|Birth name||Stephen John Hunter|
|Also known as||The Deacon|
|Born||June 14, 1948|
|Genres||Blues, pop, rock|
|Years active||1971 – present|
Stephen John Hunter (born June 14, 1948) is an American guitarist, primarily a session player. He has worked with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, acquiring the moniker "The Deacon". Hunter first played with Mitch Ryder's Detroit, beginning a long association with record producer Bob Ezrin who has said Steve Hunter has contributed so much to rock music in general that he truly deserves the designation of "Guitar Hero". Steve Hunter has played some of the greatest riffs in rock history - the first solo in Aerosmith's "Train Kept A Rollin'", the acoustic intro on Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" and he wrote the intro interlude on Lou Reed's live version of "Sweet Jane" on Reed's first gold record (the Rock 'N' Roll Animal live set).
Steve Hunter was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois. He was first introduced to music when, as a young child, he would listen to country and western music on a Zenith console radio and his father would play the guitar. He watched the Lawrence Welk show on TV at his grandparents' home where he saw Neil LeVang and Buddy Merrill. His grandparents had a Harmonium; his father would pump the organ while Steve sat on his lap and worked out melodies on the keyboard. When he was eight years old, he began taking guitar lessons on a Lap steel guitar. He saw and heard Jerry Byrd play lap steel and learned what could be done on the instrument. Inspired by the music of Chet Atkins, The Ventures and Duane Eddy, Steve eventually switched to standard guitar.
Hunter continued playing guitar throughout high school as a member of a group called the Weejuns, which took their name from G.H. Bass & Co.'s perennially-popular penny loafers. He subsequently joined the Light Brigade, a rock and soul group that played in the Decatur area.
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Hunter was drafted into the U.S. Army. There he trained as an x-ray technician, ultimately serving at an air evacuation hospital in Okinawa, Japan where Vietnam combat casualties were being treated. He considered becoming a doctor but he enjoyed music so much he knew he would follow a career in music.
Upon completion of his service in the Army, he returned to Decatur where he built a reputation as an outstanding guitar player.
One day he got a telephone call from his Decatur friend, John "Polar Bear" Sauter, that changed his life.
Hunter has had an illustrious 40-year career as a session musician, band member and as a solo performer.
Work with Mitch Ryder
John Sauter called Hunter to tell him that he was playing with Mitch Ryder in Detroit and that Ryder was auditioning for guitar players. He suggested that Hunter come to Detroit and try out. Hunter packed up his guitar and made the eight-hour drive to Detroit. Hunter made the cut and became part of Mitch Ryder's new band Detroit. There Hunter met and formed a long-time professional association with producer Bob Ezrin. Detroit released one self-titled album on Paramount Records. They had a hit with a cover of Lou Reed's "Rock & Roll". Reed was so impressed with Hunter's arrangement and performance on that song that he recruited Hunter to join his band.
Work with Alice Cooper
In the 1970s, he appeared on five Alice Cooper albums, all of which were produced by Ezrin. His first recording with Cooper was in 1973 as a session musician on the second-to-last and most successful album recorded by the Alice Cooper Group, Billion Dollar Babies. When Alice Cooper became a solo artist, Hunter followed and appeared on the 1975 groundbreaking album and live show Welcome to My Nightmare alongside guitarist Dick Wagner as seen in the film Welcome to My Nightmare. Released on home video in 1976, it features the celebrated guitar face-off between Hunter and Wagner that formed part of Cooper's 1975 live show. In 2010, Hunter also worked on the basic tracks and solos for Cooper's album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, touring with Cooper throughout 2011 on the No More Mr. Nice Guy Tour. Steve notched up his ninth Alice Cooper release with ‘Paranormal’, released in 2017.
Work with Lou Reed
His first collaboration with Lou Reed was for the Berlin album. He also played with Dick Wagner in the band captured on Reed's live albums, Rock 'n' Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live, including the "Intro" to "Sweet Jane", which was composed by Hunter, who plays the solo up to Lou walking on stage. In 2006, Reed and Hunter presented a new live version of Berlin, released in 2008 as a DVD and CD Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse.
Work with Aerosmith
In 1974, he played the (uncredited) opening-half solo on Aerosmith's "Train Kept a Rollin" from Get Your Wings. In a February 2015 interview in Detroit Rock N Roll Magazine Hunter tells how it came about that he recorded that solo: "Aerosmith was in Studio C of The Record Plant and I was doing work with Bob Ezrin in Studio A. I had a long wait between dubs and was waiting in the lobby. Jack Douglas popped his head out of Studio C and asked 'Hey, do you feel like playing?' I said sure, so I grabbed my guitar and went in. I had two run thru's, then Jack said 'great, that's it!' That turned out to be the opening solos on 'Train Kept A Rollin’'."
Work with Jack Bruce, Peter Gabriel and other artists
He played on Peter Gabriel's self-titled first solo album (1977) that included the classic single "Solsbury Hill" which was likewise produced by Ezrin. He also played on tour with Gabriel for the North American leg and a few shows in the UK during March / April 1977, sharing guitar duties with Robert Fripp.
Other artists Hunter has worked with include David Lee Roth (in the mid-1990s), Julian Lennon, Dr. John, Tracy Chapman and more recently Glen Campbell and 2Cellos. It was while recording Roth's A Little Ain't Enough that Hunter met Jason Becker. Hunter and Becker have remained the best of friends since. He wrote "Camelia", which is featured on the soundtrack of the film The Rose, starring Bette Midler, and performed as part of the backing band. Additionally, he appears in the film Blame it on the Night, a movie co-written by Mick Jagger, featured as one of the guitarists in the band.
Hunter opted to leave Alice Cooper's touring band in 2012 to concentrate on solo projects.
His fifth solo album The Manhattan Blues Project was released on April 30, 2013, and features contributions from Joe Satriani, Tony Levin, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Marty Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, Phil Aaberg, 2Cellos and Tommy Henriksen, with background vocals provided by Karen Ann Hunter.
In September 2014, a DVD and soundtrack CD entitled Tone Poems Live was released, featuring Hunter, bassist Tony Levin, pianist Phil Aaberg and drummer Alvino Bennett. In 2017 Steve released a new solo album called ‘Before The Lights Go Out’ the title making reference to his failing eyesight. A mix of Rock and Blues, he had his friends Erik Scott, Andy Stoller and Joe Satriani guesting. His wife Karen Hunter performs the only vocal (on the final track) of the album, a cover of ’Happy Trails’.
A new opportunity arose in 2019 when Steve was invited to score and play on an Audio Book by film director Hamlet Sarkissian, called ‘Lovers In The Fog’. A soundtrack of this will be available late Summer of 2019.
- In 2009, Hunter received an Emmy Award for his contribution to the Detroit Free Press Christ Child House multimedia project.
- In June 2015, Hunter was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
- 1977 - Swept Away (Atco)
- 1989 - The Deacon (IRS)
- 2008 - Hymns for Guitar (Deacon Records)
- 2008 - Short Stories
- 2013 - The Manhattan Blues Project (Deacon Records)
- 2014 - Tone Poems Live (Singular Recordings/Gokuhi)
- 2017 - Before the Lights Go Out
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