The Time The Guess Who Rocked The White House In 1970

The Guess Who may not have given the world too many classic songs, but the classics they did give us were defining tunes of the Flower Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to the Houston Press, the band's two most famous songs — "American Woman" and "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" — were on the same double-sided single, and both of them were hits at the same time. It was something that had only been achieved by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Elvis Presley at that point.

However, before the Guess Who spread their unique brand of countercultural rock 'n' roll to the masses, several of its members were initially in a Canadian band called Chad Allen and the Reflections, as stated in the Houston Press. They even achieved some success in their home country with the song "Shakin' All Over." To capitalize on their growing popularity, the band's record company decided to attribute the single to "Guess Who?" — believing it would attract some curious young listeners to this mystery band. Rather than try to correct it, the band went with it, and after a minor lineup change, the Guess Who was officially born.

A fairly tame White House rock concert

Because the Guess Who were so popular with the hippie generation, it seems odd that they would be asked to perform at the White House. It's even more odd that this was when Richard Nixon was president. As stated in Ultimate Classic Rock, Nixon's daughter Tricia was a fan of the band and was largely responsible for getting them on the bill for a White House engagement in 1970. The Guess Who's biggest hit at the time, "American Woman," had some political undertones and is even thought to have been anti-war.

However, according to the band's drummer Garry Peterson, they saw no conflict with playing for the president. Peterson revealed to Recordnet, "He had some good foreign policy and, other than getting to play at the White House, we didn't know where Nixon was going. We couldn't foresee Watergate, being from Canada, being young and not that far into politics." In fact, the entire celebration was surprisingly subdued; no one was upset by a conservative president letting a hippie rock band play at the White House, and the Guess Who behaved themselves.

Was American Woman banned from their set?

While the Guess Who's performance at the White House was a largely tame affair, there is a bit of a discrepancy about whether or not they were asked to strike "American Woman" from their set. Drummer Garry Peterson said in Mike Morsch's book "Vinyl Dialogues: Stories Behind Memorable Albums of the '70s as Told by the Artists" (via Ultimate Classic Rock) that President Nixon's wife Pat was responsible for getting the hit removed: " ... I guess Mrs. Nixon ... said, 'Well, this is not appropriate, we can't have this.' So they came to our people and said, 'We would rather you not play this song.'" The band, not wanting to cause controversy, was totally fine with the White House's request.

However, this conflicts with the version of the story told by the Guess Who's singer Burton Cummings, who told the CBC that they never received any request to not play "American Woman." He claimed, "Our manager at the time came up with the idea that if we told the press that the White House asked us not to play it, it might be a good publicity stunt." Cummings also revealed that it ultimately backfired on the band, as they received plenty of criticism for playing at the White House. Perhaps if they'd played "American Woman" for the president, they would've been seen as stickin' it to the man.