#672: Hang On To Your Life/Do You Miss Me Darlin’ by The Guess Who

Peak Month: February 1971
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #8
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #43/did not chart
YouTube.com: “Hang On To Your Life
“Hang On To Your Life” lyrics
YouTube.com: “Do You Miss Me Darlin‘”
“Do You Miss Me Darlin'” lyrics

Originally there was a band in Winnipeg called Al & The Silvertones. The band had some lineup changes and became Chad Allen & The Expressions. In time they changed their name again to The Guess Who ?, with a question mark at the end of their name. They had a hit in Canada in 1965 called “Shakin’ All Over,” a cover version of the original by the UK’s Johnny Kidd And The Pirates in 1960. The Guess Who tried to tour in the UK themselves in 1967 to support their single, “His Girl.” However, they didn’t have the proper documentation to perform, and “His Girl” only ended up spending one week on the British singles charts.

In the fall of 1967 The Guess Who? were hired as the house band for The Swingers, a local CBC radio show in Winnipeg. They also were hired as the house band for the TV show Let’s Go, also on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That show was hosted by their former band-mate, Chad Allan. The group got exposure on the 39 weeks the show aired in both seasons (1967-68 and 1968-69). They performed hits on the Canadian charts like “Touch Me” by The Doors, “Time of the Season” by The Zombies, “You Keep Me Hanging On” by Vanilla Fudge, “White Room” by Cream and “Along Comes Mary” by The Association. They also were able to debut some of their own compositions including “These Eyes,” “No Time” and one of their early minor hits, “This Time Long Ago.”

(Let’s Go also had a separate west coast show out of Vancouver. It was variously hosted by Terry Jacks, Tom Northcott, Mike Campbell and Howie Vickers, and featured appearances by The Seeds of Time, The Shockers, The Northwest Company, The Poppy Family and international stars like Eric Burdon & The Animals).

In the late ’60’s, The Guess Who? at this time consisted of Burton Cummings (keyboards, guitar, piano) Randy Bachman (guitar), Jim Kale (bass) and Garry Peterson (drums). While the Guess Who were performing weekly on Let’s Go they were approached by Jack Richardson, a record producer working at his own record company Nimbus 9. He pitched to the band an idea to join him in advertising recording effort for Coca-Cola. What unfolded was an album called A Wild Pair. One side of the album featured The Guess Who? while the other side were recordings of the Ottawa band, The Staccatos (who shortly afterwards renamed themselves as The Five Man Electrical Band). The album was only available for purchase through mail-order for the price of 10 Coca Cola bottle cap liners and $1 for shipping. Randy Bachman of The Guess Who recalled years later that he thought A Wild Pair may have sold many copies. However, as the LP was sold through this unorthodox mail-order scheme, it was not on the radar of those who certify record sales for albums.

Believing in The Guess Who?, Richardson went into debt to help them record their first studio album in September 1968 called Wheatfield Soul. It was released in March 1969 along with the debut single from the album, “These Eyes.” By 1969 the band dropped the question mark in their billing to be known as The Guess Who. In 1969 the band played before one of the biggest crowds at the Seattle Pop Festival. Other headliners on stage at that event were Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Byrds, The Burrito Brothers, Frank Zappa and The Mothers, Alice Cooper, Bo Didley, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina, The Chicago Transit Authority.

The Guess Who had a huge international successes into 1970 with “American Woman” topping the charts across North America. The band continued to have chart success with “Share The Land” internationally and with a string of Top Ten hits in Canada. In 1971 the Guess Who released a single with “Hang On To Your Life”/”Do You Miss Me Darlin’.”

Hang On To Your Life/Do You Miss Me Darlin' by The Guess Who

“Hang on to Your Life” and “Do You Miss Me Darlin’” was a double-sided hit in Canada that reached #8 in Vancouver, # 5 in Canada. Only the A-side only charting to #43 on the Billboard charts. In the USA the song did best in Chicago (#4), Salt Lake City, Columbus and Louisville at #6 and St. Louis at #7. In “Hang On to Your Life” the singer muses about people who have died, about not wanting to die and betraying a friend. The song ends with the verses 13 to 15 of Psalm 22, about being brought to “the dust of death.” In the New Testament it is told that Jesus quoted the first part of verse 1 of Psalm 22. The purpose of the use of that quote in the New Testament was to foreshadow the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish scholars would differ on the original intention from the writer of Psalm 22 as having anything to do with the death of Jesus. However, Burton Cummings and Kurt Winter of the Guess who would have known of the Christian adaptation of Psalm 22 and it’s foreshadowing Jesus’ death. Consequently, the songs lyric took on a cosmic tone that may have played well to those who were involved with the Jesus Movement.

The Jesus Movement was a Christian phenomenon within the hippie/counter-culture movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Other songs on pop radio stations that evoked Christian references included the “Wedding Song (There is Love)” by Paul Stookey (1971); “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Sweet Cherry Wine” both by Tommy James and the Shondells; (1969), Your Own Back Yard by Dion (1970); “Jesus is a Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds (1969); “Rock Me On the Water” by Jackson Browne (1972); and numbers of tracks off albums in the 1970’s by Bruce Cockburn such as You Don’t Have to Play the Horses (1973) and Lord of the Starfields (1976).

Hang On To Your Life/Do You Miss Me Darlin' by The Guess Who

“Do You Miss Me Darlin’” is a straightforward question posed to learn if someone misses them as the days of the week pass by, wanting to know if they’ll see them again. The double-sided single was the third single released from the 1970 album, Share the Land. It was the third single released from the album after “Hand Me Down World” and “Share the Land”/”Bus Rider.” It was the first album released by the band after Randy Bachman had left the Guess Who. “Do You Miss Me Darlin'” made it to #5 in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

The Guess Who went on tour with Three Dog Night in November and December 1972 to Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Several albums in 1973 failed to deliver hoped for record sales. In 1974 The Guess Who pulled out of their slump with a Top Ten hit across the continent, “Clap For The Wolfman,” a tribute to the famed rock ‘n roll DJ. However, after their album, Road Food, the band went back into a slump with fans taking a pass on further album releases into 1975-76. Meanwhile, The Guess Who officially split up in October 1975. Burton Cummings went solo.

Over the decades since their breakup, The Guess Who have performed at reunion concerts and tours. As of October 2017, The Guess Who have thirteen upcoming concerts scheduled between April and November 2018. The current lineup includes original band member of The Guess Who, Gary Peterson.

August 30, 2018
Ray McGinnis

References:
Contributions from John Einarson and Burton Cummings, The Guess Who, Manitoba Music Museum, Winnipeg, MB, 2012 and 2016.
Ivor Levene, Rearview Mirror: Burton Cummings Reflects on The Guess Who New York, NY,  June 20, 2016.
Leslie Michele Derrough, Burton Cummings of the Guess Who (Interview), Glide, January 26, 2015

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