World," "Share The Land," "Bus Rider," "Rain Dance," "Albert
Flasher," "Star Baby," and "Clap for the Wolfman," which reached No. 6 on the Billboard charts. The group has 14 Top 40 hits to its credit.
After a decade with the band, Burton Cummings left in 1975 to pursue a successful solo career. The original members of The Guess Who appeared here and there over the years. Jim Kale continued the band with new members through the late 70s and Bachman and Cummings toured together in 1983. There was a brief reunion in 1985, which produced an album and a concert video. The band appeared together when they were inducted into the Canadian Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS) Hall of Fame in 1987.
In 1999 The Guess Who returned to their Winnipeg roots, responding to a personal request from the Premier of Manitoba to appear at the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games. The reunion concert was performed in driving rain before a combined live and TV audience of about a million people.
The band members enjoyed performing together again so much, it inspired them to launch a tour of Canada. In March 2000 they embarked on a tour of 24 performances in 22 cities across Canada.
The emergence of "classic rock" radio stations throughout America has broadened the base of the group's loyal followers to include more baby boomers as well as today's teens. A typical audience at a Guess Who concert will consist of fans from 16 to 60 years old.
Lenny Kravitz recorded a cover version of The Guess Who's hit "American Woman" and it won him a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards, helping The Guess Who find a new, younger audience. The song was used on the movie soundtrack for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."
Although membership in the group has changed through the years, the band's members have remained musically consistent behind the strengths of original members Jim Kale (bass and vocals) and Garry Peterson (drums and vocals). Current members include Carl Dixon (vocals and guitars), Leonard Shaw (keyboards, flute, sax and vocals) and Laurie MacKenzie (guitars and vocals). As they perform hit after hit in concert, it's easy to see and hear why The Guess Who remain one of today's most sought after attractions.