Prairie Boys Top the Charts

Fifty years ago The Guess Who went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with their single “American Woman.”

Written by Dave Baxter

Posted January 14, 2020

It was a rising pop group from the frozen Canadian prairies with big dreams of rock stardom, and those dreams came true for Winnipeg band The Guess Who fifty years ago when its iconic single “American Woman” shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 

In March of 1970 the “American Woman” single put the Winnipeg boys on top of the music world when it topped the Billboard charts. 

“American Woman” started out as a riff that The Guess Who guitarist Randy Bachman came up with while tuning his guitar during a break between sets at a concert in a curling club in Kitchener, Ontario. 

Not long after that show lead singer Burton Cummings added his famous lyrics to the song, and “American Woman” was recorded in the summer of 1969. 

The “American Woman” single steadily climbed the charts after its release. In March of 1970, it topped the Billboard Hot 100. 

The rise of “American Woman” proved to be the pinnacle of success for the group originally made up of Cummings and Bachman, as well as bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson. 

Over the next five years the group experienced success with a number of albums and singles, but also endured lineup changes and an eventual break up in 1975, when Cummings decided to pursue a solo career. 

A touring version of The Guess Who still performs to this day, but original drummer Garry Peterson is the only original member of the band who still tours with the current version of band.   

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This article appeared in the February-March 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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