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Steve Morse live with Deep Purple in Canada 2005
|Birth name||Steven J. Morse|
28 July 1954 |
Hamilton, Ohio, United States
|Genres||Instrumental rock, progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, banjo|
|Associated acts||Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple, Living Loud, Angelfire, Flying Colors|
|Website||Official web site|
|Music Man Steve Morse Signature guitar, Fender Telecaster|
Steven J. "Steve" Morse (born 28 July 1954) is an American guitarist and composer, best known as the founder of the Dixie Dregs, and the guitar player in Deep Purple since 1994. Morse's career has encompassed rock, country, funk, jazz, classical, and fusion of these musical genres. In addition to a thriving solo career, he enjoyed a brief stint with Kansas in the mid 80s.
Morse's father was a minister and his mother a classically trained pianist; both were also psychologists. The family moved to Tennessee, then Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Morse spent his childhood. Although familiar with piano and clarinet, Morse ultimately became interested in guitar after seeing a gentleman finger picking a Dixie melody at a county fair. Morse worked briefly with his brother Dave in a band called The Plague until the family moved to Augusta, Georgia. In the late 60s, he played in a band called Three—named on the day of a local battle of the bands (and finishing 2nd)-- with his older brother; and 12 yr. old keyboardist William Gerald (Jerry) Wooten, a student at the same junior high as, though 1 grade earlier than, the 13 yr. old guitarist. Wooten, at Morse's suggestion (after a tryout—with tentative pointers of the solo- and bass-key style on the Doors' "Light My Fire", at the home of the young Morse) added bass keys (as well as melodic blues scales learned from Steve) to the band—and was known casually as "Steve's Little Brother", by schoolmates and denizens of a local psychedelic youth club, "The Green Onion" where—along with Legion Halls and church functions—the early band performed. Enrolled in the Academy of Richmond County, he met bassist Andy West and, together, they formed the nucleus of the Dixie Grit, adding keyboardist Johnny Carr, guitarist and vocalist Frank Brittingham with Dave Morse drumming. However, this effort was short lived, since covering Led Zeppelin, Cream and the like limited their ability to get higher-paying jobs at local dance halls. West and Morse continued to play as a duet billed as the Dixie Dregs until Morse's expulsion from school in the 10th grade (for refusing to cut his hair) enabled his enrolment at the esteemed University of Miami School of Music. During the 1970s, the University of Miami played host to a number of future influential musicians, including Bruce Hornsby, Pat Metheny, Chuck Schuldiner, Jaco Pastorius and others. Andy West also enrolled at the University of Miami and, with Morse, drummer Bart Yarnall, keyboardist Frank Josephs and violinist Allen Sloan, collaborated in a lab project entitled Rock Ensemble II. Rehearsing and performing Morse's compositions at the University of Miami brought some attention to his credibility as a composer and player. The group compiled a recording used for promotional efforts in 1975. This recording was eventually released as The Great Spectacular in 1997. Steve was also a commercial airline pilot in the 1980's
||This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (October 2008)|
Upon Morse's graduation from the University of Miami in 1975, he and West officially named the group Dixie Dregs. A fellow University of Miami alumnus, Rod Morgenstein, replaced the injured Bart Yarnall and the band commenced performing on a regular basis, interspersing their compositions with covers of John McLaughlin and of southern rock gems. Despite their decidedly non-commercial intent, an increasingly heavier performance schedule eventually led to the attention of Capricorn Records recruiters including Allman Brothers Band manager Twiggs Lyndon and, in late 1976, the group was signed by the vaunted southern rock label.
Their first effort for Capricorn, Free Fall, established Morse as an important newcomer to the fusion genre, and he was recognised for both his compositional skills (having written all 11 tracks) and his consummate musicianship. Although critically acclaimed as a pivotal jazz fusion album, the LP sold poorly.
What If was released in 1978 to continued acclaim. Writing credits were more collaborative and the band's sound had matured into something a bit more than what defined fusion at the time. Southern rock, classical, folk and country elements combined to form a cohesive and complex pastiche of passionate and highly listenable music. Though supported by a tour, record sales remained flat, but gained Morse and the band received an invitation to perform at Montreux Jazz Festival on 23 July 1978. The recorded performance was released the following year on Night of the Living Dregs. Capricorn went bankrupt in late 1979, and the Dixie Dregs were left without a label.
Arista Records stepped in to sign the band in 1979 to record three albums. Production control was handed to Morse, and Dregs of the Earth was released in May 1980. All eight tracks were written by Morse, and the album peaked at number 27 on Billboard's Jazz Album Chart.
Arista became increasingly concerned about Dixie Dregs' album sales and pressured the band to change their name to simply The Dregs in an attempt to increase the band's visibility in the public eye. Unsung Heroes brought eight additional Morse compositions forward in early 1981, but the name change did little to address Arista's worries. The Dregs were compelled to add lyrics to their next effort, appropriately titled Industry Standard, an apparent reference to executive and management oversight of their creative process.
Despite this, Morse's compositions on Industry Standard began to sound more like his evolving solo work than Dregs' collaborations, and the album stood up to critical and public praise. Industry Standard was voted "Best Guitar LP" by readers of Guitar Player magazine in their annual reader's poll that year. Additionally, Morse was voted "Best Overall Guitarist" in the same poll, an honour that he would hold for five consecutive years (which ended his eligibility by retiring him into their "Gallery of Greats", a distinction shared only by Steve Howe of Yes.) Having fulfilled their commitment to Arista, the band succumbed to the pressures of constant gigging, and disbanded in early 1983.
In the late 1980s, the group reunited for a tour featuring former members Morse, Morgenstein, Lavitz and Sloan. Their return was complemented by a "Best Of" release entitled Divided We Stand. Bassist Dave LaRue completed the line-up for a seven date tour culminating in the 1992 live album Bring 'em Back Alive. Violinist Jerry Goodman, of The Mahavishnu Orchestra fame, filled in for Sloan, who was frequently absent as a result of his busy medical career. They signed a deal with former label Capricorn Records for their first studio album in years entitled Full Circlein 1994.
Steve Morse Band and Kansas
Morse then formed The Steve Morse Band, a trio with bassist Jerry Peek and drummer Doug Morgan (formerly a member of Glass Moon). After the first tour of the eastern United States, Morgan left for previous commitments. Everyone's choice to replace Morgan (including Doug's) was Rod Morgenstein. They began recording The Introduction in September. The group toured Germany in early 1984 with Morse conducting clinics, and the group was signed by Elektra Records, who released The Introduction mid-year. A second German tour began in December 1984 and Stand Up was released in 1985. This effort included guest vocalists and guitarists (Eric Johnson, Alex Ligertwood, Peter Frampton, Albert Lee, Van Temple), and violinist Mark O'Connor. He toured with Rush as a main opener on their Power Windows tour.
In 1986, Morse joined the rock group Kansas. While with the band, they released two albums, Power and In the Spirit of Things. While he was with the band, Kansas had its last big hit, "All I Wanted," which reached the Billboard Top 20 and on which Morse received co-writing credit. Morse left the band after touring behind the latter album. He re-joined the band for part of their 1991 tour.
In 1994, Morse joined the British hard rock group Deep Purple, replacing Ritchie Blackmore (though Joe Satriani replaced Blackmore for The Battle Rages On tour). Since then, Morse has played on five studio albums Purpendicular, Abandon, Bananas, Rapture of the Deep and Now What?!, as well as seven of their live albums.
In addition to playing with Deep Purple, Morse, together with Jimmy Barnes, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake and Don Airey, formed Living Loud in 2003. The group released one studio album and a live DVD in 2004/2005. In Spring 2010 it was reported that Steve Morse and Bob Daisley started work on the new studio album which is set for a release in 2011.
Morse began a collaboration with singer, Sarah Spencer, in 2007 entitled Angelfire. The album, of the same name, was released on 10 August 2010 on Radiant Records. The album features Dave Larue and Van Romaine of the Steve Morse Band on bass and drums, respectively. The album has a textural, acoustic sound that differs from Morse's previous work. Angelfire opened for the Steve Morse Band for several shows in California (January) and Florida (March) of 2010.
Influence and technique
Morse is considered one of the hardest working guitarists in the world. He is widely known for his stylistically diverse compositional skills and guitaristically encyclopedic virtuosic abilities, and was voted "Best Overall Guitarist" by Guitar Player magazine for five years in a row, qualifying him for their "Guitar Player Hall of Fame", the only other members being Steve Howe of Yes and Eric Johnson. He is regularly cited by John Petrucci as a major influence. Guitarist Shawn Lane regarded Steve Morse as one of the most talented guitarist of his time. Morse has proven himself throughout his career as capable of playing highly complex chord structures in classical sequences, as well as being able to play fast, alternate picked arpeggios. He is well known for using harmonics and improvising them in songs during live performances, such as in Deep Purple's "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming".
Gear & Equipment
Throughout the 80s Steve was using a custom "frankentele" guitar, made up of a Tele body with a Strat neck, a Gibson trapeze-style tailpiece (coming from a twelve string guitar) and 4 pickups in HSSH configuration. Steve was then approached by Music Man Guitars to create a signature model to his specifications; he is now one of the longest endorsees of the company in particular he's been using prototype n°1 of his steve morse signature guitar for more than 20 years (the guitar has been refretted eight times and is still the first original one). He now has two signature models with MusicMan guitars:
- The first one is an exact replica of his n°1 guitar which features a poplar body with maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 4 pickups (a DiMarzio Steve Morse bridge and neck model Humbuckers, and two DiMarzio single coils, a DP 117 and a custom wound Steve Morse single coil in HSSH configuration) volume and tone controls. The switching is also particular: it features a 3 way selector that changes between the bridge humbucker, the neck humbucker and the first single coil ( aligned with the Bridge Humbucker), a mini switch that adds the bridge pickup to any configuration and a third switch that adds the second, slant single coil to any configuration. This switch also allows for independent single coil selection.
- The second one, the Steve Morse SM Y-2D, is an updated version with quilted maple top same neck & body, 3 pickups ( the slant single coil has been eliminated) and a 5 way super switch.
Both are available with a stop tail piece or floyd rose bridge.
Steve says that the pickup configurations that he uses the most are, the bridge pickup by itself, the neck pickup by itself, bridge and neck HB together, Bridge and first (aligned) single coil together.
The super 5 way switch on the newest SM Y2D guitar replicates these combinations.
Steve has released two signature humbuckers with DiMarzio the DP 205 Bridge model and the DP 200 Neck model. They are evenly balanced to allow playing all over the fretboard, since steve plays high notes on the neck pickup and low ones on the bridge. They are the main pickups into his signature model. Dimarzio also wires a custom wound single coil pickup for Music Man to use into the SM signture model.
Steve is an endorser of ENGL amps. He has released a signature model, the ENGL E-656 Steve Morse signature Amplifier. It is a 3 channel amp specially designed by Steve with a custom version of the famous ENGL "midrange matrix". In the past he used Peavey 5150 amps with Deep Purple, Marshall Jubilee, Peavey VTM 120 and Ampeg V4.
Steve's live equipment includes two ENGL E 656 Signture heads and several Music Man guitars (both models), his #1 still being his favorite. He splits up his signal to 3 different cabinets two wet (with FX) and one dry, he uses three Ernie Ball expression pedals to blend the fx into the mix. He uses a custom skrydstrup switching system to perform all the switching and the blending. His Fx are very simple, consisting only of a Boss OC-3 Octaver and two delays: Electro-Harmonix Memory Man now replaced with the newest TC Electronic FlashBack toneprint delay (Steve has created custom presets). He is also using a TC Electronic Polytune guitar tuner.
with Dixie Dregs
- 1976 The Great Spectacular (formally released in 1997)
- 1977 Free Fall
- 1978 What If
- 1979 Night of the Living Dregs
- 1980 Dregs of the Earth
- 1981 Unsung Heroes
- 1982 Industry Standard
- 1988 Off the Record
- 1989 Divided We Stand
- 1992 Bring 'Em Back Alive
- 1994 Full Circle
- 1997 King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents – The Dregs 1979
- 2000 California Screamin' – Live In California 1999
- 2002 20th Century Masters: The Best Of The Dixie Dregs (compilation)
- 2002 Sects, Dregs & Rock 'n' Roll (compilation)
with Steve Morse Band and solo
- 1984 The Introduction
- 1985 Stand Up
- 1989 High Tension Wires
- 1991 Southern Steel
- 1992 Coast to Coast
- 1995 Structural Damage
- 1996 StressFest
- 2000 Major Impacts
- 2002 Split Decision
- 2004 Major Impacts 2
- 2005 Prime Cuts – From Steve Morse's Magna Carta sessions (compilation)
- 2009 Out Standing in Their Field
with Deep Purple
- 1996 Purpendicular
- 1997 Live at the Olympia '96
- 1998 Abandon
- 1999 Live at the Royal Albert Hall
- 1999 Total Abandon: Live in Australia
- 2001 Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy
- 2001 The Soundboard Series
- 2003 Bananas
- 2005 Rapture of the Deep
- 2006 Live at Montreux 1996
- 2007 They All Came Down to Montreux
- 2011 Live At Montreux 2011
- 2013 Now What?!
- 1986 Power
- 1988 In the Spirit of Things
- 1998 King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas
- 2004 Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection (compilation)
- 2009 There's Know Place Like Home DVD
- 2010 Angelfire
with Living Loud
- 2003 Living Loud (US: 2004)
- 2005 Live In Sydney 2004 (2CD/DVD)
with Flying Colors
- 2012 Flying Colors
Guest appearances with other artists
- 1977 Tropical Nights – Liza Minnelli
- 1978 Kamikazee Christian – Rob Cassells Band
- 1980 Schemer-Dreamer – Steve Walsh
- 1983 The Trio – Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía
- 1986 Storytime – T Lavitz
- 1987 Stone From Which The Arch Was Made – Mark O'Connor
- 1987 Surveillance – Triumph
- 1988 Southern By The Grace Of God: Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour 1987 – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- 1988 Love Your Man – The Rossington Collins Band
- 1990 Nashville Rendez-Vous – Marcel Dadi
- 1991 Fingers Crossing – Marcel Dadi
- 1992 Country Guitar Flavors – Marcel Dadi
- 1992 Lone Ranger – Jeff Watson
- 1993 Coven, Pitrelli, O'Reilly – CPR
- 1994 Thonk – Michael Manring
- 1995 Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus
- 2001 Seventh Key – Seventh Key
- 2001 Nylon & Steel – Manuel Barrueco
- 2001 Feeding the Wheel – Jordan Rudess
- 2002 Camino Latino/Latin Journey – Liona Boyd
- 2004 Rhythm of Time – Jordan Rudess
- 2006 Gillan's Inn – Ian Gillan
- 2007 School of the Arts – School of the Arts (featuring T Lavitz) (Morse contributes acoustic guitar work on 2 tracks, "On Fire" and "Portrait")
- 2011 Testimony 2 – Neal Morse
- 2011 Raised in Captivity – John Wetton
- 2012 A Proggy Christmas – The Prog World Orchestra
Various artist compilations and tributes
- 1978 Hotels, Motels And Road Shows (Various artists compilation)
- 1989 Guitar's Practicing Musicians (Various artists compilation)
- 1991 Guitar's Practicing Musicians Vol. 2 (Various artists compilation)
- 1991 Guitar Speak III (Various artist compilation)
- 1992 Rock Guitar Greats (Various artists compilation)
- 1992 Guitar On The Edge Vol. 2 (Various artist compilation)
- 1995 Tales From Yesterday (Various artists tribute to Yes)
- 1996 Crossfire – A Tribute To Stevie Ray (Various artists tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan)
- 1996 Working Man (Various artists tribute to Rush, Morse plays solos on La Villa Strangiato and Red Barchetta.)
- 1996 The Carols Of Christmas (Various artist compilation)
- 1997 The Carols Of Christmas II (Various artist compilation)
- 1997 Merry Axemas – A Guitar Christmas (Various artist compilation)
- 1997 Jazz Fusion Vol. 2 (Various artist compilation)
- 1998 Guitar Battle (Various artist compilation)
- 1999 Tribute to the Titans (Various artist compilation)
- 1999 Rock Guitarists Forever Best (Various artist compilation)
- 2001 Warmth In The Wilderness – A Tribute To Jason Becker (Various artists tribute to Jason Becker)
- 2002 A Southern Rock Christmas (Various artist compilation)
- 2004 Classical Heartbreakers (Various artist compilation)
- 2005 Future of the Blues Vol. 2 (Various artist compilation)
- 2006 Back Against The Wall (Various artist tribute to Pink Floyd's The Wall)
- 2006 Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse (Various artist tribute to Mahavishnu Orchestra)
- 2006 The Royal Dan: A Tribute (instrumental guitar tribute to jazz rock band Steely Dan, featuring a different lead guitarist on 10 different songs, Morse plays Bodhisattva)
- Steve Huey The Dixie Dregs. Allmusic
- "The Official Website | Guitar Player for Deep Purple, The Dixie Dregs, and The Steve Morse Band". Steve Morse. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "Steve Morse: Unsung hero". Innerviews.org. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "stevemorse.com: Guitar Player, March 1988". Stevemorse.info. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- Perry, Shawn (13 June 2002). "Steve Morse: The Hardest Working Guitarist In Show Business". Vintagerock.com. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "Steve Morse: Life With and Without The Dregs". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "The Steve Morse Discobiography". Thehighwaystar.com. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "John Petrucci". TheFunkyGibbons.net. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Steve Morse|
- Official website (launched January 2009)
- Steve Morse's official MySpace page
- Steve Morse's former official web site (prior to January 2009)
- Deep Purple's official web site
- Angelfire's official web site