Brother 1970 Vance Masters















"Brother .. my favourite band, because we wrote all the material we played." -- Vance Masters

In the closing days of 1969, three of Winnipeg’s most distinguished musicians gathered together around the kitchen table at a friend’s house.  All veterans on the music scene, they had played virtually every location available from community clubs to arenas to international venues.  And all three had come to the same conclusion at the same time.  Tired of performing cover versions of other people’s material, they formed a unique partnership, based upon a verbal agreement and a shared desire to prove to themselves, and only themselves, that they had what it takes to make a lasting difference in the music world.  Brother - the name itself denotes the mindset that spurred Vance Masters, Kurt Winter, and Bill Wallace to pen some of the more memorable songs in Canadian music history.

Together for less than six months, Brother garnered a cult following in a very short period of time.  Dubbed Winnipeg’s only supergroup by John Einarson in the book, “Shakin’ All Over”, they collectively composed all their own material and became a collaborative writing team that with any one of the members missing, could not have produced the same caliber of music.  They were musician’s musicians, and it was not uncommon to see more than 50% of their audiences made up of players.  The quality of their performances was such that when they were fired from one of their jobs for playing too loud, the audience in attendance that night protested by picketing the club for several days afterward, tying up traffic on one of Winnipeg’s busiest thoroughfares.

Disenchanted by the politics behind the booking agencies and the musician’s union at that time, Brother refused to join the union or to sign with any one management team and set about arranging their own gigs.  The local agencies brought pressure to bear on the club owners, advising that if the rooms booked Brother, they would no longer receive bands from the agents’ stables of acts.  But Vance, Kurt, and Bill played anyhow, often performing for no monetary compensation - just for the sheer pleasure of getting their music out there.

And they were an extremely close-knit group, choosing to spend almost all their waking time together.  Outsiders rarely understood the inner circle meaning of many of their comments.  Some of their ideas were outrageous, but that was also a hallmark of the trio.  It was an all or nothing attitude that prevailed, and they fed on each other, building upon a wisp of an idea put forth by any one of the members.  One such plan was to 'invade' The Beatles’ Apple Studios to record their material, with the justification that when the finished product was heard, all would be forgiven for adopting such a drastic measure to get their music heard.  Needless to say, sanity prevailed.

The band wrote, rehearsed, and re-worked their songs, frequently recording their practice sessions.  Unfortunately, no seems to know what happened to those tapes.  They shopped demos around to several record labels, but were rejected by each and every one.  Brother knew they had a veritable gold mine in at least one of those pieces, yet they were also acutely aware that what they were lacking was a recognizable name within the industry.  They weren't, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'formula act' by industry standards.  One of the record labels that turned them down was RCA, which would later make a considerable amount off those same tunes when they were recorded by one of their already-signed groups.  That group was The Guess Who.

Much has been written about Kurt Winter’s entry into The Guess Who. When Randy Bachman resigned from the band, he left a huge writing deficit.  Not only would The Guess Who have to replace an outstanding guitarist, it was imperative they hired someone with songwriting talent, and someone who preferably had a ready catalogue.  In Burton’s own words, “There were umpteen things that The Guess Who ended up kind of stealing from Brother’s repertoire once Kurt joined the band.”

Regrettably, writing credits were never attributed to Vance Masters or Bill Wallace.  It took 18 years before The Guess Who finally revealed the following on the liner notes to the album titled Track Record, The Guess Who Collection:
We’re now THE GUESS WHO in all capital letters and the leader of the band has just been thrown out.  It comes down to being easier to get someone from Winnipeg because we’re still really LOCAL thinkers.  Jim Kale and I both agree that it should be either Leskiw or Kurt.  Peterson says why don’t we get them both … Leskiw is with Wild Rice ...Kurt Winter is with Brother, the all-time best band that EVER WAS in Winnipeg.  They are a trio … they all sing … they write all their stuff and it’s brilliant …

Brother did Hand Me Down World about six million percent better than I ever did, but I was the guy who sang it for RCA and Jack and Brian …

Share The Land is a genuine song in some people’s hearts and there’s a lot of plus signs around us.  The flip side is Bus Rider, another Brother song that you should have heard THEM do live … another two-sided hit single.

Rain Dance … We need songs constantly so everything becomes the “next big single” … I come home to Lansdowne one night and Kurt and Vance have had many beers and they’re doing a bagpipe drone on the old Nordheimer and they’re chanting “DOAN-YA-WANNA-RAIN-DANCE-WITH-MEEE?”

Donnie was wonderful to sing with.  Kale had slipped out of the groove around Paramount time, and on bass these days was Bill Wallace.  We now had two thirds of Brother in THE GUESS WHO.  If Vance has ever forgiven me, he’s a bigger man than I think I could have been.  ...  Burton Cummings  1988
Brother material recorded by The Guess Who:
  • Heaven Only Moved Once Yesterday
  • Rock and Roller Steam
  • Do You Miss Me Darlin'
  • Hand Me Down World
  • Bus Rider
  • Bye, Bye Babe 1
  • All Hashed Out 1
  • Rain Dance 2
Kurt, Bill, and Vance did eventually produce one single under the Brother name, but as Bill Wallace so succinctly summed up that session, “All our good stuff was already recorded by The Guess Who.”  The studio recording, financed by Kurt and recorded in Chicago, received very limited airplay.  The record company failed to provide any promotion at all for the release of Sending Money b/w Second Time Around the Woodpile.

Brother was also responsible for putting on Manitoba’s first rock festival.  After reading in a newspaper that an oxygenator had to be flown in from California to treat an accident victim in Winnipeg's General Hospital (later called Health Sciences Centre), the three set in motion a fundraiser for the Lynne Derksen Oxygenator Fund.  They organized the now legendary NIVERVILLE POP FESTIVAL on a farm just south of Winnipeg.  Enlisting the assistance of the Mennonite community to handle the financial side of the project, the band took care of all other details for the event.  Nearly every one of Winnipeg’s top acts donated their time for the worthy cause, and well over $10,000 was raised that afternoon.

POSTSCRIPT:  February 12,  1994

Get Back!  The Evolution of Winnipeg Rock
A Fundraiser for the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature

The highlight of the show that evening was the much anticipated return of local singer Dianne Heatherington with members of her band The Merry-Go-Round. Unbeknownst to the crowd was that in Dianne's set would be a surprise reunion of Brother. Since Vance Masters and Bill Wallace were part of the Merry-Go-Round it was a simple thing to invite Kurt up to perform a handful of Brother songs. --
John Einarson

And from the book, “American Woman, The Story of The Guess Who”, also by John Einarson:  In February 1994, Brother made a surprise reunion appearance at a Winnipeg benefit concert for the Museum of Man and Nature’s rock ‘n’ roll exhibit.  By way of an introduction, drummer Vance Masters announced, “Here’s some songs very special to us that I think you’ll recognize, but here’s the way they were supposed to be done.”  With that the trio tore into Hand Me Down World, Bus Rider and Rock and Roller Steam (with the Running Back To Saskatoon riff back where it belonged) to an enthralled audience, most of whom were likely unaware of the musical history lesson before them.
Brother 45
  Brother - Second Time Around
  The Woodpile b/w Sending Money

  Format: 45
  Label: Nimbus 9 NNS 9014
  Year: 1970
  Origin: Winnipeg, Manitoba
  Genre: rock
  Value of Original Title: $400.00
  Make Inquiry/purchase: email
  Release Type: Singles
  Websites:  No
  Playlist: Rock Room, Manitoba, 1960's
  Reference: May 2021 - CITIZEN FREAK

Vance Masters
Vance Masters
Photo credit:  Ephie Bergman

Kurt Winter
Kurt Winter
Photo credit:  Ephie Bergman

Bill Wallace
Bill Wallace
Photo credit:  Ephie Bergman

                                Tribune July 3, 1971
Winnipeg Tribune July 3, 1971

Videos open in a separate window

Sending Money (Video)


1.  Brother - the band - was not in existence when All Hashed Out and Bye, Bye Babe were composed, but the core writing team of Bill, Kurt, and Vance was still collaborating.  As per Bill Wallace, November 20, 2011 on FACEBOOK: "Duncan, Vance, and I practiced with Kurt while we were still in the Merry-Go-Round, and Hashed and Bye, Bye Babe were concocted."

2.  Rain Dance was crafted by Vance and Kurt.  Once they had the fundamentals arranged, the song found its way onto The Guess Who's So Long Bannatyne album.  Reference also: LINER NOTES above.

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