Interview with Garry Peterson from The Guess Who

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the guess who, garry peterson
Garry Peterson from The Guess Who

Interview by Scott Preston

The Guess Who was a Canadian rock music band from Winnipeg, Manitoba that was one of the first to establish a major successful following in their own country as well as abroad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were the first Canadian rock group to have a No.1 hit in the United States (“American Woman,” 1970). The band evolved out of Chad Allan and the Impressions (also shortened to The Impressions), a British Invasion styled band fronted by Chad Allan and featuring guitarist Randy Bachman. After their cover of “Shakin’ All Over” sold well as a single, their record label released their album with “Guess Who?” written on the cover, hoping to mislead unsuspecting buyers into thinking it was a British band. The name stuck, however, and from then on they were The Guess Who.

Cincy Groove: First off I have to say your website, theguesswhocafe.com, is absolutely amazing. How long did it take to put together?

Garry Peterson: Thank you, it didn’t take long at all. We use a lot of people out of our hometown of Winnipeg and there is this very talented guy there that put it together for for us. We are all very happy with the site. We also have a myspace page we just launched. We are trying to stay with whats going on in the modern world. Our lead singer, Derek, is pretty computer savvy.

A lot of artists from our genre/time period are not trying to do as much marketing as we are. I think they might feel like, Well we got the songs already, we have had the hits, we aren’t going to have anymore, so we will just capitalize on whats there already. We are interested in creating new visions of the band as well as new music.

Cincy Groove: I see that The Guess Who are using a new singer, Derek Sharp, how did you end up hooking up with him?

Garry Peterson: Derek is from the Toronto area and his wife is a huge star in Canada. Her name is Sass Jordan. She is kind of like the Paula Abdul of Canadian Idol. Derek is also her musical director. One of the players in our band, Leonard Shaw suggested we call him and see if he was interested. We were going through all these different scenarios of who we could get. He came in and did a show with us right away with out a rehearsal. We were doing this corporate date in Houston, TX. We sat around right before the gig and went over some stuff, but Derek had no formal rehearsal with the band before the show. He obviously did his homework, but he is extremely talented and stepped in without missing a beat. Derek is 43, so he grew up listening to the band. It wasn’t something we planned on doing, having Derek in the band.

We didn’t know that Carl was going to be in an accident earlier this year. As we said to Carl, get your better. Get to the point where you can be that guy that you were when we got together. Who knows Derek might not want to stay considering the career his wife has.

Cincy Groove: So are The Guess Who going to work on any new material with Derek?

Garry Peterson: I think possibly next year we may go forward with some stuff. Its something we want to do. Record companies are becoming rather obsolete as time goes on. People are starting to sell their music via the internet. If there are fans out there for the band that are interested in new music, we have to make it available to them via the delivery system that makes the most sense at this time. I know Derek has a song that I heard that really sounds like a Paul McCartney song. I fell in love it right away. I said we have to record this one. We still have the chance to go out and play the music for our fans, so that’s a good thing.

Cincy Groove: Do you remember where you were when you found out that “American Woman” had hit number #1 in the U.S.?

Garry Peterson: The band tells me we were somewhere where we were jumping up and down on a bed. I myself can’t remember specifically. Its not that it wasn’t an important event. That was a very long time ago (laughing). I mean I would get excited every time I would hear our record on the radio.

Cincy Groove: What did you think of Lenny Kravitz’s version of “American Woman”?

Garry Peterson: I thought he did a great job. Its a one chord song, E, and he modulated it up and down, and did a great job, and it ended it being number #1 for him. It helped us and hurt us at the same time. It helped in the sense that we received royalties and it brought some attention to the band. On the other hand, with some of the younger kids, they think that Lenny did “American Woman”.

Cincy Groove: Now I know that The Guess Who wasn’t the original name of the band, what did the band think when your record company at the time changed the name to The Guess Who for marketing purposes?

Garry Peterson: Oh at first we hated the name. We thought what kind of name is The Guess Who? We thought it was too close to The Who. We really had no choice in the matter. When “Shakin All Over” came out disc jockeys started calling the band The Guess Who. After a while we got used to it. The Guess Who wasn’t a name we would have chosen. Things that aren’t planned are often the things that are most successful.

Cincy Groove: How did the original members of the band get together?

Garry Peterson: Well, I played little league baseball with Randy Bachman. We went to school together and started our first teenage band together. Which was called The Embers. We morphed into several different bands and wound up being one of the top 2 bands in Winnipeg. The other original members were in another band called Al & The Silvertones. Which also became one of the top 2 bands in Winnipeg. Eventually those 2 bands merged to become the top band in Winnipeg. We decided that neither of us could beat the competition. The only way to become the top band was to merge the two (laughing). We didn’t really think that way. We were in a small city so it seemed like a logical choice.

Cincy Groove: When did you start playing drums?

Garry Peterson: My father tells me when I was 2. I really don’t have any memory of starting to play the drums, its just something I have always done. Kind of like walking, I mean who really has a memory of taking their first step? My dad was a drummer, so he started teaching me and I started playing. Then I performed for the first time professionally at the age of 4. Thats what I started doing and never looked back.

 

Upcoming The Guess Who tour dates:
For complete show details visit theguesswhocafe.com
10.25.08 – Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL
11.7.08 – Sturges Young Auditorium, Sturgis, MI
11.15.08 – Hard Rock Casino, Biloxi, MS
11.22.08 – Peppermill Casino, Wendover, NV
1.17.09 – MSC Cruise Line, Port Fort Lauderdale, FL