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Burton Cummings' long wait for a graduation ceremony

Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings had been gone from his high school for nearly 50 years before he was given an honorary diploma.

Nearly 50 years after leaving school in Winnipeg, Guess Who frontman received an honorary diploma

Why Burton Cummings left high school

12 years ago
Duration 0:37
In 2010, Burton Cummings returned to his former high school.

It took a while for Burton Cummings to get to take part in a high-school graduation ceremony, but he was glad when he finally got to do it.

In June of 2010, Cummings, then 62, was honoured by St. John's High School in Winnipeg — the same school he had dropped out of as a teenager.

Burton Cummings, seen here in 1969, dropped out of high school to become a musician. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

A fight with the principal, involving a school musical, had sparked his exit decades before.

"He said: 'Well, your grades aren't good enough, so we're not letting you be in the operetta," Cummings recalled on the day he returned to the school to receive an honorary diploma almost 50 years after leaving.

"And, you know, in a strange way, he did me the biggest favour of my life."

Burton Cummings, seen standing alongside former governor general Michaelle Jean, has won many awards throughout his long career as a musician. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Cummings, of course, would go on to join The Guess Who — where he formed a powerhouse tandem with Randy Bachman — and to have a successful solo career.

Burton Cummings had success both when performing with The Guess Who and in his work as a solo artist. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

But even with all that success, he didn't want his fellow St. John's alumni to follow in his footsteps by leaving school.

Burton Cummings' advice to high-school graduates

12 years ago
Duration 0:38
Burton Cummings talks to a graduating class in Winnipeg -- and tells others not to follow his example by dropping out of high school.

"I wouldn't advise anybody to leave high school just because of what happened to me," Cummings said. "I think I'm the exception to the rule — you know, you need more than ability and ambition, you really need a lot of luck."

In 2010, Burton Cummings told CBC that he wouldn't want to see other high-school students follow his example and drop out of school. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

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