Ah yes, The Guess Who. If you tuned your radio around the dial during the early 1970’s, you could not miss them. As a high school student in Syracuse at the time, I can recall the two local top-40 stations, WOLF and WNDR, urging listeners to head downtown to the War Memorial auditorium for a Guess Who concert. Garry Peterson, the original drummer with The Guess Who, remembers those days well. And soon he will join the rest of the band for a date at Holiday Valley, where they’ll play all those familiar favorites, plus some new material. Showtime is 9 p.m. Sunday, July first.
The popular Canadian band’s hit recordings are many. Many are still heard on Classic Rock radio, though others may take some searching. “No Time” and “American Woman,” and “These Eyes” are givens. But don’t forget “Share the Land,” “Albert Flasher,” and “Clap for the Wolfman.” What about, “Shakin’ All Over” from 1965? Peterson confirms that the song was indeed the band’s first hit. Fans may recall the band had earlier appeared on the music scene as “Chad Allan and the Expressions.”
Peterson is no stranger to Western New York and says he loves playing here. He feels people who live near the border on both the Canadian and American perhaps have more in common than with people living in the east and west of their respective countries. To take a radio example, the old CKLW springs to mind, capturing a rock audience in Detroit, Windsor, and beyond.
What can concert goers expect? The immediate answer, “Mostly polkas!” But seriously, there have been many versions of The Guess Who since 1962. “But I think musically, this is one of the finest (bands) ever,” is how Peterson feels. “The audience is in for a big treat as far as what they are going to see and hear.” They will play all the records people expect to hear, plus new material. “We will probably play at least two songs from the new material that we’re working on now. So there will be a little bit of everything.” That includes a re-recording of the Little Richard favorite, “Lucille.”
Whereas in the old days bands would just hit the stage and play the music, Peterson says the current edition of The Guess Who does a lot of interacting with the audience. “So it’s a great show to see.” But don’t just take his word for it. Come to Holiday Valley to see, hear, and verify for yourself. Peterson says that’s the proof, for fans and journalists alike.
Peterson kids about deserving a gold Rolex for fifty years of service. But he would not keep on playing if he did not enjoy it. Reflecting on a Life magazine pictorial about the Rolling Stones, he compared the history of the two bands. “Not that we’re on any kind of level with them. The fact that Jim (Kale) and I are still going, kind of like Keith (Richards) and Mick (Jagger). It’s amazing and a privilege to be able to entertain people. For me, that’s the drug which keeps you coming back. It’s a wonderful thing to make people feel good, or evoke emotion in them.”
As for the band’s longevity, Peterson says they never even thought The Guess Who would be successful. But after working hard for many years, “One day there it was. I think ten or fifteen years ago we realized that this could go on. But it’s really up to the people who come to see the band. When they no longer want to see the band, I guess we won’t be playing.” He notes that today’s digital delivery systems allow a great many young people access to virtually every Guess Who record ever recorded.
“This can tweak young people’s curiosity above and beyond the hits as to what this band was all about.”
The Guess Who are original members Jim Kale (bass and vocals) and Garry Peterson (drums and vocals), plus current members Derek Sharp (vocals and guitars), Leonard Shaw (keyboards, flute, sax and vocals), and Laurie MacKenzie (guitars and vocals). Tickets for the show are $30 presale, $35 at the gate. The performance is part of the Ellicottville area’s Summer Festival of the Arts.