interest in drums stemmed from his love of big band music. AS
A CHILD, he was influenced by the sounds of
Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Louis Bellson emanating from
the family radio. A classically trained percussionist, Vance began
his professional career in 1963 with THE
CRESCENDOS, touring Britain and Europe.
Returning to Canada in 1966, he re-entered the local music scene with London
Records recording artists, THE
FIFTH. It was in this band that Vance
re-connected with Kurt Winter - a relationship that continued until Kurt's
death in 1997. The two would go on to form the short-lived, but now
in 1969 with Bill Wallace on bass. Together, the trio wrote many
songs recorded by The Guess Who. The band was also responsible for organizing Manitoba's first pop festival, THE NIVERVILLE POP FESTIVAL.
By the late sixties, the
excitement that had propelled the music industry up to that point had begun
to subside. In the early years, there was a level playing field,
with most of the local musicians having roughly about the same potential.
Some went on to perfect their craft; others never improved upon their initial
foray into the business. And a career in music had become big business.
As with all other industries, only the strong survive, and the 70’s found
many of those “community club bands” no longer able to compete in the new
market. The end of that heady era was fueled by several factors,
including the advancing age of the original players, many of who now had
families to support. The audiences were becoming more sophisticated
and demanded a much higher standard from their entertainers. Another
contributing cause was the lowering of the drinking age in Manitoba to
18. That move opened a whole new avenue to bands,
but it also effected the death of the community center dances, which for
many years, had been the vetting ground for groups trying to break into
HEATHERINGTON & THE MERRY-GO-ROUND was
one of the bands that successfully made the transition and Vance joined
the group early into 1971. They were a staple on the club circuit,
generating line-ups wherever they played. The band also hosted its
own variety show on CBC and under the direction of Kenny Rogers, recorded
part of an album.
In 1973, Vance travelled
to Los Angeles, once again, to record with ALAN
SCHICK, releasing one album that received
extensive airplay in Canada. Following the break-up of the band,
Vance went through a period where it seemed a new band was created every
couple of months. The music remained the same, but the players rotated
in and out of the groups, and with each change, came a new name.
Kurt left The Guess Who in ’74 and jumped right into a new aggregation
with Vance, calling themselves Bubbles, then Saint Silver, and eventually
Papa Pluto. Once again, the writing team of Winter and Masters was
back together, and the band produced some outstanding originals, still
fondly remembered and talked about today. So complex were some of
their arrangements that the band had a “screw-up trophy” awarded to the
first player to make a mistake on any given night. The unlucky recipient
of the award had to keep it on his amp until the next error was executed
and he could then unload the darn thing.
Burton Cummings left The
Guess Who in the early 1970’s and in the summer of 1977, Vance joined him
on the tour with Alice Cooper. Vance performed with Burton until
early winter when The Guess Who regrouped and Vance became the drummer
for the new version of the band. While THE
GUESS WHO has had many personnel changes over
the years, in their long history, they have only had 2 drummers -- Garry
Peterson and Vance Masters.
Throughout the 1980’s, Vance
played with some of Winnipeg's longest running groups - The Trigger Brothers,
Yogi and Friends, Twister - to name a few. In 1992, he began a 10-year
stint with the country-rock band, Guns 4 Hire.
Vance has been a major contributor
to the local and international music scene as a performer and writer, having
co-written #1 hits such as “Bus Rider” and “Hand Me Down World”.
Never one to rest on his laurels, the post-Guess Who years were some of
the most satisfying and yet challenging times of Vance's career.
As someone who performs for the love of his craft, he makes no distinction
as to whether he's playing before an audience of 500 or 50,000. The
pure satisfaction of working at a profession he truly enjoys is the motivation
behind his music and what remains the same is the commitment to musical
After 6 decades in the industry, Vance has retired from the stage.