Stand Tall

Burton Cummings:  Stand Tall

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

Burton Cummings, former lead singer of The Guess Who.  

 artist:  Burton Cummings

songwriter:  Burton Cummings

date released:  1978 by Burton Cummings

Winnipeg's contribution to Canadian rock music history was The Guess Who featuring lead vocalist and keyboardist, Burton Cummings.  Also known as "The Voice", Cummings was born on December 31, 1947, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  When he was a child, he was already showing his musical ear by tinkling on a neighbour's piano without any formal training.  The lessons came in his teens when he studied the piano and saxophone in addition to singing tenor in high school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.  

By eighteen, Burton Cummings was ready to join Winnipeg's big name rock band, Chad Allen and The Expressions.  Shortly after, Chad Allen left the group, and the band changed names to The Guess Who. Left behind were the two kingpins, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman, to steer the band into enormous success and international fame.  The Guess Who's "American Woman" rocked the world in 1970.  Ironically,the song was not about a woman, but a protest against American military aggression and the draft.

Internal disagreement within The Guess Who splintered the band again into two groups: Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who led by Burton Cummings.  Separately, both bands remained successful with the Canadian audience.  

In 1976, Cummings left The Guess Who to pursue a solo career.  He experimented with a piano-driven, plaintive ballad sound with songs such as "Stand Tall" and "I'm Scared".  Singularly, he won more Juno Awards and his solid gold stature remained secure in the music industry. 

Burton Cummings relocated to Los Angeles to jam with other international musicians such as Bette Midler and Leo Sayer not missing the cold Winnipeg winters at all.  He reunited with Randy Bachman and The Guess Who in 1983 within a new, loosely-knit structure allowing both leads their individual careers.

In addition to many awards and honours, Burton Cummings and The Guess Who were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.  Also, the members of The Guess Who were awarded honourary Doctors of Music by the University of Brandon in Manitoba.