Arts Entertainments

Bachman-Turner overdrive "Taking care of business" And the boy with the mystery pizza

When guitarist Randy Bachman left Canadian rockers The Guess Who in 1970, the band was a hit machine, with millions of sellers like “American Woman” and “These Eyes.” Bachman, who had become a Mormon, felt he could no longer participate in the group’s rock star lifestyle.

By 1972, Bachman had teamed up with his brothers Robin (drums) and guitarist Tim Bachman and bassist and singer CF (Fred) Turner to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The group looked and sounded like working-class rockers: burly guys with beards in jeans and flannel shirts and chanting about rolling down the road.

BTO’s second album, Bachman-Turner Overdrive II included what would become one of his hymns: “Takin ‘Care of Business.” Written by Randy Bachman while he was a member of the Guess Who, it was originally titled “White Collar Worker”. The guitar riffs and verses were inspired by the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer”. The song was copied so closely that Guess Who refused to record it.

Bachman filed the song in his memory. Years later, Bachman, trying out new material for BTO’s upcoming album, revisited “White Collar Worker”. Playing a club in Canada, singer Fred Turner lost his voice. Earlier that night, Bachman had heard a DJ on the radio say, “Hi, I’m Johnny Jane. We’re taking care of business at C-Fox Radio” and he thought it was a great title for the song.

Desperate for material in his vocal range, Bachman dusted off “White Collar Worker”, replacing the hook with “taking care of business.” The crowd loved it and the band decided to record the song.

“Takin ‘Care of Business” was recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, where Bachman sang despite a sore throat and a cold. Bachman has said that the band did not care much about the song because it was only considered an album cut. But released as a single in 1973, “Takin ‘Care of Business” peaked at number 12 on the Billboard graphics.

One of the hallmarks of “Takin ‘Care of Business” is his boogie-woogie piano. In interviews, Bachman has told an apocryphal story about a pizza delivery man who went through the session and insisted that the track needed a piano. The mysterious pizza man sat down, nailed the track in one go, and disappeared. Realizing that union rules required every musician to be paid, Bachman called every pizza parlor in Seattle until he found his man, Norman Durkee.

It was a good story, but, a site that debunks urban legends, discovered the truth. Snopes unearthed a radio interview with Durkee, actually a respected session pianist who was in the studio that day recording commercials. Durkee told KZOK that one of BTO’s engineers asked him if he would play the piano on “Takin ‘Care of Business.” Durkee, busy with his own session, refused; he asked again, Durkee relented but told Randy Bachman that he would do just one take and that he didn’t have time to listen to the song first.

Durkee said that when Bachman wanted him to play, he would aim and when he wanted him to stop, he would cover his throat with his hand. Durkee’s compensation for the session? Ninety dollars.

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