Canada-style Smackdown: Burton Cummings vs. Peter Mansbridge

The former Guess Who frontman, Burton Cummings, has failed to hit above his weight, as the saying goes, during his long career performing solo. This is no less the case today, now that the once-trim singer appears to be tipping the scales somewhere north of the big three-oh-oh. Never mind the avoirdupois: look what it did for Antoine Domino, not to mention Leslie West, and those three big rapping pimps whose name momentarily escapes me. *

Cummings’ last recording of original material was released 19 years ago, and contained some superb tracks, including the memorable Permissible to Cry. The record rocketed straight to Nowheresville, setting Burt’s career into the downdraft. At bottom, in the early ’90s, he was heard warbelling at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in the company of a couple of second-tier comedians. Someone who reviewed the performance observed, “The music business seems to be through with Cummings.”

They were wrong. He eventually worked out a new act, was rediscovered by big audiences, and then reformed the Guess Who, with songwriting podner Randy Bachman, for a successful North American tour. His new CD, Above the Ground, is an unexpected treat, although it will not elevate Cummings’ reputation. He should be regarded as the musical equal of Elton John and Billy Joel, and isn’t. As is the case with various other Canadian singer-songwriters, he has been marginalized by the limited ambitions of his managers, and his own overweening diffidence. That puts him in the same category as, say, the CBC newsreader Peter Mansbridge, who is comfortable to remain a large toad in a tiny enclosure, rather than hopping off and taking any big chances anywhere. The difference being that Cummings has the goods, while Mansbridge only has the camel’s-hair sportscoat.

Devotees of Burton will wish to purchase my excellent new book, which contains a brief anecdote about our hero, the jist of which I recall reading about in the Winnipeg Sun, when business travel took me to the Manitoba capital. Buy this outstanding new work here.


* Small wonder I momentarily couldn’t recall the names of rap trio the Fat Boys, whose acting assignments dried up after lensing “Orderlies” with Don Ameche. How many other careers has that Ameche guy killed along the way?

4 thoughts on “Canada-style Smackdown: Burton Cummings vs. Peter Mansbridge

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  3. Burton Cummings records, what he refers to as “a huggle-stream voice” which is all tracks of him recording himself on dangerous and illegal frequencies. Then broadcasts these horrid vocalizations on other dangerous frequencies. On facebok he has many identities and impersonates himself. One is named George Sladek, there are several more. His voice is very shrill and his career is full of unethical musical sounds. His career is being investigated for very serious charges, there is talk of stripping some of his credentials. Please update us on any further information.

    1. Eliza, thanks for hepping me to the troof. I might have known George Sladek was not as represented. Fucker tried via Craigslist to sell me a Can-Am Spyder he said he and his wife only used once, on a cross-country ramble that ended abruptly in Joplin, Mo. after a suspected food-poisoning incident in the QuikTrip parking lot. I suspected Sladek might be Cummings — but, then, it seems every Can-Am Spyder owner has a ‘stache and eye-twinkle. Darned good thing I didn’t send that thousand bucks deposit via PayPal. If you happen to see Sladek, go ahead and let him know we’re on to him.

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