Brother (Canadian band)
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Formed at the end of 1969 by Vance "Masters" Schmidt (drums, vocals), Kurt Winter (guitar, vocals), and Bill Wallace (bass, vocals), the band was together for less than six months. All three were seasoned members of Winnipeg's rock music scene. Disenchanted with the politics of booking agents and the music union at that time, as well as the music being produced by other acts, the band formed as a collective, sharing lead vocals, writing credits, and management duties.
While short-lived, the band is legendary for its connection to prominent top-ten Canadian rock band The Guess Who. When founding member, guitarist and songwriter Randy Bachman left the group suddenly in 1970, the band was left short one member, and started searching for a replacement who could write songs as well as play guitar, and preferably somebody with an available catalogue. Band leader Burton Cummings recruited Brother guitarist Kurt Winter, who joined "The Guess Who" and took some of Brother's songs with him, including "Hand Me Down World" and "Bus Rider". Both songs became chart hits for the band. Later Guess Who singles "Rain Dance" and "Running Back to Saskatoon" were also based on Brother songs. Cummings himself has said that “there were umpteen things that The Guess Who ended up kind of stealing from Brother’s repertoire once Kurt joined the band.
In 1972, Guess Who founding member and bass player Jim Kale was removed from the band, who then recruited Brother's Bill Wallace as replacement. Reflecting on this era in the liner notes to the 1991 MCA compilation "Track Record: The Guess Who Collection", Burton Cummings wrote:
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 Nordhiemer and they’re chanting “DOAN-YA-WANNA-RAIN-DANCE-WITH-MEEE?” ... Kale had slipped out of the grove 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.
Reunions and Later Years
Brother reunited in the studio in 1971 to record two songs: "Sending Money" and "Second Time Around The Woodpile", in a session financed by Kurt Winter. The songs were released as a single, but failed to attract any attention. As bassist Bill Wallace would later comment, “All our good stuff was already recorded by The Guess Who". Vance Masters re-released the single on CD in 2001, selling it from his web site.
One final Brother reunion took place in February 1994, at a benefit for the Museum of Man and Nature’s rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. Author John Einarson described the show in his book American Woman: The Story of the Guess Who:
"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".
Bill Wallace remained in The Guess who until their initial break-up in 1975, and has reunited with them several times in Burton Cummings-led formations, including their successful "Running Back Through Canada" tour. Through the 1970s and 80s, he played with fellow Guess Who alumnus Greg Leskiw in the bands Crowcuss, LesQ, and Kilowatt. He lives in Winnipeg and works as a teacher.
In 1977, Vance Schmidt changed his name to Vance Masters. That year, he served as drummer in Burton Cummings' touring band and then joined the Jim Kale-led Guess Who until 1979. He has continued to drum with Winnipeg bands ever since, including The Trigger Brothers, Yogi and Friends, Twister, Guns 4 Hire and Sassy Jack.
- 1971 Sending Money / Once More Around The Woodpile (independently re-released on CD in 2001)
- Vance Masters' Brother page: http://www.members.shaw.ca/vancemasters/bands/brother.html
- The Guess Who
- Einarson, John: "American Woman: The Story of the Guess Who"; (1995) Quarry Press
- Vance Master's Brother page http://www.members.shaw.ca/vancemasters/bands/brother.html
- Liner notes: 1991 MCA compilation "Track Record: The Guess Who Collection"