Burton Cummings Gives Up Guess Who Royalties to Prevent Fake Band from Playing Their Songs

"I’m willing to do anything to stop the fake band; they’re taking [Randy Bachman and my] life story and pretending it’s theirs"

Photo: Shillelagh Music

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Apr 11, 2024

In October of 2023, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings sued former members of the Guess Who, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, over an alleged cover band scheme, accusing them of being in cahoots with a group of hired musicians that had been recording and touring as the band. Six months later, as Rolling Stone reports, founder Cummings has taken drastic action and is terminating the performing rights agreements for all Guess Who songs he wrote.

While this removed copyright protections that allow the cover band to perform the actual band's hits like "American Woman" and "These Eyes," it also means Cummings will give up his cut of the royalties he collects on live performances of the songs.

"I'm willing to do anything to stop the fake band; they're taking [Bachman and my] life story and pretending it's theirs. They're not the people who made these records and they shouldn't act like they did," the former frontman told the publication. "This doesn't stop this cover band from playing their shows, it just stops them from playing the songs I wrote. If the songs are performed by the fake Guess Who, they will be sued for every occurrence."

According to his and Bachman's filing against the current (fake) iteration of the Guess Who — who allegedly currently hold the band's trademark thanks to its former bassist and drummer — the not-real Guess Who have been trying to pass it off as though it's the original band performing at the shows they're booking, even using the group's original recordings in ads "in an effort to boost the Cover Band's ticket sales for live performances and to give the false impression that Plaintiffs are performing."

"Not a lot of artists are both the writer and the publisher on their songs, and Burton Cummings fortunately is, so this is a very rare case where the artist can take this action," Helen Yu, Cummings's attorney, who spent several months working to get his performing rights license properly terminated, told Rolling Stone. "And I think this situation shows the direct nexus between their false advertising and who they say they are."

Almost every concert venue has blanket agreements with various performing rights organizations (PROs), but Cummings and his Shillelagh Music publishing company terminating their agreement with their PRO removed venues' permission to house any performances of his work. So far, the fake Guess Who's shows in Florida (Cyprus Lake, Fort Pierce, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach) and Mobile, AL, have been cancelled.

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