Bachman-Turner Overdrive parlayed workmanlike heavy metal, a blue-collar image, and nonstop touring into over 7 million records sold in the U.S. by 1977. The group —in various personnel combinations —has retained an impressive following in its homeland, where Randy Bachman is a respected guitar hero and successful solo artist.
Guess Who founders Chad Allan and Randy Bachman had left that group in 1966 and 1970 respectively [see entry]. After Bachman made a solo album (Axe, 1970), he teamed up with Allan and younger brother Robbie Bachman in Brave Belt. After two albums (Brave Belt I and Brave Belt II), Tim Bachman and vocalist/bassist Fred Turner replaced Allan, and Brave Belt became Bachman-Turner Overdrive, named in part after the truckers' magazine Overdrive.
Twenty-five record companies rejected the band before Mercury released its 1973 debut album. Extensive touring netted BTO several hit singles, including "Let It Ride" (#23, 1974), "Takin' Care of Business" (#12, 1974), "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (#1, 1974), "Roll On Down the Highway" (#14, 1975), "Hey You" (#21, 1975), and "Take It Like a Man" (#33, 1976). (Live recordings from 1974 resurfaced on a King Biscuit Flower Hour CD in 1998.) In 1975 Tim Bachman left to become a producer. That year Warner Bros. rereleased Brave Belt II under the title As Brave Belt. With Randy Bachman's departure in 1977 for a solo career (he released Survivor and later formed Ironhorse, which recorded two LPs, Ironhorse and Everything Is Grey), BTO's momentum slowed considerably, although the group did release two more LPs.
The group disbanded for the first time in 1979 or 1980, but regrouped several times through the '80s to tour under the names Bachman-Turner Overdrive and BTO (sometimes with Turner, sometimes without) while brother Robbie Bachman performed under the BTO moniker (again, not always with Turner along). The ensuing confusion caused Randy to file suit against his ex–band mates' brother Robbie, Turner, and Thornton for rights to the band's logo. Randy Bachman left for good in 1993, leaving the band to Robbie. The new lineup released 1996's Trial by Fire, which included a mix of rerecorded Bachman-Turner Overdrive songs and a handful of new ones.
Randy Bachman tours occasionally with the reconstituted Guess Who (the latest reunion occurred in 2000) and also records as a solo artist. Nineteen-ninety-three's Any Road (Sony, Canada), his first solo album of the decade, featured guest appearances by the guitarist's protégé from their early days in Winnipeg, Neil Young, on "Prairie Town," and by the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins. Young also showed up on Bachman's 2000 album Merge (True North, Canada). By the late '90s he was working as a songwriter for hire, commuting between his Canadian home, London, and Nashville. His son, Tal Bachman, released a self-titled album on Columbia in 1999.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).