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Randy Bachman and his 1965 Ford Thunderbird.
Randy Bachman and his 1965 Ford Thunderbird.

My Car

Guess who drives a T-Bird? Add to ...

Randy Bachman

Profession: Award-winning musician and songwriter

Age: 67

Hometown: Winnipeg

Notable achievements: Founding member of The Guess Who, which had an unprecedented run of international success with hits that included These Eyes, American Woman, Laughing, Undun and No Sugar Tonight; Formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive in the 1970s and the band's hit singles included You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Taking Care of Business, and Looking Out for Number One; Bachman and Fred Turner reunited after more than 20 years apart to record and tour again as Bachman & Turner; Received Order of Canada (2009); Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2002); Juno Hall of Fame (1987)

More related to this story

Upcoming: Bachman and Fred Turner will be inducted into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame on Thursday, March 10; Hosts a national weekly radio show called Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio One

Randy Bachman rolls on down the highway in a T-Bird

Randy Bachman's 1965 Ford Thunderbird.
IN PICTURES: The Guess Who and BTO guitar legend is having 'fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-Bird away'

Randy Bachman is a Canadian rock-and-roll legend. He has sold more than 40 million records world-wide and earned more than 120 platinum and gold album awards since co-founding The Guess Whoin the early 1960s.

After four decades, music still rocks his world. Even his iconic car has musical roots. Bachman owns a 1965 Ford Thunderbird, which once belonged to his friend Burton Cummings.

What's so special about the T-Bird?

We grew up with a love and wanting a T-bird. Growing up in Winnipeg in the snow when we first heard the Beach Boys' Surfing USA we didn't even know what surfing was. For us it's a toboggan on a snow hill on the riverbank. And then there was the Beach Boys song Fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-Bird away.

So when Burton Cummings grew up and could afford it he bought several T-Birds, a '65, a '66, a '67 - all the really cool ones. And every time I'd go to L.A. he'd pick me up in that car and drive around.

We'd go to the studio together and I would just salivate and die for one of these cars. About seven-eight years ago we were reunited and playing with the Guess Who and he said I'm going to be selling one of my T-birds. I said which one? The black '65. I said done. It's mine.

When you see this thing - it's incredible. It's absolutely mint, totally restored. Its California dreamin', it's Fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-Bird away.

It's incredible with an incredible story. Back in the '80s we got together and wrote 10 songs. I had one cassette tape and I gave him the other one, wrapped it in tinfoil and put it in the trunk of his black T-Bird. The record labels really weren't interested in them at the time because we were what they called dinosaurs - guys who had their days but were becoming extinct on the radio.

Fast forward many years, we're back together in 2000 and we start to tour as Bachman and Cummings. People asked do you have anything you recorded together? I lost that tape. I said, "Do you remember that tape?" He said, "No. Forget about it - they're lost tapes." In the meantime, I buy the car and we ship it out to White Rock. I move to Salt Spring and I take it to Vancouver Island to restore, bumper to bumper, and in cleaning out the car, the guy hands me a box.

In the box is a tire gauge, the original owner's manual with Burton's name and tinfoil. In it is this tape - Oh my god! These are the lost 10 songs of Bachman and Cummings! That becomes the Thunderbird tracks, which is a limited edition CD we put out a few years ago.

What does a T-Bird say about you?

It was a dream car. Growing up in Winnipeg in the freezing weather you waited for the first day of summer when you got in your car and drove up and down Main Street and Portage Avenue with the windows down and the radio cranked and suddenly Winnipeg was California.

You had to have a T-Bird or Corvette because those were the ultimate American-California dreaming cars - they were in all the movies.

It's a big car. It's a two-door hard top. It drives like a boat. It's the first year that it had air conditioning, power windows, tilt steering wheel. The back seat is phenomenal - they're buckets that wrap around you. It's like having a mid-'60s Corvette - it's that kind of iconic fantastic car.

What was your first car?

It was a '56 Chev - I got it for $75 and it was so bad when you filled up the gas you had to fill up the oil. It ran so poorly.

I immediately got married and bought a '61 T-Bird because of that same Winnipeg dream. But it was a small car and very low-to-the-ground - the clearance underneath the door was maybe five inches and in Winnipeg in the snow I'd turn into a toboggan. I'd be going down a hill on a normal street and suddenly no brakes, no traction, just sliding down. That was an impractical car in Winnipeg in the winter.

What else have you owned?

I used to have a Rolls Royce - a '54 Silver Dawn - it was absolutely phenomenal. A real Elton John, John Lennon car from the mid-'50s. I couldn't take that car anywhere and park it because guys would go and deliberately key it, kick it, or ram it with their car just out of spite.

Then I had a son and daughter so I bought a great big car, a Buick Electra that could sit six people in it. After that it was up to the Suburbans, the Silverados, the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Sequoia.

What's your daily driver now?

What I drive is a gas guzzler. I'm looking to replace it.

Because I have a big family, hauling around gear, I've had for decades a Toyota Sequoia, which is the great big car that holds eight people with 4WD. When I have to get to the airport or a gig in the snow that gets me there and it hauls around a lot of gear and a lot of kids.

I have eight kids and 20-something grand kids; I need places to put bums in.

What's great about the Sequoia is it plays CDs and it still plays cassettes because I'm an old-fashioned music guy. There's nothing like putting in a cassette - the sound is amazing. You put in a CD in the same player and the sound is totally different. One is warmer, punchy and rock and roll; the other is square-sounding and really not rock and roll.

What's in your cassette deck now?

An old cassette of Cream. I put in Eric Clapton, BTO, Ginger Baker, Sunshine of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses. When you got the Rolling Stones, BTO, and Beatles in cassette it's amazing. I'll probably never want to sell the Sequoia because of its CD player and cassette player.

I love to put stuff in and sing my head off. There's nothing better than driving along and looking next to you and seeing a bunch of chicks in the car, singing their heads off!

Sometimes you click around the radio and find the beat they're moving to and you sing to the same song. And you connect with them - it's just like a concert. Everybody at the same time is getting the same message from you - singing the same song and they're feeling the same vibe of this song. It's fantastic.

Any plans to sell the T-bird?

I've been donating my archives to Ottawa. They said the Museum of Science and Technology is looking for the ultimate Canadian rock-and-roll car. And I said guess what? I have the car.

I donated it to Ottawa in early January. When the exhibit is open in a month or two, you can go sit in the car and play the tapes. It's going to be preserved in Ottawa forever.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

 

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