on this day


Robbie Bachman, the drummer and co-founder of ’70s rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive, died on Friday, January 13, 2023. Bachman’s older brother Randy Bachman (who fronted and played guitar in the ban) announced the news on his official Twitter account yesterday (January 12). “Another sad departure,” he wrote. “The pounding beat behind BTO, my little brother Robbie has joined Mum, Dad & brother Gary on the other side. Maybe Jeff Beck needs a drummer! He was an integral cog in our rock ‘n’ roll machine and we rocked the world together.” No cause of death was mentioned.
Born February 18, 1953 in Winnipeg, Canada, Robin Peter Kendall Bachman founded the band Brave Belt in 1971, alongside Randy and Chad Allan, both of whom had left the band The Guess Who a year earlier. They were later joined by bassist Fred Turner and recorded two albums. A third Bachman, guitarist Tim, joined Brave Belt a year later after Allan departed. The group then became Bachman-Turner Overdrive (often abbreviated as BTO), and the band’s self-titled debut was released in 1973, but Tim also left the band in early 1974 shortly after the release of “Bachman–Turner Overdrive II” and ws replaced by Blair Thornton, who had been in the Vancouver-based band Crosstown Bus.
Randy Bachman had very strong religious beliefs and established rules to be in BTO. Among them was a rule that drugs, alcohol and premarital sex were prohibited, and Tim is alleged to have broken all of these. It is said that he was given opportunities to change his lifestyle and did, at least temporarily. There are other differing accounts of the reasons for his departure. Some accounts state he left because of personal and lifestyle issues, that he was getting married and wanted to study record engineering and concert promotion, but in a 2002 interview, brother Robbie said, “He was basically asked to leave. He wasn’t BTO caliber [and] it was difficult to rely on him. I guess the band was conflicting with his whole life.”
“We were drug free and pretty much alcohol free,” 
Randy said. “I was investing my money from the Guess Who in the band. You gotta remember I’m the oldest guy and my best friend Fred Turner, he’s the same age as me, and I’ve got my younger brothers in the band. So all my whole life, I was told: ‘Babysit your brothers, look after your brothers, don’t let them cross the street alone, watch out for them. We didn’t have any roadies, we set up our own gear, we set up our own PA, we put two lights on either side of the stage, that’s our light show,” he added. “We’d just go out as a family and we’d do it. They listened to me. They had to, I was paying their salary. I wasn’t going to waste my money on guys who wanted to party and wanted chicks. This was a business to me. At that time, I had two children and a limited amount of money from the Guess Who because I got shafted on that whole thing.”
Bachman-Turner Overdrive II” contained the hits “Let It Ride” and “Takin’ Care of Business.” Both these songs were later used in movie soundtracks, featuring in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” and Will Ferrell’s “The Campaign,” respectively.
The first album with the modified lineup, 1974’s “Not Fragile” (a play on the hit album “Fragile” by Yes), became a massive hit and reached #1 on the Canadian and US album charts. It included the #1 single “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and AOR favorite “Roll On Down the Highway”, co-written by Robbie and Turner.
Though Randy was the main songwriter in BTO, Robbie co-wrote a number of their tracks, including “Roll On Down the Highway,” which climbed to #14 on the US charts.
Over the course of a four-year run, BTO sold in excess of 30 million records, earning a staggering 120 platinum, gold and silver discs, and notching up hits in more than 20 countries. The band reached #1 on Billboard’s singles chart (“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”) and album chart (“Not Fragile”),as well as scoring another handful of hits including “Taking Care Of Business”, “Hey You”, “My Wheels Won’t Turn” and “Looking Out For #1”.
The first BTO. compilation album, “Best of BTO (So Far)”, was released in 1976 and featured songs from each of the band’s first five studio albums. A single, a re-release of “Gimme Your Money Please”, was put out from this album, and it also charted well keeping BTO. on both the AM & FM airwaves. This compilation album became the best-selling Bachman–Turner Overdrive album to date, reaching Double Platinum status in the US.
“Freeways”, a sixth studio album released in 1977, would signal the initial unraveling of the band. The song “My Wheels Won’t Turn” was their first single since their first album that didn’t chart in the US and Turner was reportedly so unhappy with the record that he refused to have his photograph taken face-on for the cover art because he felt he had become a “sideman”. Only two of the album’s eight tracks featured Turner on lead vocals, and there was only one Turner composition, “Life Still Goes On (I’m Lonely)”. The remaining lead vocals and compositions are all credited to Randy Bachman, who soon left the group. His initial intention was to temporarily disband while he worked on a solo project, “But it was decided by management it wouldn’t work”. He conceded, “We also ran out of common interests”. Randy was replaced by bassist Jim Clench, formerly of April Wine. Bassist Turner moved to rhythm guitar with Thornton becoming the primary lead guitarist. Clench and Turner shared lead vocal duties. Even though this lineup included Robbie, the band had to record and tour only as “BTO” because of an agreement with Randy who wanted to retain the rights to his surname for his solo career. While Randy kept the rights to the full Bachman name, the remaining band members bought the rights to “BTO” and the gear logo. The re-structured BTO released “Street Action” in 1978, but became a commercial failure, spawning no hit singles. The band also released “Rock n’ Roll Nights” in 1979, co-produced by Prism’s Jim Vallance, who also wrote several of the LP’s songs, took over as main producer after Barry Mraz was fired by the band and would later score huge success in the 80s with Bryan Adams. But “Rock n’ Roll Nights” also sold poorly (an estimated 250,000 copies worldwide), but did produce a moderately successful single called “Heartaches”. Written by Turner, it reached #60 on the US charts, making it the first BTO single in three years to chart in America. BTO played this song on “American Bandstand” in February 1979 (with producer Vallance guesting on piano), along with another single from the same album called “Jamaica”. Fred Turner and Jim Clench also appeared on Bryan Adams’ debut album in 1980 as session musicians. (Adams had likewise contributed one song, “Wastin’ Time”, for BTO for the “Rock n’ Roll Nights” album). BTO disbanded in late 1979 after the supporting tour for “Rock n’ Roll Nights” had finished.
In 1984, Robbie declined to join a reformation of BTO due to licensing issues and Randy Bachman’s decision to include Tim Bachman as the second guitarist, instead of Blair Thornton. Bachman later rejoined the “Not Fragile” line up of BTO for a reunion lasting from 1988 until 1991. In 1991, Randy Bachman left the band and the rest of the group, with replacement guitarist Randy Murray, toured up until the end of 2004.
In 2009, Fred Turner and Randy Bachman reunited and began recording a new album, which was released in September 2010 under the name Bachman & Turner to coincide with a world tour. Robin Bachman and Blair Thornton had brought a lawsuit against Randy Bachman in an effort to prevent him and Turner from touring under the Bachman–Turner Overdrive or BTO name.
Robbie Bachman is an uncle to Randy’s son Tal Bachman, a musician best known for his late 1999 hit, “She’s So High”, a pop rock tune from his self-titled 1999 album. When BTO was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in March 2014, it was the first time that brothers Robbie and Randy had spoken to each other in a number of years, and they at least made peace long enough to shake hands onstage, and that truce extended to their interviews afterwards.
Robin and Randy in particular seemed to agree about most things including how the centerpiece induction felt. “A lot of stress,” Robin said. “I think I’ve (had) stage fright once, and that was tonight. It’s just a whole different experience really, to have that many people, you’re on a tight timetable, you’re live on TV.” “It’s fun now that it’s over,” Randy added.
“It took decades, but we all grew up,” Randy said in a telephone interview. “As in any family, as in any band, as on any team, as in any relationship, there are bound to be differences. And some of the differences are irreconcilable and some of them are really tiny, stupid, little petty things and some of them are big things. But as time goes by and you grow up as an adult . . . you look back at it and go: ‘Wow, the guy was an absolute jerk and guess what? I was a jerk too in my own way. All the little differences that cause a band to break up or one guy to leave … looking back at it, you go, oh yeah, he was a jerk, I was a jerk, he was a goof, he was always late, he was a maniac, he spent all his money, whatever. What in the end matters is, in our own way, we went out for our own little period of time, we became something. A band that other bands wanted to be like.”
Elvis Presley adopted the phrase “Takin Care Of Business” from the BTO song and had a TCB logo with a lightning bolt designed for his own use. He even wore sunglasses that had the logo on the sides and his own initials “EP” on the front. Robin and Thornton recalled attending one of Elvis Presley’s shows in Las Vegas in 1975: “This was in the fat Elvis day, I’m afraid,” and Thornton noted that they were swarmed by autograph seekers. Later, they were called back to meet the King and they presented him with a silver medallion reading “Takin’ Care of Business. “It’s weird to have Elvis know your name,” Robin mused. “Basically, we talked to him about karate, firearms and cars.”
Bachman-Turner Overdrive was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2014. That year, Robbie told the Toronto Star about BTO’s success: “We didn’t tell anybody they were wrong or anything was bad or don’t do this. It was basically, have a good time, fun music. Just coming out of the ’70s with the Vietnam War and all the political things going on, in Canada with Trudeau, and Richard Nixon and stuff like that, we just basically had enough of that stuff.”

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