Guess Who’s Being Sued? Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings Charge ‘Cover Band’ With False Advertising & More

"The Guess Who" Recording
SHARE THE MIC: The Guess Who record in the studio in circa 1966. (L-R) Jim Kale, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Randy Bachman. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, principle songwriters and creative forces behind The Guess Who — the Canadian rock band that had a string of major classic rock hits including “American Woman,” “Undun,” “No Time,” “No Sugar Tonight,” and more, filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles Oct. 30 alleging the band currently touring under the name with false advertising, unfair competition and violation of right to publicity.

Though The Guess Who disbanded in 1975 after Cummings left the band — Bachman departed in 1972 — bassist Jim Kale is alleged to have “covertly” registered “The Guess Who” service mark in the United States in 1977 and subsequently formed a partnership with drummer Garry Peterson in 1986 to conduct business as “The Guess Who.”

It’s complicated — band members came and went throughout the first incarnation of the band, including Kale — whom Bachman and Cummings claimed was “kicked out” in 1972. Bachman left the same year, citing irreconcilable lifestyles between himself and other band members. Yet, in years that followed, Bachman and Cummings intermittently joined Kale and Peterson for “reunion” tours, but the classic lineup never recorded together again.

Both plaintiffs have had successful careers since leaving The Guess Who. Bachman formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive and had major hits with “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Takin’ Care of Business” and “Let It Ride.” Cummings hit the charts with “Stand Tall,” “Break It To Them Gently” and “My Own Way To Rock.”

In the complaint, Bachman and Cummings claim that after Kale and Peterson formed their partnership, they recruited new members in what they repeatedly refer to as a “cover band,” In recent years, Kale has been said to be in poor health and has stopped performing and Peterson reportedly appears with the band only infrequently. Most nights, the band performing as “The Guess Who” has no original members. The suit seeks $20 million in damages, among other demands.

The “deceptive scheme subsequently concocted by Defendants to assemble a band of hired musicians (the “Cover Band”) to perform live concerts, record albums, and advertise and promote such concerts and albums using The Guess Who band name and trademark, falsely misleading the general public by giving the impression that this Cover Band includes performances by the highly regarded legendary musicians, Cummings and Bachman of the Original TGW, all for the sole purpose of Defendants’ own greed and commercial gain,” the complaint reads.

In addition, Bachman and Cummings accuse Kale, Peterson and the band of using their own likenesses on advertising, social media and streaming services that misrepresent the writers and performers of the original songs.

Playlists consist almost entirely of classic Guess Who titles written by Cummings or co-written by Cummings and Bachman and the pair alleges that such listings imply the band includes the former members. The also say the new band damages the legacy of The Guess Who and prevents Bachman and Cummings from touring in the United States using “The Guess Who” name.

Relations between members of The Guess Who — whether before or after the 1975 breakup — have been prickly over the years, to say the least.

After filing the suit, Cummings told Rolling Stone, “They’ve taken mine and Randy’s history, the history of The Guess Who, and stolen it to market their cheap ticket sales in their fake bullshit shows. It takes away everybody’s legitimacy.”

While representatives for Kale, Peterson and current band members haven’t yet responded to the suit, Kale was cited in the complaint telling the Winnipeg Sun in an old interview that in putting together a new band, his intent was to hire “a band of trained monkeys out there just to piss [Cummings] off. I’d love to take the high road, but I’m not going to.”