Julien's Presents Chronicles: Randy Bachman

Julien's Auctions transformed Steven Sebring Studio in New York City into an intimate haven for music aficionados

May 25, 2024

a group of men are sitting on stools on a stage playing guitars .

Tal Bachman, right, Randy Bachman, center, and Alan Light, left, grace the stage at Steven Sebring Studio on Wednesday, May 23, 2024, in New York City.

Last night, Julien's Auctions transformed Steven Sebring Studio in New York City into a haven for music aficionados, with its warm, industrial ambiance setting the scene for an unforgettable evening in the company of rock and roll royalty, Randy Bachman, and his son, Tal Bachman.

"Julien's Presents Chronicles: Randy Bachman" was not just a concert; it was a journey through the heart and soul of a musical legacy that has shaped generations, all within a space that exuded a magnetic, underground vibe.

The clandestine atmosphere was electric with anticipation as the Bachmans graced the stage, their guitars gleaming under the spotlight. With Alan Light's warm and engaging hosting chops, the evening unfolded into a seamless blend of musical performances and candid conversations, providing a select few a rare glimpse into the lives of these iconic musicians.

The setting itself, with its exposed beams and industrial chic decor, seemed to amplify the raw energy and authenticity of the performances.

a group of people are playing guitars on a stage in front of a crowd .
a group of people are sitting in a dark room watching a performance .
a group of men are playing guitars and singing on a stage .
a group of people are sitting in a circle watching a show .
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Bachman’s name is synonymous with rock anthems like "Takin' Care of Business" and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," and he effortlessly transported the audience back in time with his signature riffs and soulful vocals. His son, Tal, a gifted musician in his own right, proved to be a perfect complement to his father's sound, their voices blending in perfect harmony, echoing through the open space with a warmth that resonated with the crowd. The setlist was a masterclass in rock and roll history, featuring hits from both The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

And yet, what truly set this evening apart were the intimate stories shared between songs. Randy Bachman, with his characteristic charisma and humor, regaled the audience with anecdotes from his illustrious career, offering insights into the creative process behind his timeless hits. We learned about the inspiration behind "American Woman," and the profound impact that music has had on his life.

A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, s/n 9 0319, in faded sunburst finish, owned by Randy Bachman who has sold 40 million records worldwide as a member of The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and as a solo artist. Affectionately known as “The American Woman Guitar,” it is indeed the very same instrument on which Randy wrote and recorded The Guess Who’s most famous hit song.

Randy first acquired this guitar in 1968 during a gig in a church basement in Nanaimo, British Columbia. As the story goes, Randy was using a Mosrite with a cracked neck during the set when an audience member approached the stage with a familiar brown guitar case.

“If you’re a guitar player, you know what that little brown case means,” Randy teases. “It means a Les Paul.”

The concertgoer gestures at his case, offering Randy the chance to take it for a spin. Randy accepts mid-song, slings the guitar around his shoulder, and proceeds to play the rest of the show with the Gibson.

After the set, a trade was proposed: the Les Paul, which formerly belonged to his uncle, for Randy’s Mosrite. This was not a fair trade in Randy’s eyes, so to make up the difference he added in all the cash in his pocket, which amounted to $72.

With the trade accepted, Randy promptly had the guitar fitted with a Bigsby Vibrato, and from then on it became the sound of The Guess Who. It was also the guitar Randy played at a fateful performance at a Canadian Curling Rink, where he stumbled upon the iconic riff after breaking a string during a gig at a Curling Rink in Southern Ontario.

While the band took a break, he re-strung the guitar and tuned to a nearby piano, checking note after note in succession until it all coalesced into the classic chord progression we all know to this day.

The air in the room that night was electrified, and Randy remembers the “A-ha” moment vividly.

“I start to play that, and the audience’s heads snap around.” He frantically recalled the band, barked at Burt to “sing anything,” and the band wrote the song right there on a plywood stage hastily thrown down on top of the ice in front of a bundled-up crowd.

And thus, “American Woman” was born. Not only was this Les Paul present at the moment of inspiration, it’s also the very instrument you hear on the 1970 release of “American Woman.” It’s instantly recognizable for its biting rhythm tones and violin-like sustain during the fuzzed-out lead portions of the track.

One of the most captivating moments of the night was the unveiling of several iconic guitars offered in Music Icons. These instruments, each with a unique story to tell, have been wielded by some of the greatest musicians of our time. Randy Bachman, with his encyclopedic knowledge of music history, shared fascinating tales about the music created on these one-of-a-kind guitars, and their historical significance.

A 1955 Fender Stratocaster solid body electric guitar, 7179, in white finish, owned and played by Randy Bachman, who has sold 40 million records worldwide as a member of The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and as a solo artist.

This white 1955 Stratocaster was Randy’s back-up during the B.T.O. days, used in numerous performances, immortalized in album artwork, and is the very same guitar he used in the 1975 music video for “Roll on Down the Highway.” Also used to record some of the rhythm parts of “Hey You” and doubled with Randy’s hard tail ’68 Stratocaster for the beginning of “Let it Ride.” Of its many uses, Randy had this to say:

“That’s on “Hey You” and the beginning of “Let it Ride.” I’d play [one track] with the hardtail, double the rhythm at the tenth fret, and the other one would be down low at the second fret. I’d put them together and it’d sound like a gigantic 12-string, but it’s not!”

A 1971 Fender Hardtail Stratocaster, 309479, in Olympic White finish. Owned and played by Randy Bachman, who has sold 40 million records worldwide as a member of The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and as a solo artist.

This Hardtail Fender Stratocaster was Randy’s main stage and recording guitar in B.T.O., taking the place of his beloved ’59 Les Paul due to its excessive weight, which Randy estimates to be 14 lbs. “That guitar was too heavy to keep playing after “American Woman.” 3 hours a night on that shoulder, plus rehearsing. I went to a chiropractor, and he said ‘Stop playing guitar.’”
“I said, ‘Yeah, good luck with that!’ So I went to a music store and said, ‘What’s the lightest guitar you have?’ And I got this.”

This beautiful white Stratocaster was played on many of Randy’s hit songs including “Let it Ride”, “Hey You”, “Lookin Out for #1”, and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. It’s documented in album artwork and photographs, graced the stage countless times, and is featured in the 1975 “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” music video.

A 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom, serial #RB002 (original obscured), ebony finish. Owned and played onstage and in-studio by Randy Bachman, who has sold 40 million records worldwide as a member of The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and as a solo artist. Played on B.T.O.’s Four Wheel Drive and subsequent albums.

Randy remembers stumbling upon this guitar by chance during Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s 1975 tour, where he stopped by a music store in West Chester, PA. B.T.O. were set to headline at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with Kansas on July 17th, and according to Randy, much of his free time was spent trawling shops for guitar deals.

“I walk in and see two black Les Pauls on the wall, and they catch my eye right away. One had humbuckers and one had P-90s. So I say to the guy, ‘Can I try those guitars?’ And he says, ‘No.’

‘Are they for sale?’
‘No. They belong to Keith Richards.’

After some prodding, it turned out that one of The Rolling Stones' roadies had brought both guitars to the shop for a re-fret two years prior, but no-one ever picked them up. With a little more prodding, he convinced the guy behind the counter to contact Keith’s management, who tell him that the roadie’s been fired, Keith has enough guitars, and to just let them go.

Delighted, Randy offered $750 for the pair, and when he got home from tour there they were, both guitars waiting for him. He then sold the P-90 model to Blair Thornton who can be seen using it in concert photos, with Randy holding onto the humbucker-equipped guitar.

A 1959 Fender Stratocaster solid body electric guitar, serial number 42466, black finish. Owned and played by Randy Bachman, who has sold 40 million records worldwide as a member of The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and as a solo artist.

Formerly owned and played by Winnipeg musician George Johns, member of the Devines, The Rebel Raiders, and The Phantoms. Randy would occasionally fill in on second guitar with the latter group, where he likely became infatuated with Johns’ black Stratocaster.

“George Johns. Winnipeg. This was the only Strat that was in town –– I got the only Gretsch, and the second one Neil Young got. And George never had a case for this guitar!”

Randy jokes that it took him 30 years to acquire this Strat, which required multiple phone calls until he wore George down enough to sell it.

"Julien's Presents Chronicles: Randy Bachman" was something truly special to witness. The unplugged-style event will undoubtedly be etched in the memories of all who attended, and served as a testament to Bachman’s enduring legacy.

Our Music Icons auction includes nearly 200 guitars from The Personal Collection of Randy Bachman. Register and bid to seize your opportunity to own one of these ultra-rare axes, from his home to yours.

a man singing into a microphone while holding a guitar


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