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Old 07-23-2013, 03:24 PM   #51
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Re: Burton Cummings

Burton - Massey Hall - Thur.Sept.19,2013 -
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Old 09-02-2013, 04:04 PM   #52
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Re: Burton Cummings

By: Richard Ouzounian Theatre Critic, Published on Fri Aug 30 2013

Burton Cummings didn’t just write “Stand Tall”; he lives it.

The 65-year-old Canadian rock icon is still out there, singing to the crowds just like he has for the past 50 years. On Sept. 7, he’s at the Rogers Centre and on Sept. 19, he’ll take to the stage at Massey Hall as part of Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival.

And although another one of his biggest hits is called “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon,” he’s driftin’ back to Winnipeg as he unwinds on the phone.

“I’m a North End boy,” he says proudly, “born on Lansdowne, grew up on Bannerman. Went to Edmund Partridge School and came back there a few years later to sign the first autograph I ever did in my life. Tiny stage. Only about a couple of feet square.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. Cummings isn’t a faded shadow of the man he was, rummaging through his memories. The voice has the energetic, ragged edge it did when he turbo-drove The Guess Who to fame.

“I don’t live in the past, but I love it. Hell, I love all my life. Even the parts I hate.” And then he laughs.

“It all started for me with my mother’s collection of 78s. A Guy Mitchell record. That’s what I remember first, around the time I started going to kindergarten. I’d play it over and over again. It was like two and a half minutes of time being frozen.”

But it took something else for Cummings’ initial fascination to find an avenue of expression.

“We were always sitting around on Sunday nights watching Ed Sullivan. I saw Elvis on that first night it all changed for teenagers. I saw people like Brook Benton and Bobby Darin, and I knew they were all making records for a living and they were only a few years older than me.

“Yeah, pretty early on I had my sights set on cutting records. It was the permanence of them, those ‘little three minute miracles’ as (record mogul) Ahmet Ertegun called them. That whole concept hit me very early.”

So Cummings looked around for some people he could make music with it and found them in a North End band called The Devrons.

“At first they were just a guitar band. My best friend, Ed Smith, was in the band, so I hung around with them. Soon I was singing a few songs, playing a bit of sax. We were a cover band. Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon. Simple, simple, simple. I was 13, turning 14, but I wasn’t even the youngest guy in the group.”

Heady stuff for a young guy and Cummings shares that “we were treated like stars from around the time we were 15. We were in demand. We got all the benefits without taking any of the risks. We lived at home, went to school, then turned it on for the weekends.”

That dichotomy eventually caused a certain amount of trouble for Cummings because, as he puts it, “it screwed my head around and I was failing things at school because I was more interested in music than books.”

But that was soon all to become moot, because destiny was waiting for him one night in 1965.
“It was at a Gerry and the Pacemakers concert in Winnipeg,” Cummings recalls. “The Devrons opened, then The Guess Who, then the star act. I saw the guys from The Guess Who watching me that night. My gift was that I could sound like anybody. And I could scream. Chad Allan (then their lead vocalist) couldn’t do Eric Burdon. I could.”

So he joined the band and it was only a few months before Allan exited, leaving the 18-year-old Cummings as the lead singer of one of the hottest groups in Canada.

Cummings and Randy Bachman were drawn to each other, although their conflict was later to pull the group apart.

“Randy and I just clicked as songwriters. It was never work. We wrote ‘These Eyes’ in half an hour; ‘Laughing’ in less than that. It was never arduous at all.

“It seems kinda sophomoric to me now. I was still living at home with my mother and grandmother. Randy would come over at 11 on a Saturday morning and we’d sit around bashing out tunes.”

Except for the song that would take them to No. 1 for the first time: that one was a little different.

“Everybody likes to claim credit for writing ‘American Woman’ now,” snarls Cummings. I love to hear (Jim) Kale go on about what the lyrics meant and how he helped write it in 10 minutes. Bulls---.”

It’s a story Cummings loves to tell.

“We were playing out in Scarborough, at this curling arena called Broom and Stone. We were doing two shows at night. I was out back talking to some guy and then I heard Randy and the boys start this great riff to bring me back in.”

Cummings starts to sing that famous intro. “Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, dum . . . boom!”

“I just raced onto the stage and sang whatever came into my head. I jammed words along with the music. It was all stream of consciousness. Let me make it clear. It was never a song. It was a riff from Randy and then I laid some words on it.”

Fortunately, the band found a kid had been bootlegging that night’s concert with a new invention: the cassette recorder. Instead of getting mad, they listened to it and jotted down what Cummings had ad libbed and he later firmed up the words.

“It had nothing to do with politics. What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”

But that was the last happy event involving Cummings and Bachman.

“Randy converted to Mormonism. He was giving us books about the faith, he tried to get me to go to the temple. That was the beginning of the end. He didn’t want us to have an aspirin, let alone a beer. We just became enemies, almost as easily as we had become friends. That’s how it was.”

Bachman left the group and, a few years later, Cummings did as well. He started an impressive solo career with a string of different hits, songs like “I’m Scared.”

“That was my mother’s favourite song of all. I was in New York City at Christmastime. It was cold and damp. I was walking back to my hotel, but my hands were freezing and I ducked into this beautiful church to warm them up. The Cathedral of St Thomas. Absolutely gorgeous.

“But as I sat at the back of the empty church, alone, warming my hands, I got spooked. I felt something otherworldly, powerful. When I got back to my hotel, I wrote the words down. It’s a song about wondering. Not being an atheist, but wanting something to hang onto in the here and now.”

Cummings kept on and he’s still writing and singing today.

“I still love the two hours onstage,” he insists. “But I’m gonna be 66 soon and it’s the other 22 hours of the day I have to worry about. When it gets lame, it’s time to quit.

“Yeah, I’m a year older each year. But so is the public. Their lives changed and so has mine. But when I do these songs, hell, everything is the same again for a while.”


STEVE MILLER: “He’s got such energy and he’s five years older than me. I think if he can do it, then so can I.”

TONY BENNETT: “He’s got such incredible class and longevity and he always still sounds fresh. It’s amazing.”

PAUL MCCARTNEY: “I heard he sang 37 songs one night not long ago. And I get tired after 20.”
GUY MITCHELL: “The first singer I ever remember. My mother loved him, which meant I had to love him too.”

DAVID FORMAN: “I’ve never met the man, but he wrote ‘Dream of a Child,’ which may very well be the best song I’ve ever recorded. What a magic work!”

BURTON HAS POSTED THIS ON HIS FB page to clarify a couple of items that are wrong in the article:


I did a rather lengthy phone interview with a guy from the Toronto Star last week and overall, it was okay...but I was blatantly misquoted about "American Woman"'s what I was quoted as saying in the article...

“Everybody likes to claim credit for writing "American Woman’ now,” snarls Cummings. I love to hear (Jim) Kale go on about what the lyrics meant and how he helped write it in 10 minutes. Bulls---.”

I wasn't referring to Kale...I was talking about Bachman...
I once saw in print how Bachman was casually commenting about how he wrote American Woman in about ten minutes...of course it pissed me off...American Woman was NEVER A SONG until those words came to life...PERIOD !!!
At any rate, the quote above was in the Toronto Star for all the world to see, and all I can do is tell you here that I was misquoted. This is what happens when an interviewer doesn't record the interview. We end up seeing someone's IDEA of what I said...Don't get me wrong..Richard Ouzounian was very pleasant and a pretty cool's just that I didn't say that about was Bachman who claimed he "wrote" American Woman in ten minutes...
Well at least I've said my piece in public and perhaps now that's straight...

Regarding that Star article, now I see the bit about Edmund Partridge...I never attended Edmund Partridge, but I played there with the Deverons...and what I told the reporter was that it was the very first place I ever signed an "autograph"...
I was very, very young...Boris Pawluk was still in the Deverons...
So that's another "discrepancy"...I only ever went to 2 schools in my entire life...Luxton and St. John's...
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