Chad allan 001001

Allan, Chad & Expressions (Allan Kowbel)

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Origin: Winnipeg, Manitoba, 🇨🇦

Celebrated musician Chad Allan, who carved a place in Canadian rock music history as co-founder of iconic bands the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, has died. He was 80.

Jamie Anstey, vice president of Regenerator Records which reissued a number of his early albums and recordings, said Allan died Tuesday but his family asked friends to delay announcing the news to give them time to grieve privately.

Allan had suffered a number of strokes since 2017 and had spent time in hospitals and a care home near his home in Burnaby, B.C.

“He was kind of a guy that never really made it in terms of fame and fortune, but he was certainly a pioneer and a founder of two huge Canadian groups, which I think is really special,” Anstey said in an interview Saturday.

Randy Bachman, a member of both bands, issued a Facebook post in which he said he was grateful to have known and worked with Allan. He described his former bandmate as “a quiet, gentle soul with a peaceful voice.”

Born Allan Kowbel on March 29, 1943, he adopted the stage name Chad Allan over frustrations with friends calling him “cow bell” and formed his first band while attending high school in Winnipeg.

The group’s moniker, Al and the Silvertones, was a nod to the Silvertone guitar. Allan was joined in the band by keyboardist Bob Ashley on piano, drummer Gary Peterson, bassist Jim Kale and Bachman on lead guitar.

The band went through several name changes, including Chad Allan and the Reflections and Chad Allan and the Expressions, before adopting the Guess Who.

The name was created by label Quality Records to promote their rendition of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates “Shakin All Over,” which became a No. 1 hit in Canada in 1965. After the international success of the record, the name stuck.

That same year, Burton Cummings joined the group, replacing Ashley. Allan left the band shortly thereafter over concerns that his exuberant live performances had blown out his voice.

“When We crossed over from Chad Allan & The Expressions to the Guess Who, we had a couple of months of overlap with him and Burton where the music and harmonies were amazing. He was the voice of ‘Shakin’ All Over’ as a cover hit in Canada but he wasn’t made for life on the road and taught and sang locally instead,” Bachman said in his Facebook post.

Cummings, in his own Facebook post, called Allan “an inspiration to all of us in bands in Winnipeg.”

“I learned a lot from watching and listening to Chad. He was very talented and one of a kind. He will always be remembered,” Cummings wrote.

Allan’s career took a few unexpected turns in the years that followed his time in the Guess Who.

A brief stint in college led to a hosting gig on CBC-TV series “Let’s Go,” a musical showcase often likened to a Canadian version of “American Bandstand.” The series aired five days a week and Allan hosted the Thursday edition from Winnipeg.

After a number of other gigs with the CBC, Allan reconnected with Bachman, who had freshly departed from the Guess Who. Together they formed rock outfit Brave Belt, which produced two albums in the early 1970s.

Brave Belt would eventually recruit Fred Turner as a touring bassist, and by the time their second album was in production he had assumed the role of lead singer. Allan left the project as it became Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

He pursued a solo career in the years that followed, releasing the album “Sequel” in 1973 before shifting his focus to other musical aspirations.

In 1974, he oversaw “Beowulf: A Musical Epic,” an operatic production of the ancient poem with Allan in the lead part and conductor Victor Davies handling the composition and arrangement.

After getting a science degree at the University of Manitoba and a psychology degree at the University of Winnipeg, Allan moved to Vancouver in 1977.

In the early 1980s, he began teaching a songwriting class at Kwantlen University College in Surrey, B.C. and later Douglas College in nearby New Westminster.

Allan would occasionally revisit his past career successes, like in 1987 when he joined Bachman, Cummings and Neil Young at a Winnipeg nightclub for a reunion performance organized by local rock historian John Einarson.

By the early 1990s, his priorities had shifted and he was primarily devoting himself to performances at seniors facilities.

Those eventually became his main source of income, according to the 2006 book “Whatever Happened To …? Catching Up With Canadian Icons,” written by Mark Kearney and Randy Ray.

He would play accordion and piano at adult day centres and hospitals an average of four times per week, performing a diverse array of songs like Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

“When I was younger doing the seniors thing wasn’t all that desirable,” he is quoted as saying. “But I soon discovered it can be spiritually rewarding.”

Allan’s vocal problems persisted throughout his career, a fact he admitted caused him great struggle at times. He released the Christian rock album “Zoot Suit Monologue” in 1992 but then stopped producing new material, though he continued writing music.

“It’s a miracle that I can even speak, never mind sing,” he said.

In 2007, Regenerator Records dove into Allan’s catalogue and reissued a number of his early albums and a collection, “Chad Allan and the Reflections – Early Roots.”

“I think the thing about Chad is he’s such a humble, unassuming gentleman, and truly, the word is gentleman,” label co-founder Larry Hennessey said.

“He’s had his share of great moments in Canadian history and Canadian rock music history.”

Allan married his wife Christine, who survives him, in 1999 and they lived together in an apartment in Burnaby.

Allan was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2015.
-With files from Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton, Globe and Mail

The Guess Who are a Canadian rock band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Initially gaining recognition in Canada, they also found international success from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s with numerous hit singles, including "American Woman", "These Eyes" and "Share the Land". Several members of The Guess Who, notably Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman (of Bachman–Turner Overdrive), have also found considerable success outside the band.

The band was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.

The Guess Who started out as a local Winnepeg band formed by singer/guitarist Chad Allan in 1960 and initially called Al and the Silvertones. This was changed to Chad Allan & the Reflections in 1962, by which point the band consisted of Chad Allan (vocals/guitar), Bob Ashley (keyboards), Randy Bachman (guitars), Jim Kale (bass), and Garry Peterson (drums). All the band members were born in Winnipeg.

The band's debut single ("Tribute To Buddy Holly") was released on Canadian-American Records in 1962. Chad Allan and the Reflections then signed with Quality Records and released several flop singles in 1963/64, including one mis-credited to Bob Ashley & The Reflections. By 1965, the group was forced to change its name to Chad Allan & the Expressions after a U.S. group called The Reflections had scored a hit with "Just Like Romeo & Juliet".

It was at this point that the band scored their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over". This track reached #1 in Canada, #22 in the U.S (where Quality had licensed the track to the American Scepter label for release in the U.S.), and #27 in Australia. However, in an attempt to build a mystique around the record, Quality Records credited the single only to "Guess Who?" It was hoped that some listeners might assume the "Guess Who?" identity was deliberately masking several famous performers working under a pseudonym – given the "beat group" nature of the record, perhaps even members of The Beatles and/or other popular British Invasion bands. In concealing the identity of the band in this fashion, Quality Records may have been influenced by a similar ploy made the previous year by "The You Know Who Group", an American outfit whose Merseybeat-ish 1964 single "Roses Are Red My Love" had peaked at #43 in the US, and at #21 in Canada.

It is debatable as to whether anyone was really fooled by the "Guess Who?" ruse, or if the record would have been a hit regardless of the artist credit. But the upshot was that, even after Quality Records revealed the band was "really" Chad Allan & The Expressions, disc jockeys still announced the group as Guess Who?, effectively forcing the band to rename themselves. So although singles were issued as being by "Guess Who?" on their first two albums, the band was credited as both "Guess Who?" and "Chad Allan & The Expressions".

The immediate follow-ups to "Shakin' All Over" met with major success in Canada but very little success elsewhere. After Bob Ashley left the group in late 1965, Burton Cummings joined the band as keyboardist and co-lead vocalist (with Chad Allan) in early January 1966. This line-up only lasted for a few months before Chad Allan left, making Cummings the new full-time lead singer. By this point, the band's name had become "The Guess Who?" (the question mark would finally be dropped in 1968) and with Chad Allan gone, the "Chad Allan & The Expressions" subtitle was dropped once and for all. Feeling that they'd "played out" all the venues in Winnipeg, the band began playing in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1966. While there, they crossed paths with a young Joni Mitchell, who played in many of the same venues as the group.

The group continued to release top 40 singles in Canada and even had one single ("His Girl") scrape the lower reaches of the UK charts in 1967. However, a trip to the UK to promote this single proved to be a financial disaster as the single dropped off the charts after only one week,[2] and The Guess Who found themselves unable to get airplay or to book any paying gigs without work visas. They returned to Canada within a matter of weeks, thousands of dollars in debt.

The band's fortunes were saved when, later in 1967, they landed a gig as the house band on the CBC television show Let's Go, a music show oriented toward teens. The show aired 39 weeks a year and the paycheques from it allowed The Guess Who to pay off their debts; it also gave them further exposure in Canada. Although the band was initially hired only to perform the chart hits of the day on the show (in arrangements as close as possible to the actual hit records), after a time, the show's producer encouraged the group to write and perform their own material as well. The Guess Who stayed with Let's Go for two years; a compilation of some of their Let's Go performances was released on CD in 2004.

Among those who noticed The Guess Who during their run on Let's Go was record producer/sales executive Jack Richardson. He contacted the band about participating in an advertising project for Coca-Cola; this turned out to be the recording of a split LP with Ottawa band The Staccatos (soon to rename themselves The Five Man Electrical Band). The resulting album was called A Wild Pair, and featured The Guess Who on one side and The Staccatos on the other. The album was only available for purchase through mail-order for the price of 10 Coca Cola bottle cap liners and $1 (to cover shipping expenses). Guitarist Randy Bachman has stated in interviews that he believes A Wild Pair sold enough copies in Canada to qualify for gold record status; however, because the album was not sold through normal retail channels, no certified sales figures are available.


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Allan, Chad & Expressions (Allan Kowbel)


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