> > Profiles: Robbie Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive)

In recent weeks, the music community has lost quite a number of drummers. This time, it is Robbie Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame who joins that ‘club’. The musician died in Vancouver, Canada, on January 12, just a few weeks before his 70th birthday. No cause of death has been given as yet but, according to his brother Randy, he suffered from heart issues.

Robbie Bachman and Bachman Turner Overdrive perform live on stage in New York in December 1974. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

Randy Bachman‘s (BTO’s guitarist, singer, writer, co-founder and the brother of the deceased) official FB profile reads:

Another sad departure. The pounding beat behind BTO has left us. I just got a call from Fred Turner and my youngest brother Robbie has joined Mum, Dad & brother Gary on the other side. Fred said maybe Jeff Beck needs a drummer to play with. 😉 He was an integral cog in our rock ‘n’ roll machine and we rocked the world together.

BTO Mark II. L-R: Randy Bachman, Blair Thornton, Robbie Bachman, Fred Turner

Robin Peter Kendall Bachman was born on February 18, 1953. Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, he played drums at home as a youngster, often jamming with his older brother Randy, who had already become a professional musician by the 1960s. Towards the end of the decade, he achieved success with The Guess Who (their biggest hit was the US no. 1 smash “American Woman” in 1970).

Robbie Bachman. Photo: Getty Images

In 1971, Randy invited his younger, eighteen-year-old brother to join his new band called Brave Belt. Two years later, after recording two albums, the band was renamed Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Robbie then showed his artistic skills by designing the band’s logo.

The 1970s was the peak of BTO’s (and thus Bachman’s) fame. Between 1973 and 1976, the band had five Top 40 LPs and six Top 40 singles in the US, as well as eleven Canadian Top 40 singles. Robbie Bachman co-wrote one of the band’s biggest hits, “Roll On Down the Highway“. The drummer left the group in 1979, after recording the album “Rock n’ Roll Nights” and completing the concert tour supporting the release.

BTO accepting a Juno Award in 1976. Photo: Canadian Press)

The 1980s were not as kind in terms of artistic and commercial success. Instead, the decade marked the start of a series of lawsuits filed against brother Randy and bassist Fred Turner (the last one took place in 2010). The musician refused to take part in the band’s reunion in 1984, but four years later he joined his bandmates, with whom he performed under the banner of BTO until 2004.

On March 29, 2014, Robbie Bachman along with Bachman Turner Overdrive were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

L-R: Blair Thornton, Robbie Bachman, Randy Bachman, Fred Turner. Photo: Canadian Press / John Woods

Bachman’s nephew is Tal Bachman, who had an international hit with “She’s So High” in the late 1990s. He remembers his uncle:

My Uncle Robbie was an unforgettable character. Hyperactive, loud, funny, and obsessive, he naturally made every encounter with him memorable. […]

Robbie provided the hard-driving backbeat of BTO throughout the 70s, and it is difficult to imagine any other drummer filling that role so perfectly. He favored open, Ringo-style hi-hat; lots of cymbal crashes; and flamboyant tom-tom rolls. […]

Robbie was also a spectacular showman. I saw a lot of concerts growing up in the 70s and 80s; I never saw any other drummer grab a vocal mic, get out in front of the stage, and whip the crowd into a frenzy with an improvised, one man vocal show. He got them clapping, stomping, and chanting. He threw flowers into the audience. He whistled at the hot girls. He could take control of 25,000 people all by himself. He was Tommy Lee before Tommy Lee. And when he returned to his drum kit, Robbie would continue entertaining the crowd by throwing his arms into the air as he played, throwing sticks out to the audience, breaking cymbals constantly, all while still shouting encouragement at the audience. He was a dynamo.”

BTO performing live in the 1970s. Photo source: Randy Bachman’s official FB profile

Robbie Bachman‘s discography:

  • Brave Belt – “Brave Belt” (1971)
  • Brave Belt – “Brave Belt II” (1972)
  • BTO – “Bachman Turner Overdrive” (1973)
  • BTO – “Bachman Turner Overdrive II” (1973)
  • BTO – “Not Fragile” (1974)
  • BTO – “Four Wheel Drive” (1975)
  • BTO – “Head On” (1975)
  • BTO – “Freeways” (1977)
  • BTO – “Street Action” (1978)
  • BTO – “Rock n’ Roll Night” (1979)
  • BTO – “Trial by Fire: Greatest & Latest” (1996)