Burton Cummings

Canadian Classic Rock
Biography

Burton Cummings

Burton Cummings

 

Born in the north end of Winnipeg in 1947, Burton Cummings grew up with music in his household and received a degree in piano from the University of Manitoba at the age of 19. His first band was The Devrons, a quintet of local kids doing the prairie circuit when he was asked to replace the recently departed Chad Allen and Bob Ashley in The Guess Who.

Bachman left following '71's SHARE THE LAND but Cummings carried on with The Guess Who for another five years, going through a number of guitarists but still pumping out hits. "Running Back To Saskatoon", "Orly", "Albert Flasher" and "Clap For The Wolfman", an ode to the late Wofman Jack all went gold and helped Cummings play an integral part in what would turn out to be one of rock's greatest bands ever. Though The Guess Who name carried on after Kale bought the rights to it, it was evident their time had passed.

Cummings released his first solo record in the fall of 1976 on CBS Records. Now in complete control, Cummings quickly made his mark as a solo artist. A basic sound with a predominantly laid back feel, the singles "Stand Tall" and "I'm Scared" pushed the self-titled debut gold (50, 000 copies in Canada). Cummings was honoured with two Junos that year, single of the year for "Stand Tall" as well as album of the year. He took up residence full time in LA that year and also contributed to other projects by Bette Midler, Leo Sayer ... and also Randy Bachman.

MY OWN WAY TO ROCK came out the next year and backed by such hard-driving piano classics as the title track and "Charlemagne", as well as the ballads "A Song For Him" and "Got To Find Another Way", the record quickly turned gold. Other noteable tracks included a cover of Bob Seger's "Come On By" and "Never Had A Lady Before". Also included on the album was "Got To Find Another Way", a track co-written by Randy Bachman in 1970 that never made it to a Guess Who lp. With a harder edge than its predecessor, MY OWN WAY TO ROCK showcased Cummings ability to turn out classics with the heaviest beat since the early 70's with The Guess Who, and is widely considered his best solo work.

DREAM OF A CHILD was released in '79 and contained his broadest-based record so far. The list of special guest appearances read literally like a 'who's who' of rock and roll. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Jeff Porcaro, Becky Lopez, Bill Payne and Randy Bachman all contributed. With covers of Bobby Darin's "Wait By The Water", two Motown classics, "When A Man Loves A Woman", made famous by Percy Sledge, the jazz classic "Shiny Stockings" and Sam and Dave's "Hold On I'm Coming", Cummings displayed his musical influences and turned it into a platinum-selling project. The country cross-over hit "Break It To Them Gently", his biggest solo single to date, the ballads "Takes A Fool To Love A Fool", "I Will Play Rhapsody" and the remake of The Guess Who's "Guns Guns Guns" helped DREAM OF A CHILD become his biggest selling album of all time. The fact he was the only Canadian act to headline at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition further demonstrated his prominance in the domestic music scene.

WOMAN LOVE came out a year later and had the hit "Fine State Of Affairs". Other singles included "Mile A Second" and the title track. Though it still went gold, the record is considered one of his weaker efforts, failing to live up to its predecessor. Interest was waning as well, giving way to the sometimes horrible new-wave sound which dominated the '80's. THE BEST OF BURTON CUMMINGS, a greatest hits compilation if you can believe that, came out later that year and featured tracks from his four solo records as well as a live version of "Orly".

SWEET SWEET hit the shelves in the summer of '81. Now on a somewhat downward slide, the record demonstrated little creativity and a narrow view. Though it spawned the hit "You Saved My Soul", and the singles "Mother Keep Your Daughter In" and "Bad News", the record received less than favourable reviewsand was his first solo lp to not be certified gold. Cummings also made his acting debut in the Canadian-made "Melanie", which is alo the main reason "You Saved My Soul" went gold. In 1983, Cummings reunited with Bachman, Peterson and Kale to do a mini-tour across Canada they called the twilight zone tour. The first new tracks in over a decade by the four hit the airwaves as well as one of the first concerts on the then-new specialty tv channels. "Let's Watch The Sun Go Down", "C'mon and Dance", "What's Gonna Happen To The Kids" and "Creepin Peepin Baby Blues" treated the world to another example of Cummings being ahead of his time, the supergroup reunion.

HEART, Cummings' next solo project came out in '84 and unfortunately disappointed most who listened and even more so those who bought it. A lack of support from CBS was evidenced by not even a single being released.

Cummings sat out the rest of the '80's and re-emerged in 1990 with PLUS SIGNS. Though he was obviously playing to a narrower crowd than the better part of a decade before, it was widely heralded as one of the year's sleeper hits. Backed by a national tour which took him back to his roots playing the smaller venues and towns across the country, "One Day Soon", "Take One Away", "Free" and "The Rock's Steady" showcased his wide array of influences and showed the world one of Canada's greatest exports was back.

Curiously though, he wasn't. He again dropped out of sight shortly thereafter, preferring to stay in the background doing session work. A retrospective called THE BURTON CUMMINGS COLLECTION was put out in '96 and highlighted his career, containing the usual dribble in a best of package, as well as some remixes and previously unreleased material.

1996's UP CLOSE AND ALONE was the next we heard of Burton. An intimate interaction with the crowd at Toronto's Glen Gould Theatre, the record was him and his piano ... that's all. With simple interpretations of solo classics as well as some tracks recorded with The Guess Who, UP CLOSE AND ALONE was easily the year's most under-rated records. Certified gold in only a few months, it proved Cummings' recognition as one of the most inspirational artists in rock and his absolutely legendary status in Canada. After a series of absolutely packed North American dates without a backup band, he again slipped out of the foreground, retreating to the seclusion of his California home. He reunited with his Guess Who buddies again in 1998 to help raise funds for the Red River flood victims.

Enough can't be said about Burton Cummings' influence on what we hear on the radio today. Experimenting with psychadelic, jazz, blues, lounge-style, rockabilly and country sounds over his nearly four decades of recording, he helped shape the sound of generations to come. Respected world-wide and proudly showing his Canadian colours, Burton Cummings is truly a legend - at home and abroad.

Written by Dan Brisebois of
CanConRox

Discography

Burton Cummings
Burton Cummings (1976)

I'm Scared
Your Backyard
Nothing Rhymed
That's Enough
Is It Really Right
Stand Tall
Niki Hokey
Sugartime Flashback Joys
Burch Magic
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Blossom (demo) - CD bonus
I'm Scared (demo) - CD bonus

My Own Way To Rock
My Own Way To Rock (1977)

Never Had A Lady Before
Come On By
Try To Find Another Man
Got To Find Another Way
My Own Way To Rock
Charlemagne
Timeless Love
Framed
A Song For Him
Lay It On The Line (live) - CD bonus
Charlemagne (live) - CD bonus

Dream Of A Child
Dream Of A Child (1978)

Break It To Them Gently
Hold On, I'm Comin'
I Will Play A Rhapsody
Wait By The Water
When A Man Loves A Woman
Shiny Stockings
Guns, Guns, Guns
Takes A Fool To Love A Fool
Meanin' So Much
It All Comes Together
Roll With The Punches
Dream Of A Child
Sweet Nothin's - CD bonus
Wild Child - CD bonus

Woman Love
Woman Love (1980)

Feels All Wrong
One And Only
Mile A Second
Had To Be You
Heavenly Blue
Fine State Of Affairs
Where Are You
Woman Love
It's Hard
Wakin' Up Today
Daddy's On The Road - CD bonus
I Do My Vocals On The Boat - CD bonus

Best Of Burton Cummings
Best Of Burton Cummings (1980)

Stand Tall
I'm Scared
Your Backyard
Is It Really Right
Never Had A Lady Before
Timeless Love
My Own Way To Rock
Charlemagne
Got To Find Another Way
Break It To Them Gently
I Will Play A Rhapsody
A Song For Him
Takes A Fool To Love A Fool
Dream Of A Child
Meanin' So Much
Guns, Guns, Guns
Draggin' 'Em Down The Line
Fine State Of Affairs
Nothing Rhymed - not on CD
Orly (Live) - not on CD

Sweet Sweet
Sweet Sweet (1981)

You Saved My Soul
Real Good
Mother Keep Your Daughters In
Something Old, Something New
Nothin' Wrong With The Road
Gettin' My Daddy's Car
Bad News
Someone To Lean On
Sweet Sweet
Firefly

Heart
Heart (1984)

Combustion
Love Dream
Whatever Happened To Your Eyes
Heart
Will You Show Me
Creepin' Peepin' Baby Blues
Be Bop A Lula
Over You
Thrill A Minute
Not Too Appealing

Plus Signs
Plus Signs (1990)

The Workaday
Permissible To Cry
Friend Of Inertia
Take One Away
Cerebral World
I'd Love To Talk
The Rock's Steady
One Day Soon
Bridge In Time
Boring Dreams
Free

The Burton Cummings Collection
The Burton Cummings Collection (1994)

Stand Tall
I'm Scared
Nothing Rhymed
Is It Really Right
Never Had A Lady Before
Charlemagne
Timeless Love
My Own Way To Rock
Break It To Them Gently
I Will Play A Rhapsody
Meanin' So Much
Dream Of A Child
Fine State Of Affairs
One And Only
You Saved My Soul
Not Too Appealing
Heart
Permissible To Cry
Free
Take One Away

Up Close And Alone
Up Close And Alone (1996)

Albert Flasher
Timeless Love
Stand Tall
Sour Suite
Break It To Them Gently
Laughing
Undun
Clap For The Wolfman
I Will Play A Rhapsody
Share The Land
Gordon Lightfoot Does Maggie May
You Saved My Soul
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Ferry Cross The Mersey
Take One Away
I'm Scared
Dream Of A Child
These Eyes/Goodnight Everybody

See Also
Guess Who


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