Burton Cummings, OM (born December 31, 1947) is a Canadian musician and songwriter. A gifted showman, he was the lead singer for the Canadian rock band The Guess Who. During his 10 years in The Guess Who, from 1965 to 1975, he sang and wrote or co-wrote many well known songs including "American Woman," "No Time," "Share the Land," "Hand Me Down World," "Undun," "Laughing," "Star Baby", "New Mother Nature," and "These Eyes." His solo career includes many popular Canadian singles including "Stand Tall", "My Own Way to Rock" and "You Saved My Soul".
Cummings was born and raised in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, as were all of the other original members of The Guess Who. His first band was a local Winnipeg R&B group The Deverons, with an 'E' (not to be confused with the band The Devrons who had Country/R&B hits in the early 60's). He joined The Guess Who in 1965 to replace keyboardist Bob Ashley and shortly thereafter its previous lead singer, Chad Allan, left the band.
Success with The Guess Who
In 1969, The Guess Who scored a huge international hit with "These Eyes", co-written by Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman. It was followed up by another big hit "Laughing", again written by Cummings and Bachman. Another hit Guess Who song "Undun" featured Cummings on a jazzy flute solo.
In 1970, the band hit No. 1 in Canada with "American Woman." Ironically, the song also hit No. 1 on Billboard in the US, despite the fact that it was not about a woman but about the United States' militaristic ways and societal problems. This is one of the few instances of a Canadian act with a No. 1 hit on the American popular music charts. As the Beatles had songs on the charts at the time, many Guess Who fans joked that the band was "bigger than the Beatles".
Ultimately, personal issues between Cummings and bandmate Randy Bachman - partially ignited by Bachman's deepening Mormon religious beliefs?caused a rift in the band. Bachman left and went on to form the band Brave Belt with former Guess Who mate Chad Allan, and later Bachman-Turner Overdrive which charted hits such as "Takin' Care of Business," "Let It Ride," and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."
Cummings became the band's leader and recorded a string of hits with the band that included: "Share the Land," "Hand Me Down World," "Albert Flasher," "Rain Dance," "Sour Suite," "Glamour Boy," "Star Baby" and "Clap for the Wolfman."
In 1975, after 10 years, Cummings left The Guess Who to become a solo artist and the group disbanded. One of his first projects included providing back-up vocals on Eric Carmen's second solo LP, Boats Against the Current, including the hit, "She Did It."
Cummings' subsequent solo hits in Canada included "Stand Tall" (also his biggest American hit, peaking at #10), "I'm Scared," "Break it to Them Gently," and "Fine State of Affairs." Cummings charted outside Canada with "Stand Tall" and "You Saved My Soul." His Dream of a Child album released in 1978 was the biggest Canadian album in history at that time. Cummings released a total of eight solo albums and collections from 1976 to 1990. In 1997 he released a live compilation album of his solo performances entitled Up Close and Alone.
Cummings became a resident of Sherman Oaks, California, and began writing and singing for films in the late 1970s. He currently winters in California and returns to Winnipeg in the summer, living in Canada throughout autumn. Besides his music, Cummings purchased Winnipeg's "Salisbury House" restaurant chain with manager Lorne Saifer and is an avid comic book collector.
The Guess Who returns
In 2000, Cummings, Bachman and original drummer Garry Peterson toured as The Guess Who. Bassist Jim Kale played one show and former Guess Who sidemen Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace re-joined the line-up through the remainder of the tour in Canada and later in the U.S. The reformed The Guess Who toured with Cummings from 2000 through to the summer of 2003. In 2001, Cummings and the rest of The Guess Who received honorary doctorates at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba. Cummings was also made a member of the Order of Manitoba. In 2003, the band played at the so-called "SARSstock" concert in Toronto.
Cummings plays occasional shows with Randy Bachman as The Bachman-Cummings Band, featuring The Carpet Frogs, a band from Toronto and makes occasional appearances at various Canadian casinos as a solo performer. The Bachman-Cummings Band have released a compilation album titled the Bachman-Cummings Song Book featuring hits from The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Cummings' solo career. They have also released an album titled The Thunderbird Trax, which is an album that Cummings and Bachman recorded in Bachman's toolshed in British Columbia in 1987. Previously unreleased until 2006, it was made available exclusively at Bachman-Cummings concerts, and is now available on the Bachman-Cummings website.
The Bachman-Cummings First Time Around CBC TV Special was released on DVD in November 2006 on the Sony BMG label. In June 2007, Bachman and Cummings released an album titled Jukebox that covered various songs from the 1960s that influenced them. A follow-up album to Jukebox as well as a television special have also been discussed.
Above the Ground
Outside of his work with Bachman, in November 2004 Cummings released a single "With God on Our Side", a cover of the famous Bob Dylan song. The single debuted at the 21st spot on the Canadian music internet music chart.
On November 4, 2008 Cummings released his first solo album of new studio material in 18 years titled Above the Ground. The album has 19 tracks of all original songs written by Cummings, some of which were written by him many years ago. The album was recorded with his touring band The Carpet Frogs. The release also includes a DVD with a behind the scenes look at the recording process. The first single from the album was "We Just Came from the U.S.A." Originally a Canadian-only release, Above the Ground is now available at Burton Cummings' website and on iTunes.
The Burton Cummings Theater located in downtown Winnipeg, is named after Cummings.