The National Music Centre is pleased to announce Randy Bachman: Every Guitar Tells a Story, a new temporary exhibition at Studio Bell highlighting the sprawling guitar collection of one of Canada’s most celebrated players.
Randy Bachman is a legendary figure in the music world through his talents as a guitarist, songwriter, performer, record producer and mentor. He is also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Through this new exhibition, he tells the story of his passion for sound through the instruments that propelled him to stardom. From his earliest experiences with music, and his time spent with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bachman shares some of his most personal and memorable experiences from a lifetime of playing, collecting, and loving guitars. And the stories behind these guitars – sentimental, lost, found, and traded treasures – are as fascinating as the guitars themselves.
This ground-breaking exhibition of instruments captures a lifetime of collecting by one of Canada’s biggest rock stars. With more than 80 instruments curated from Bachman’s collection, visitors will get an up-close look at instruments from every part of his career as well as a selection of his historically significant and uniquely crafted collectors’ items. Featuring first-person video storytelling and four tutorial kiosks with guitar lessons of hit songs from Bachman himself, the exhibition creates an immersive atmosphere for one of the nation’s true icons to share his stories, talent, and wisdom with his fans first-hand.
Exhibition highlights include a collection of Bachman’s first guitars; iconic instruments used during his time with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive; a range of signed guitars owned by musical icons that Bachman met throughout his career; instruments from his personal collection, highlighting his love for German archtop guitars; his “magic” lost and later found 1957 Gretsch 6120; and more.
1. Silvertone Sunburst F-Hole Acoustic Guitar
The guitar that started it all. In 1956, a 13-year-old Randy Bachman purchased his first guitar from a Sears catalogue for $34.95. That guitar also inspired the name of Bachman’s first band, Chad Allan and The Silvertones, an early 1959 incarnation of what would eventually become The Guess Who.
2. 1959 Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar
Arguably one of the most famous guitars in Canadian rock ’n’ roll history, Bachman acquired his signature instrument on a whim during his early days with The Guess Who. While playing a gig in a church basement in Nanaimo B.C., a young fan offered to trade his 1959 Gibson Les Paul for Bachman’s own guitar – and the $72 he had in his pocket. It wasn’t long before it became the Canadian rocker’s favourite playing guitar, shaping the distinctive buttery sound behind famous tracks such as “These Eyes,” “No Time,” and the band’s gigantic hit, “American Woman.”
3. 1968 Cream Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar
Chipped and yellowed from 30 years of use, Bachman fondly refers to this guitar as “The B.T.O. Guitar” or "old reliable." When his chiropractor suggested he stop playing guitar due to recurrent back issues from his 10-pound ’59 Les Paul, he found the lighter 7-pound ’68 Fender as its replacement. Using this guitar alongside his ’54 Strat would help him achieve the signature sound for rhythm guitar heard on many Bachman-Turner Overdrive songs.
4. 1954 White Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar
A rare first-year Stratocaster used throughout Bachman’s career, the guitar was featured on many Bachman-Turner Overdrive albums including hit singles, "Let It Ride" and "Takin' Care of Business.” In Bachman’s own words, “Playing this with the ’68 Strat gave ‘Let it Ride’ that incredible jingle jangle that just lifted it off the turntable.”
5. 1960 Black Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar
Another rare guitar in Bachman’s collection, and another “play-me-while-you’re-sitting-down guitar” due to its weight, this model of guitar known for its unmistakable sound was also a favourite of the Rolling Stones’ lead axeman, Keith Richards.
6. 1957 Gretsch 6120 Electric Guitar
A beloved guitar of Bachman’s that was bought from Winnipeg Piano in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was stolen from a Toronto-area hotel in 1976 and serendipitously recovered 45 years later in Tokyo after Bachman saw a YouTube video of Japanese musician Takeshi playing it.