“The whole audience’s heads snap and look at the stage, and I go, ‘Oh my God, I can't forget this riff’”: Randy Bachman on how a broken string inspired his iconic American Woman guitar riff

Randy Bachman playing a Gibson les paul
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton / Getty Images)

Some songs are inspired by dramatic events. Others come to their authors in a dream. But for Randy Bachman, a broken string was the inspiration behind The Guess Who‘s 1970 hit American Woman.

“I broke a string,” Bachman once told Professor of Rock. “I had my ‘59 Les Paul that had a Bigsby on it. So when you're trying to change a string, it's really tough. In the dark, no roadie, no tuner, no stool.

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Janelle Borg

Janelle is a staff writer at GuitarWorld.com. After a long stint in classical music, Janelle discovered the joys of playing guitar in dingy venues at the age of 13 and has never looked back. Janelle has written extensively about the intersection of music and technology, and how this is shaping the future of the music industry. She also had the pleasure of interviewing Dream Wife, K.Flay, Yīn Yīn, and Black Honey, among others. When she's not writing, you'll find her creating layers of delicious audio lasagna with her art-rock/psych-punk band ĠENN.