Guess Who and BTO Co-Founder Chad Allan Dead at 80
The Winnipeg Sun reported Allan’s death over the weekend. Jamie Anstey, vice president of Regenerator Records, which reissued several of Allan’s early recordings, said his family requested the announcement to be delayed to give them time to grieve privately.
“He was kind of a guy that never really made it in terms of fame and fortune, but he was certainly a pioneer and a founder of two huge Canadian groups, which I think is really special,” Anstey said.
Chad Allan's Early Life and Career
Born Allan Peter Stanley Kowbel on March 29, 1943, in Winnipeg, Canada, Allan formed his first band, Allan and the Silvertones, while he was in high school. The band changed its name first to Chad Allan and the Reflections and finally to Chad Allan and the Expressions, releasing a handful of singles throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s to modest success in Canada.
In January 1965, the band’s label, Quality Records, released Chad Allan and the Expressions’ cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over,” drumming up publicity by sending promo copies that identified the artist only as “Guess Who?” It paid off, sending the single to No. 22 in the U.S., and led many DJs to call them the Guess Who. The band changed its name accordingly, but Allan left the group in 1966 after the release of its third album, It’s Time, due to vocal issues. He ceded vocal duties to Burton Cummings.
Allan continued performing and releasing music, and in 1971 he formed Brave Belt with former Guess Who guitarist Randy Bachman. The band released two self-titled albums, the latter of which saw Allan’s role as lead singer greatly diminished. He left the group in 1972, and the remaining members rebranded as Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Chad Allan's Post-BTO Career
Over the next several decades, Allan pursued various musical endeavors, releasing solo albums, starring in a musical adaptation of Beowulf, composing TV theme songs and founding his own record label, Seabreeze Records. He taught songwriting at British Columbia’s Kwantlen University College for several years and released a Christian rock album, Zoot Suit Monologue, in 1992.
Allan reunited with Bachman and Cummings (along with Neil Young) in a 1987 CBC special called It’s Only Rock & Roll. He was also made a member of the Order of Manitoba in 2015 for his work with the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He continued performing until he suffered a stroke in 2017.
Bachman paid tribute to his friend and bandmate in a Facebook post. “I’m grateful to have known and worked with him,” he wrote. “He was a quiet, gentle soul with a peaceful voice. When we crossed over from Chad Allan & the Expressions to the Guess Who, we had a couple of months of overlap with him and Burton where the music and harmonies were amazing. He was the voice of ‘Shakin' All Over’ as a cover hit in Canada, but he wasn't made for life on the road and taught and sang locally instead.”
Cummings also saluted his former bandmate on Facebook, writing, “Rest in peace, Chad. You were an inspiration to all of us in bands in Winnipeg. I learned a lot from watching and listening to Chad. He was very talented and one of a kind. He will always be remembered.”
In Memoriam: 2023 Deaths
Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp