Leon Portelance & Sean "Julio" Vance
Sonora, CA USA & Nanaimo, BC
Vinny's Last Ride or just VLR for short, is an 45 year musical collaboration between Leon Portelance and Sean "Julio" Vance. The duo met in 1960 in the small sawmill town of Mesachie Lake in British Columbia, Canada, when the Vance family moved into a house just two doors down from the Portelances. The boys became fast friends and did many of the things that pre-adolescent boys do: built forts, played world war and cowboys and indians and generally got into all kinds of mischief like stealing dynamite from a logging supply shed and blowing up the garbage dump.
In 1963, an event happened that changed their lives forever. The Beatles performed for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was magical; those cool suits, strange haircuts and all those girls screaming. And such wonderful music! The boys knew then and there what they wanted to be when they grew up.
They started bugging their parents for guitars and within a couple of years later, they were taking guitar lessons and jamming together. It wasn't long before they teamed up with some other kids and formed their first band. By high school, they played hop socks, school dances and community hall dances all over Vancouver Island. For a group of teenagers, they had an extremely tight rhythm section and superb three part vocal harmonies. And one thing that distinguished them from all the other local bands is from day one, at least a third of their repertoire were original songs.
After graduation, Leon went to the University of Victoria to study music composition and theory (B. of Music 1976) and Sean went to work at a lumber yard in Naniamo where he earned the nickname, "Julio." Someone there just started calling him that and it stuck. They continued to play in various band together for many years.
Being starving musicians, the boys needed some way to make real money, so they started contracting; doing carpentry jobs and framing houses. In the late 1970s, they did their first professional recording at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver. They soon became regulars hanging around the studio as much as they could meeting Mushroom Records artists like Jerry Doucette, Chilliwack, Paul Horn and other bands that came through the studio including Lover Boy. This was shortly after Heart had left the label. The boys found that their carpentry skills were useful and they traded recording time for doing construction work around the studio. It was a good deal for everyone.
Leon took a recording engineering course from the Columbia School of Broadcasting and soon went to work at Mushroom Studios as an assistant engineer. He got to be an expert at rolling up mic cables, making coffee, picking up lunch and vacuuming the studio. But the experience of working with world class engineers and producers was invaluable. Learning all about correct mic placement, how to EQ a great drum sound and many hours running the multi-track deck. He got to be very good at doing tight punch-ins (before the days of automated punch-in and out).
Calling themselves, Julio and the Howlers, the boys recorded several more tracks at Mushroom Studios and released their first single, "Afraid of Loving You," which garnered quite a bit of local airplay. By the early 1980s, Leon had started working at Bullfrog Studios, also in Vancouver, and eventually became a part owner. Having unlimited access to the studio whenever it wasn't being booked by a paying customer was a dream come true. Leon spend months doing all nighters on the graveyard shift (midnight until 8 AM), being both engineer and producer. All it cost him was the tape he used. He also produced albums for other artists.
In 1990, Leon moved back to Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island where he operated a cabinet manufacturing company and also dabbled in politics. He build a really nice studio in the basement of his home where Sean and he would get together once a week to record vocals. This continued until 1998, when Leon decided to move to San Francisco. But even with 1000 miles of separation, the collaboration has never stopped and Leon and Sean continue to write and refine their unique sound which can only be described as classic rock and pop. They completed a CD of earlier material called, "A Little Bit Crazy," having all of the tracks digitally restored and converted, remixed with the help of a mixing engineer and then mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London. they are also working on two new projects: "Salvation," a collection of darker themes and "Dolls and Bikers," which is lighter, more on the fun side. their goal is to release these two new CDs by the end of 2013 or early 2014.
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