Garry Peterson, The Guess Who
Getting teased by musicians is not anything new; in fact, most of the time, it’s expected. It comes with the territory. But when asked what made Guess Who cofounder and drummer Garry Peterson continue on with the group even after other members had decided to part ways, well, his response was enough to make just about anyone speechless.
“You mean [to ask], is that why we are called the Guess Who?” Peterson joked. “Because you don’t know who’s going to take the stage that night?”
The legendary Guess Who take the stage at HerrinFesta Italiana.
In a candid Nightlife exclusive, Peterson discussed his forty-plus years in rock ‘n’ roll and the excitement of being a part of a diverse band all while trying to keep the creative process going and hope people are listening.
It’s a difficult job, but you-know-who is up for it.
The Guess Who were very much Canada’s first international rock superstars, scoring a large hit in 1965 with “Shakin’ All Over.” Peterson remembers coming to play in Carbondale in the late 1960s, just before the Guess Who charted with the hauntingly beautiful ballad “These Eyes.”
The Guess Who continued into the seventies with the release of the album American Woman. The title track provided the catalyst the band needed, and the Guess Who got a big break with the blowout success of “American Woman” and its popular B-side “No Sugar Tonight.”
Preceded by the top-five tune “No Time,” “American Woman” became the band’s only number-one hit.
Peterson, who started playing the drums at just two years old, reflected on his years as a professional musician.
Mostly I’ve lived in the moment,” Peterson said. “We were happy with whatever. You wake up one day and its been four decades later.
Today’s Guess Who lineup includes Peterson, Derek Sharp (who, by the way, is of Italian descent) on lead vocals, Jim Kale on bass, Laurie MacKenzie on guitar, and Leonard Shaw on keyboard, vocals, flute, and saxophone.
Peterson has played with the Guess Who longer than any other member. Kale left in 1973 and was replaced by Bill Wallace. Kale was part of the initial reunion tour in 1999, and he has been back since 2004. Shaw has been a member since 1991, and relative newcomer Sharp joined the band in 2008.Peterson explained that he never really thought about leaving the Guess Who because he was getting what he needed musically and professionally with the band.
“We became very successful,” Peterson said. “Why would you close that door? Why not continue unless you are not able to get something else out of it?.... Why [original guitarist Randy] Bachman left, you’d have to ask him. [But for me] we were doing a lot of experimenting musically and I didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else.”
Coming out of the age of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll, the Guess Who tested the waters with original instrumentation.“You take three songs-- let’s say ‘These Eyes,’ ‘Undun’ and ‘American Woman,’” Peterson said. “They are so musically different. We were able to create this body of work that was very satisfying creatively.”