Keeper of the keys: Burton Cummings on Rock and Roll piano, and 50 a long time of timeless songs

If you hear to some of people previous R&B and Rock and Roll documents from yesteryear — the ‘50s and early ’60s — you can hear how the piano is the central instrument. A driving, pounding, nonetheless melodic full sound, the piano was the instrument that initial gave Rock and Roll its leap.

Burton Cummings could possibly concur with that. And he ought to know — the singer and front gentleman for Canada’s good band The Guess Who is not only 1 of Canada’s wonderful Rock and Roll pianists, singers and songwriters, but was impressed by some of individuals players who had been inventing Rock and Roll and location the world on flame with it.

“When you believe of Rock and Roll piano, some of the most important stars of early Rock and Roll have been pounding the piano — Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lewis — they have been all gamers who pounded the hell out of the piano,” Cummings said. “Those have been the men who truly caught my eye in the early times, particularly Fat Domino.

“I do keep in mind viewing Fats Domino and his whole band when I was a child. They arrived to Winnipeg, to the old Winnipeg auditorium. And it was one particular of the best displays I’ve at any time observed in my life. He experienced about 8 guys on stage, and he just pounded the piano. It was tremendous.

“I have to have all the things he ever recorded. People today ask, who’s your all-time favorite artist — the Beatles, obviously, blew me absent. But Fats Domino, when I was a very little kid, he drew me to the radio.”

Fats Domino was from New Orleans, and it was the New Orleans sensibility that was a single of the influences Cummings introduced to Chad Allen and the Expressions in the early ’60s, then the Guess Who, and later to Cummings’ extended solo profession.

“I listened to a large amount of New Orleans songs,” he reported. “I like Lee Dorsey [Dorsey had a huge hit — “Ya Ya,” in 1961], with Allen Toussaint on piano. That was all New Orleans things.”

It could be a stretch in the ’50s and early ’60s — and maybe still is — to equate the classical piano lessons we took as young ones with the pulsing enjoyment of Rock and Roll piano, based in Blues, Barrelhouse, R&B and Jazz — coming to Canada from steaming joints in locations like New Orleans. But it surely reached Cummings in Winnipeg.

“I took lessons for a lot of several years,” he reported. “But then when I commenced listening to Fat Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis —and Minimal Richard was pounding — then I heard piano in a fully distinct mild.

“I experienced a piano trainer who was incredibly outdated university. She didn’t like the Rock and Roll stuff, and did not encourage any of that. Even however I was beginning to generate tunes — attempting to produce tunes — from a incredibly early age.”

But the grounding in idea Cummings uncovered from the Royal Conservatory did in fact provide him properly, supplying him an “understanding of the mathematics of songs — the threes and fives and eights and nines — all of that linked, and it in all probability made me a greater writer.”

The piano is a prosperous component of the Guess Who sound, not to point out that stream of strike songs from Cummings’ solo profession. But in the Rock and Roll explosion of the 1960s, the piano was gradually supplanted by the electric guitar as the rock instrument that receives the press.

“The Beatles had a large amount to do with that,” Cummings stated. “The Beatles and the British Invasion, for the reason that all of a sudden, any four men, in any small town in any place in the planet — you want a drummer, a bass players and two guitar players, and that’s it. And that is what the Beatles did. They begun that small business all about the world.”

These 88 keys haven’t long gone away, even though. And they are significant as at any time. For hundreds of yrs, the piano was the composers’ instrument. And there is no much better instrument for crafting tunes. Undoubtedly Cummings has produced a whole lot of audio on the piano a ton of songs around the earlier 50 a long time, so numerous of which have develop into classics.

There is the portion of the creative system wherever you have finished your piece of artwork — like a song — and ship it out into the entire world, where by it normally takes on a everyday living of its possess, developing, and coming back again to go to around the many years. Cummings has 50 many years of composing music, and placing them out into the environment. He displays on his composing profession:

“Some of it I’m pretty happy of, some of it is a very little embarrassing now, since it sounds so adolescent. But it’s like just about anything else. You start out out undertaking a little something, and if you continue at it you with any luck , get much better, ideal?

“I think my songwriting acquired greater as I acquired more mature, purely from the residing practical experience. The additional you dwell the far more you master. And I feel I got to be a far better songwriter later on on. You choose some of life’s ups and downs, and you work it into your considering system.”

There are some tunes he says have stood up very nicely.

“There’s a tune of mine, ‘I’m Scared,’ which is a whole lot of people’s favorite song I at any time wrote. ‘Break It To Them Gently’ has stood up very perfectly. Of the Guess Who tunes, I believe ‘No Time’ continue to sounds excellent to me. It does not audio outdated or archaic to me. ‘No Time’ is continue to a rather fantastic rock and roll record.

“‘These Eyes’ — that was our initial big record, 1969 — so that’s over 50 years ago, and I nonetheless listen to ‘These Eyes,’ and I nonetheless listen to ‘Laughing,’ I still hear ‘American Woman’ all the time, just for the reason that it’s one of individuals records they’ll constantly enjoy. I hear ‘Share The Land’ very a bit.

“One I hear rather a little bit is ‘Albert Flasher.’ Perhaps because it is so short, and radio stations really don’t brain placing it on. It’s only about two minutes, you know. Albert Flasher has been on the radio for a prolonged time!”

And there is nevertheless an viewers for people songs, so a lot of prepared by Cummings, and some also co-prepared with the likes of Kurt Winter season, Randy Bachman, and Domenic Troiano. And like these tracks the audience crosses generations.

“The matter is, as just about every calendar year passes, your viewers as perfectly is a person 12 months more mature,” Cummings stated. “So when the music came to them, at some point in their lives, the music necessarily mean far more to them as time goes on. I’m that way with the other artists I pay attention to. I can continue to get shed in the Beatles’ documents.

“I’m on my 3rd era of supporters. I’m one of the lucky types. I’ve been on the radio for 50 a long time. Not everybody will get that, and I really do not choose that flippantly. I’m pretty grateful for the occupation, and particularly for the tracks that have never ever gone away.”

Cummings is hitting the highway for a Western Canadian tour with a band that ought to be famous in their have ideal — The Carpet Frogs — a Toronto-primarily based rock band that is toured with Cummings and Randy Bachman, and who backed up Cummings on his album “Above the Floor.” Nick Sinopli (percussion), Jeff Jones (bass), Michael Zweig (guitar), Tim Bovaconti (guitar) and Sean Fitzsimons (drums). Ladies and gentlemen, The Carpet Frogs.

“They’re remarkable gamers,” Cummings said. “And an additional detail I like about them is that when we’re on stage — there is six of us — they all sing. We have some periods we have six vocals going at when. And I have normally been a stickler for earning the tracks sound like the documents. And with all those people voices and two guitars, we can very much audio like the documents once more.”

The Covid pandemic, and the shutdowns it entailed, was notably tricky on executing artists, and especially for singers. Cummings has been performing to get his singing voice back in fettle.

“I’m trying to sing about 45 minutes every night time, acquiring the chops back again. The two a long time off from Covid was awful for singers. You can’t lie around for two many years, and then get up abruptly get started hitting your notes once more. It was terrible for me. But the chops are coming back.”

Burton Cummings and the band consider the stage Wednesday, May 31, at the Charles Bailey Theatre in Path, and Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, at the Vital Metropolis Theatre in Cranbrook.