Based: 1972, Vancouver
Years Most Active: 1973-1979
– Randy Bachman (vocals, lead guitar)
– C. Fred Turner (bass, vocals)
– Tim Bachman (guitar, vocals; 1973-4)
– Robbie Bachman (drums, backing vocals)
– Blair Thornton (lead guitar, backing vocals; replaced Tim Bachman in 1974)
– #1 Hit in 20 countries around the world, including Canada and the U.S.
– 4th biggest song of the year in Canada
– Juno Award for Song of the Year
Other Big Hits:
“Let It Ride“, 1974 <#3, RPM>
“Takin’ Care of Business“, 1974 <#3 RPM>
“Hey You“, 1975 <#1, RPM>
“Roll On Down The Highway“, 1975 <#4, RPM>
– 7 JUNO Awards.
– 5 Platinum Albums.
– 11 Top 40 hits (RPM)
– Induction into the Music Hall of Fame, 2014
One of the biggest rock bands in Canadian history, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was an offshoot of The Guess Who. At the peak of the latter’s success, lead guitarist Randy Bachman left the band and reunited with former Expressions and Guess Who Member Chad Allen. Needing a drummer, Randy recruited his little brother Robin (“Robbie”) and the trio initially called themselves Brave Belt. Heading into the studio to record a country-rock album, they chanced upon bassist C. Fred Turner and became a quartet. They recorded two albums in the early 70s and scored a minor hit: “Dunrobin’s Gone”.
By 1972, the band was shifting into a heavier sound, especially with Turner’s gritty truck driver vocals. This new direction found itself at odds with Chad Allen’s vision of the group and he departed. They were now thousands of dollars in debt, frustrated by their lack of success, wondering whether they should relocate and reinvent themselves. On the road, they stopped for gas and food at a truck stop outside of Windsor, Ontario, one day, and came across the chief magazine (at the time) of the trucking industry—Overdrive. They wrote down the band’s new name on a napkin—Bachman-Turner Overdrive—and had a new vision for where they wanted to go musically. They replaced Allen with another brother of Randy’s—Tim—and began recording demo tapes and touring across the country.
While in Alberta, they bumped into booking agent Bruce Allen, the man who’s, since, managed such artists as Northern Lights, Bryan Adams, and, more recently, Michael Bublé. He suggested they relocate to Vancouver. They settled in a modest studio above a muffler shop in the city and Randy began sending demo tapes to various record labels in the U.S. and Canada. They were turned down by 22 labels before being singed by Charlie Fach of Mercury Records. It happened by pure chance as King Biscuit reports:
Charlie Fach of Mercury Records returned to his office after a trip to France to find a stack of unplayed demo tapes waiting on his desk. Wanting to start completely fresh, he took a trash can and slid all the tapes into it except one, which missed the can and fell onto the floor. Fach then picked up the tape and noticed Bachman’s name on it. He remembered talking to him the previous year and had told Bachman that if he ever put a demo together to send it to him. While playing the first song … “Gimme Your Money Please”, Fach called Bachman to tell him that he wanted to sign the band.
Bachman invited Bruce Allen to become the band’s manager, and they flew to Chicago to meet with Fach. Mercury took issue with the group’s new name which they said was too long. Randy suggested B.T.O. to which Fach agreed. For their debut album, it was Robbie who came up with the distinctive gear logo which was sculpted by Parviz Sardighan, featured on the album cover.
They released three singles which did nothing, but radio picked up their “Blue Collar” which became their first hit peaking at #21 on the RPM charts in 1973. The album managed to stay in the charts for 68 weeks. B.T.O. saw its big breakthrough with its second album, Bachman Tuner Overdrive II, released the same year. The singles “Let It Ride” and the anthemic “Takin’ Care of Business” drove the album into the #4 position on the U.S. Billboard charts. With their success, they felt they needed to replace Tim and enlisted Blair Thornton.
They never dreamed what would happen with their next album, Not Fragile (1974). Single “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” raced up to the top of the charts in 20 countries around the world, becoming a million-seller, and the album topped the Billboard charts. The follow-up single “Roll On Down the Highway” peaked at #4. 1975′s Four Wheel Drive, made the Top 5, went platinum and provided the hit single “Hey You”. B.T.O. was so big by this point that Elvis Presley invited them down to Las Vegas to hang out. He was a big fan of their “Takin’ Care of Business”.
The group revisited their jazzy blues roots on their fifth album, Head On. Little Richard assisted on the piano rocker “Take It Like a Man” and Randy created one of his finest moments, echoing his Guess Who era, “Come Undone”, with the intricate and mellow “Looking Out For #1″.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive was, by now, experiencing internal conflicts stemming from power struggles over song representation, and their sixth album Freeways garnered little radio interest. Mercury panicked and released both Live and Greatest Hits albums, and then, Randy left the band. He was replaced and the group trucked on with a couple of new albums in the late-70s but had no further success and ran out of gas. To date, total worldwide sales of B.T.O. releases are estimated at over 20 million. Randy Bachman is still active in the music business and has worked on a number of projects since. Many of the band’s songs still receive frequent airplay on radio stations. Fans of the group are known as “gearheads”.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in 2014.