The Guess Who:
still pitching

An interview by Tom Knapp,
July 1997

The life of a touring musician isn't all glitz and glamor.

"My back's been out for two weeks now," said drummer Garry Peterson, speaking from a hotel room in Appleton, Wisc., "and yesterday I developed a toothache and need a root canal. Those kinds of things make it difficult. The playing part is easy."

Peterson, 52, has a right to be road-weary. A founding member of Canadian group the Guess Who in 1964, he still spends 180 to 200 days a year on the road with the band.

He, Randy Bachman and others put the Guess Who together in 1964. The band broke up in 1975, but not before recording hits like "These Eyes," "Laughing" and "American Woman." Following a reunion tour in 1983, Peterson rejoined the band -- now led by bassist Jim Kale -- in 1987.

Peterson and Kale are the only originals left. Rounding out the current lineup since 1990 are guitarist Dale Russell, Leonard Shaw on keyboard and lead singer/guitarist Terry Hatty. Even with new faces, however, the band remains rooted in its tradition.

"I think the fans keep us aware of the musical legacy," Peterson said. "And it does mean a lot to the fans. You can't just slough it off and go through the motions."

In 1995 the band released Lonely One, the only album of new music in more than a decade. They're working on a live album of classic Guess Who tunes recorded by the current lineup, and they're polishing off a demo for an album of new material.

But Peterson isn't sure how soon the new songs will see the light of day. It's frustrating.

"We're still in there pitching," he said. "But there's really no place for bands of our era to have our music played. The music stations are set up for alternative or rap, for the youth of today. Classic rock stations are interested in playing the old hits, not something new by the classic bands. ... The people in the band are constantly trying to create, but we don't have the same vehicle as the old band had."

That's unfortunate, because Peterson believes the current lineup is musically superior to any previous incarnation.

"The new material is in some sense very reminiscent of the '60s and '70s, without consciously trying to be so," Peterson said. "There's room for creativity and new ideas, not just synthesizing for the pop market."

Beyond just music, Peterson said musicians should be role models.

"We seem to get a lot of our role models in sports," he said. "We have Mike Tyson biting guys' ears off. We have Dennis Rodman -- it's questionable where he came from. Then we have guys like Tiger Woods and Wayne Gretzky. The difference with the last two, I think, is they came from a loving family. That's what kids need to see."

Musicians have to be conscious of their impact on youth, he said.

"I don't think young bands really realize how closely kids follow their lyrics and what it is they're saying. They take it as something close to gospel," Peterson said.

"All the things you're being taught that are cool to do are not necessarily cool," he said. "And the things you hear are square or old-fashioned -- you might want to take another look at them."

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp