Vance Masters


Vance's interest in drums grew from his love of big band music.  As a child, he was influenced by the sounds of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Louie 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 legendary, Brother 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 outdoor 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 music.  Dianne Heatherington and 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. The backing band for Alan was St. Silver, which eventually morphed into Papa Pluto. In 1974, Kurt Winter left The Guess Who and joined Vance on stage in Papa Pluto, resurrecting the writing team of Winter/Masters. The band produced some outstanding originals, still fondly remembered and talked about today.

Burton Cummings left The Guess Who in the mid 1970’s to embark on his solo career, and in the summer of 1977, Vance was hired to replace Jim Gordon. He performed with Burton until early fall when The Guess Who regrouped and Vance became the drummer for the new version of the band.

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”. The post-Guess Who years were some of the most satisfying and yet challenging times of Vance's professional life. As someone who performed for the love of his craft, he made no distinction as to whether he was playing before an audience of 500 or 50,000. The pure satisfaction of working at a profession he truly enjoyed was the motivation behind his music, and what remained constant throughout was his commitment to musical excellence.

After 6 decades in the industry, Vance retired from the stage.

On June 22, 2023, following a severe Covid-19 infection, Vance passed away.  This PHOTO TRIBUTE was played at his memorial service to commemorate his life in pictures.

Continue to explore Vance's career by visiting the MUSIC pages to listen to, and read about, some of the individual bands with which he has performed.

Excerpt from an interview conducted by Hal Anderson
December 4, 1999

1980 The Guess Who in Vermont
The Guess Who
Vermont, 1980

Photo credit:  David M. Perich
1980 Vance in Los Angeles
Vance in front of their album display at Tower Records
Los Angeles 1980

Photo credit:  David M. Perich
1964 The

1980 The Guess Who
Photo credit:  David M. Perich

2008 Vance Masters


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