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Heart's Canadian Confusion: Love, War & Draft Evasion All Figured Into Band's Early Days

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If it feels like there's some confusion about whether or not Seattle-bred classic rock band Heart are actually Canadian, it's because they actually were a Canadian band at one time. Sort of.

Heart, who're currently touring across Canada for a series of concerts that will also include a stop in Toronto to do a celebrity interview as part of Canadian Music Week on Friday, March 22, got their first real taste of success in the Great White North.

Nancy Wilson, Heart guitarist and one-half of the band's core along with lead singing sister Ann Wilson, took some time to untangle the band's web of Canadian connections. As it turns out, love and war played a big part in Heart's hoser history.

"Ann, my older sister fell in love with a guy Mike Fisher [Heart soundman/manager] who was the brother of the guitar player Roger Fisher," starts Nancy. "Those guys had a band in Seattle then called White Heart, but Mike Fisher was a draft evader who was living up in Canada. The band had auditioned Ann and were playing with her at the time and Ann fell head over heels in love with Michael, so she ended up leaving home with a backpack and a guitar case hitchhiking up to Vancouver over the border and the band followed her to Vancouver because there's no singer like that anywhere in the world."

Based out of Vancouver and unable to cross the border because of Mike's draft evasion, Heart toured across Canada instead, essentially acting like any other Canadian band. They even billed themselves as Canadian.

"Ann lived there [Vancouver] for about eight years," Nancy continues. "So did Michael. I did for about two or three off and on because we were moving so much, but it was home base. And at the time Vietnam was happening and we were kind of embarrassed about being Americans. We were like, 'Ooooh, Canada was a neutral country and we thought that was such a beautiful thing about it,' and so our first poster we ever did was, 'All the way from Canada.' We were claiming to be Canadian because it was cooler than being American. Way more exotic, too.

"So people still go, 'You're from Canada right?'"
Nancy certainly remembers the classic Canadian acts Heart would play with in those days.
"B.T.O. was just before our time," she says. "April Wine we toured with, we opened for them. Let's see, Nick Gilder... 'Hot Child in the City,' Anne Murray... I think Bryan Adams was right after. It was an interesting time.
"We played a lot of cabarets quite a bit because we were called back a lot. The Birdcage, White Rock, Starvin' Marvin's, the Zodiac Room in Vancouver. And we became the number one cabaret act in Vancouver... Yeah, it's our other hometown."
From winning over the Vancouver club scene and touring across Canada Heart took the next logical step — making an album. The band went into Can-Base Studios [now known as Mushroom Studios] in Vancouver to record what would become their 1976 debut album "Dreamboat Annie." The album, which qualified as CanCon because it was recorded in Canada by artists residing in Canada, featured arguably two of the greatest songs recorded in the classic rocking '70s — "Magic Man" and "Crazy On You." At that point it was just a matter of time until the band got noticed.
"We did 'Dreamboat Annie' and we had some really good people working on it there who were really passionate about us," says Nancy. "[We went] to every radio station and we drove everywhere and we were self-promoting really hard and playing everywhere all the time making the album work.
"And then when it did work and it started infiltrating into the States it turned out that Mike Fisher had been illegally drafted and at that point we were free to play also in the States. Our soundman could go there."
So they did. "Dreamboat Annie" would peak at #7 in the U.S. achieving platinum sales and hit #20 in Canada.
The rest, they say, is history.

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