Burton Cummings (1947-)

Burton Cummings

Year Born: 1947

Year of Induction: 2005

Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Cummings, Burton (1947- )

Burton Cummings was born in Winnipeg on December 31st 1947.  As a boy he studied piano, and in his teens he sang tenor roles in high school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His leanings were however more toward pop music, and in 1962 he joined a local group, the Deverons, on keyboards and saxophone. In 1965 he joined The Expressions, another Winnipeg group, whose members included
Chad Allan and Randy Bachman.

The following year the Expressions became Guess Who – the name used by their record company on their first record, to titillate the curiosity of djs who might think they were a new British group, and be more inclined to play their songs.  Shakin’ All Over was a major hit, and the Guess Who was born as a group.   Burton and Randy Bachman began writing songs together, and in 1969 the Guess Who recorded These Eyes, which was to become a million-plus seller.  Other songs which Burton either wrote or co-wrote included Laughing and American Woman.

While Bachman left the Guess Who in 1970, Burton stayed with them until deciding to go solo in 1976. Basing himself in Los Angeles, Burton began doing concerts and recording solo performances, many of which became major successes:  among them, Stand Tall (1976), My Own Way To Rock (1977), and Fine State of Affairs (1980).

As a solo entertainer, with a repertoire of both gentle ballads and lively rock numbers, Burton was well equipped to duplicate his recorded performances onstage, and as a result was in great demand in the seventies and eighties for concerts across Canada and the U.S. As well as headlining, he also opened for many major names, including Seals and Crofts, America and Alice Cooper.

He also did many broadcasts, including specials for the CBC in Canada and PBS in the States, and hosted several of the Juno Awards broadcasts.   As well as being recognized for his part in the successes of the often nominated Guess Who, he received  personal Junos as Most Promising Male Singer in 1977 and Best Male Singer in 1977 and 1980, and his Dream of a Child was the Best-Selling Album of 1980. In 1982 he was seen in the Canadian feature film Melanie.   In 1996 he recorded a solo piano album, Up Close and Alone.

Burton and Randy Bachman occasionally appeared together in later years, either as part of the re-formed Guess Who ( notably at the Winnipeg Pan Am Games in 1999 and on reunion tours of Canada and the U.S in 2000 and 2001), or occasionally as a duo.

Burton’s contributions to Canada’s music scene earned him many awards and accolades.  In 1989, he received the Wm Harold Moon award from the Performing Rights Organization of Canada for International Achievement, while in 2001 SOCAN awarded Burton Classics Awards for his songs Follow Your Daughter Home, My Own Way To Rock and You Saved My Soul, and recognized his and Randy Bachman’s joint achievements with their songs These Eyes and  No Time, for multi-million broadcast performances. A theatre and a community center in Winnipeg are named for him, and he was featured on the CBC’s Life and Times television series in 1997.

Burton Cummings was invested in the Order of Manitoba in 2001, and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Also in 2005, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters was pleased to recognize his many major contributions to the world of Canadian Music, by inducting him into the CAB Hall of Fame in the Music Star category.

In December 2009, Burton Cummings was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. 

Written by Pip Wedge – December, 2009