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Steve Morse

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Steve Morse
Steve Morse live with Deep Purple in Hamburg in May 2017
Steve Morse live with Deep Purple in Hamburg in May 2017
Background information
Born (1954-07-28) July 28, 1954 (age 69)
Hamilton, Ohio, U.S.
GenresInstrumental rock, progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion[1]
Years active1969–present
Member of
Formerly of

Steve J. Morse (born July 28, 1954) is an American guitarist, best known as the founder of the Dixie Dregs and as the guitarist for Deep Purple from 1994 to 2022. Morse has also enjoyed a successful solo career and was a member of the group Kansas in the mid-1980s. Most recently, Morse became a member of the supergroup Flying Colors.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Morse playing with Dixie Dregs at Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, California in August 1999
Morse playing with Flying Colors in Tilburg, Netherlands in September 2012
Morse playing with Deep Purple in Ávila, Spain in July 2013

Steve Morse was born in Hamilton, Ohio. His family soon moved to Tennessee and then to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Morse spent his childhood. Although familiar with piano and clarinet, Morse ultimately became a guitarist.

Morse worked briefly with his older brother Dave in a band called the Plague until the family moved to Augusta, Georgia. In the late 1960s, he played in a band called Three with his older brother and a junior high schoolmate, William Gerald (Jerry) Wooten, who played keyboards. The three performed at a local psychedelic youth club, the Glass Onion, and at Legion Halls and church functions.

While enrolled in the Academy of Richmond County, Morse met bassist Andy West and together they formed the Dixie Grit, adding keyboardist Johnny Carr and guitarist and vocalist Frank Brittingham, with Dave Morse drumming. This short-lived group played material from groups such as Led Zeppelin and Cream. 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.

Steve completed 11th grade at a local Catholic school and was eligible for early college enrollment. He enrolled at the 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, and Jaco Pastorius. Andy West also enrolled at the University of Miami, and with Morse, drummer Bart Yarnold, keyboardist Frank Josephs and violinist Allen Sloan, collaborated in a lab project entitled Rock Ensemble II. In 1975, the group compiled a recording used for promotional efforts. It was originally released on vinyl in 1976, and again on CD in 1997 as "The Great Spectacular."

From late 1987 to early 1988, Morse worked as a commercial airline co-pilot.[3][4] He has lived in Ocala, Florida since 1991, where he is involved in hay farming.[5]

Dixie Dregs[edit]

Upon Morse's graduation from the University of Miami in 1975, he and West officially named their group Dixie Dregs. A fellow University of Miami alumnus, Rod Morgenstein, replaced the injured Bart Yarnold and the band began performing regularly; with some of their own compositions, along with material by John McLaughlin and southern rock favorites. 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 southern rock label.[6]

Their first effort for Capricorn, Free Fall, established Morse as an important newcomer to the fusion genre, and he was recognized for both his compositional skills (having written all 11 tracks) and his musicianship. Although receiving positive reviews as a pivotal jazz fusion album, it sold poorly.

What If was released in 1978. Writing credits were more collaborative and the band's sound had matured into more than what was strictly considered fusion at the time. Southern rock, classical, folk and country elements were combined to form a cohesive and listenable music. Though supported by a tour, record sales remained flat, but gained Morse and the band an invitation to perform at Montreux Jazz Festival on July 23, 1978. Four songs from the recorded performance were 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 signed 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 included seven new Morse compositions, plus a shortened re-arrangement of Cruise Control, in early 1981, but the name change did little to address Arista's worries. The Dregs felt compelled by label management to add lyrics to their next release, appropriately titled Industry Standard.

Morse's compositions on Industry Standard began to sound more like his evolving solo work than Dregs' collaborations, and the album received 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 honor 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 and Eric Johnson). After fulfilling their commitment to Arista, the Dregs' members, who had tired of touring, 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 lineup 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 medical career. They signed a deal with former label Capricorn Records for their first studio album in years entitled Full Circle in 1994.

Steve Morse Band and Kansas[edit]

After the 1983 breakup of the Dregs, 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; the choice to replace Morgan was Rod Morgenstein. They began recording The Introduction in September, which included British country guitarist Albert Lee making a guest appearance on the track General Lee. 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. During his time 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 its 1991 tour.

Following this, Morse resumed the Steve Morse Band with new personnel (bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Van Romaine) and has released several further recordings, even after joining Deep Purple.

Deep Purple[edit]

In 1994, Morse joined the British hard rock group Deep Purple, replacing Ritchie Blackmore (after Joe Satriani had initially replaced Blackmore on a temporary basis, for the final leg of The Battle Rages On tour in Japan, and European dates the following summer). With 28 years as a member of the band, Morse was their longest-serving guitarist and played on eight studio albums with them, between 1996's Purpendicular and 2021's Turning to Crime, and appeared on several live albums.

His departure from Deep Purple was announced on 23 July 2022, and driven by the illness of his wife Janine.[7]

Living Loud[edit]

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 a new studio album which was set for a release in 2011, but nothing came of this.


Morse began a collaboration with singer Sarah Spencer in 2007 entitled Angelfire. The album, of the same name, was released on August 10, 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.

Flying Colors[edit]

In 2011, Morse joined Flying Colors, an American supergroup composed of Mike Portnoy, Dave LaRue, Casey McPherson and Neal Morse, whose debut eponymous album was released on March 26, 2012, and debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's Hard Rock chart,[8] and No. 11 on the BBC's Rock Album charts.[9][10][11] Flying Colors released its second album, Second Nature, in 2014, and third album, Third Degree, in 2019, both to critical acclaim.[12][13]


In 2012 Steve Morse joined G3 project on their South American and European tour together with Steve Vai, John Petrucci and Joe Satriani.[14]

Influence and technique[edit]

Morse is considered one of the hardest working guitarists in the world.[15] He is widely known for his stylistically diverse compositional skills and was voted "Best Overall Guitarist" by Guitar Player magazine for five years in a row,[16] qualifying him for its "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 guitarists of his time.[17] Ritchie Blackmore, who preceded Morse in Deep Purple, has stated, "Steve Morse is an incredible player. A lot of people try to get some wisecrack out of me, but when you're talking about guitar players along Morse's caliber, they're brilliant."[18] 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 and equipment[edit]


Throughout the 1980s Morse 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 four pickups in HSSH configuration. At one time, the guitar had a fifth pickup, a hexaphonic pickup with a separate output for each string; it provided the signal to drive a 360 Systems Spectre guitar synthesizer.[19]

Morse worked with Music Man Guitars to create two signature models: a modernized version of Morse's first "Frankenstein Telecaster" guitar (Steve Morse Signature), and the Steve Morse SM Y-2D, is an updated version with quilted maple top.


Morse has released two signature humbuckers with DiMarzio; the DP 205 Neck model and the DP 200 Bridge model. They are evenly balanced to allow playing all over the fretboard, since Morse 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 signature model.


Morse is an endorser of ENGL amps. He has released a signature model, the ENGL E-656 Steve Morse signature amplifier. It is a three channel amp specially designed by Morse 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.

Live setup[edit]

Morse's live equipment includes two ENGL E 656 Signature heads and several Music Man guitars (both models), his #1 still being his favorite. He splits up his signal to six different cabinets; four dry (without any FX) and two wet (with FX). He uses three Ernie Ball expression pedals to blend the fx into the mix. He uses a custom Skrydstrup R&D 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 (Morse has created custom presets). He is also using a TC Electronic Polytune Mini guitar tuner. His live setup for Deep Purple is discussed by him for Premier Guitar magazine's Rig Rundown.[20]


With Dixie Dregs[edit]

Date Title Type Notes
1976 The Great Spectacular Studio self-released, re-released on CD in 1997
1977 Free Fall Studio
1978 What If Studio
1979 Night Of The Living Dregs Studio
1980 Dregs Of The Earth Studio
1981 Unsung Heroes Studio
1982 Industry Standard Studio
1988 Off The Record Studio Demo for Ensoniq synthesizers
1992 Bring 'Em Back Alive Live
1994 Full Circle Studio
1997 King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Dixie Dregs Live Recorded on June 17, 1979
2000 California Screamin' Live
2005 Live At Montreux 1978 Live DVD
2008 Live In Connecticut 2001 (+ Cruise Control) Live CD / DVD
2015 Wages Of Weirdness (CD)/Travel Tunes (download) Live 1978 radio broadcast from KWFM in Tucson AZ, recorded at Lee Furr's Studios

With Deep Purple[edit]

Date Title Type Notes
1995 Bombay Calling Live DVD / Digital Download
1996 Purpendicular Studio
1997 Live at The Olympia '96 Live
1998 Abandon Studio
1999 Total Abandon Australia '99 Live CD / DVD
2000 In Concert with The London Symphony Orchestra Live
2001 Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy Live Limited Edition
2001 The Soundboard Series Live box set with 6 double CDs
2002 Perihelion Live DVD
2002 Live At The Nec Live DVD
2003 Bananas Studio
2004 Live Encounters.... Live CD / DVD, Recorded at Spodek, Katowice, June 3, 1996
2005 Rapture of the Deep Studio
2006 Live at Montreux 1996 Live CD / DVD
2007 Live At Montreux 2006: They All Came Down To Montreux Live CD / DVD
2008 Around The World Live Live four DVD box-set
2008 Over Zurich Live DVD, Limited Edition
2011 Live At Montreux 2011 Live CD / DVD, with Orchestra
2013 Now What?! Studio
2013 The Now What?! Live Tapes Live Limited Edition
2014 Celebrating Jon Lord At The Royal Albert Hall Live CD / DVD, with Bruce Dickinson, Glenn Hughes, Paul Weller, Rick Wakeman & Many Others
2014 Live In Verona 2011 Live CD / DVD, with Orchestra
2015 From The Setting Sun... (in Wacken) Live CD / DVD
2015 ... To The Rising Sun (in Tokyo) Live CD / DVD
2017 Infinite Studio
2017 The Now What?! Live Tapes Vol. 2 Live Limited Edition
2017 The inFinite Live Recordings, Pt. 1 Live Limited Edition
2020 Whoosh! Studio
2021 Turning to Crime Studio

Solo and with other bands[edit]

Date Band Title Type Notes
1984 Steve Morse Band The Introduction Studio
1985 Steve Morse Band Stand Up Studio
1986 Kansas Power Studio
1988 Kansas In the Spirit of Things Studio
1989 Steve Morse High Tension Wires Studio
1991 Steve Morse Band Southern Steel Studio
1992 Steve Morse Band Coast to Coast Studio
1995 Steve Morse Band Structural Damage Studio
1996 Steve Morse Band StressFest Studio
1998 Kansas King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas Live Recorded on February 14, 1989
2000 Steve Morse Major Impacts Studio
2002 Steve Morse Band Split Decision Studio
2004 Steve Morse Major Impacts 2 Studio
2003 Living Loud Living Loud Studio
2005 Steve Morse Prime Cuts – From Steve Morse's Magna Carta sessions Compilation
2005 Living Loud Live in Sydney 2004 Live 2CD/DVD
2005 Mario Fasciano, Steve Morse, Ian Paice, Don Airey E-Thnik Studio
2008 Steve Morse Band Cruise Control – Live in New York 1992 Live CD/DVD
2009 Steve Morse Prime Cuts 2 – From Steve Morse's Magna Carta sessions Compilation
2009 Steve Morse Band Out Standing in Their Field Studio
2009 Kansas There's Know Place Like Home Live CD/DVD, guest guitar
2010 Angelfire (Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer) Angelfire Studio
2012 Flying Colors Flying Colors Studio
2013 Flying Colors Live in Europe Live CD/DVD
2014 Flying Colors Second Nature Studio
2015 Flying Colors Second Flight: Live at the Z7 Live CD/DVD
2019 Flying Colors Third Degree Studio
2019 Flying Colors Third Stage: Live in London Live
2019 Flying Colors Morsefest 2019 Live

Guest appearances with other artists[edit]

Various artists compilations and tributes[edit]

  • 1978 Hotels, Motels And Road Shows (various artists compilation)
  • 1982 Radio 1 Rock Show themes (themes from English radio shows)
  • 1985 Arista's Greatest AOR Hits: Portrait Of A Decade 1975–1985 (various artists compilation)
  • 1989 Guitar's Practicing Musicians (various artists compilation)
  • 1990 Ski Patrol (movie soundtrack)
  • 1990 Metal Guitars (various artists compilation)
  • 1991 Guitar's Practicing Musicians Vol. 2 (various artists compilation)
  • 1991 Guitar Speak 3 (various artists compilation)
  • 1992 Rock Guitar Greats (various artists compilation)
  • 1992 Guitar On The Edge Vol. 2 (various artists compilation)
  • 1992 Album Network Rock Tune Up 84 (various artists compilation)
  • 1994 A Little On The CD Side Volume 14 (Musician magazine's new music sampler)
  • 1994 Album Network Rock Tune Up 118 (various artists compilation)
  • 1994 The Capricorn Sampler Volume One (various artists compilation)
  • 1995 Tales From Yesterday (various artists tribute to Yes)
  • 1995 A Little On The CD Side Volume 17 (Musician magazine's new music sampler)
  • 1996 Crossfire – A Tribute To Stevie Ray (various artists tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan)
  • 1996 Working Man (various artists tribute to Rush)
  • 1996 The Carols Of Christmas (various artist compilation)
  • 1996 Animal Magnetism (various artists PETA benefit compilation)
  • 1997 The Carols Of Christmas II (various artists compilation)
  • 1997 Merry Axemas – A Guitar Christmas (various artists compilation)
  • 1997 Jazz Fusion Vol. 2 (various artists compilation)
  • 1997 aLIVE Down South (various artists Southern Rock compilation)
  • 1997 Candlelight Moments: Dreamscape (various artists compilation)
  • 1997 Healing Renew – Music in Harmony (various artists compilation)
  • 1997 The Roots Of Rock: Southern Rock (various artists compilation)
  • 1998 Guitar Battle (various artists compilation)
  • 1998 The Show That Never Ends (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 Legends Of Rock: The Progressive Rockers (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 Tribute to the Titans (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 Southern Rock Greats (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 The Best Of Progressive Rock (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 Rock Guitarists Forever Best (various artists compilation)
  • 1999 Southern Rock Essentials (various artists compilation)
  • 2001 Warmth In The Wilderness – A Tribute To Jason Becker (various artists tribute to Jason Becker)
  • 2001 Sonic Residue From Vapourspace (Magna Carta remix album featuring the Morse song Led On)
  • 2001 Guitar Heroes – Steve Morse Best (Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse Band/Kansas/Lynyrd Skynyrd/Deep Purple compilation)
  • 2001 Audio's Audiophile Vol. 16: Rock And Grooves (various artists compilation)
  • 2001 Unitone Guitar Series – A Portrait For Strings (various artists compilation)
  • 2002 Southern Rock Christmas (various artists compilation)
  • 2004 Classical Heartbreakers (various artists compilation)
  • 2005 Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse (various artists tribute to Mahavishnu Orchestra)
  • 2005 Back Against The Wall (various artists tribute to Pink Floyd's The Wall)
  • 2006 The Royal Dan: A Tribute (various artists instrumental guitar tribute to Steely Dan, featuring a different lead guitarist on 10 different songs)
  • 2007 Freeway Jam – To Beck And Back – A Tribute (various artist tribute to Jeff Beck)
  • 2008 This Is Fusion Guitar (various artists compilation)
  • 2008 Led Box – The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Tribute (various artists tribute to Led Zeppelin)
  • 2008 We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year (various artists compilation)
  • 2009 Abbey Road – A Tribute To The Beatles (various artists tribute to The Beatles)
  • 2009 An All-Star Salute To Christmas (various artists compilation)
  • 2010 Tooth Fairy (movie soundtrack)
  • 2012 Classic Rock Presents Prog – Prognosis 2.3 (various artists compilation)
  • 2012 The Spirit Of Radio (various artists compilation)
  • 2012 Songs Of The Century – An All-Star Tribute To Supertramp (various artists tribute to Supertramp)
  • 2013 Fly Like An Eagle – An All-Star Tribute To Steve Miller Band (various artists tribute to Steve Miller Band)
  • 2014 Midnight Rider – A Tribute To The Allman Brothers Band (various artists tribute to The Allman Brothers Band
  • 2014 Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute to the Doors (various artists tribute to The Doors)
  • 2015 The Classic Rock Society Presents... New Species Volume 21 (various artists compilation)
  • 2015 Southern Rock Christmas (various artists compilation)
  • 2016 Steve Morse – The Sessions (mp3 download compilation with tracks featuring Steve and various artists, which appeared on several different tribute albums before)
  • 2018 Moore Blues For Gary – A Tribute To Gary Moore (various artists tribute to Gary Moore)

Other appearances[edit]

  • 1984 companion LP with Debüt magazine (Germany) February 1984
  • 1993 Lexicon demonstration CD
  • 1995 Free Wave Jam – Advance Micro Devices sound card promo CD with MIDI music files
  • 1997 companion CD with Fingerstyle Guitar magazine #25 (with songs described in magazine)
  • 1999 companion CD with Guitar Techniques magazine April 1999 (with songs described in magazine)


  1. ^ "Steve Morse | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  2. ^ "Flying Colors – Band". Flyingcolorsmusic.com. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  3. ^ "Steve Morse: Unsung hero". Innerviews.org. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  4. ^ "stevemorse.com: Guitar Player, March 1988". Stevemorse.info. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  5. ^ Dave Schlenker (March 11, 2010). "Ocala's other celebrity". ocala.com. Ocala Star–Banner. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Official Website | Guitar Player for Deep Purple, The Dixie Dregs, and The Steve Morse Band". Stevemorse.com. June 22, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  7. ^ "Steve Morse to step away from Deep Purple permanently: band pay tribute". Metal Storm. July 23, 2022. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  8. ^ "Flying Colors Debuts in Billboard's Top-10 Hard Rock Albums". Flyingcolorsmusic.com. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  9. ^ "Flying Colors still at #11 on UK Charts". Twitter. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  10. ^ "Flying Colors | The Official Website of Flying Colors: Casey McPherson, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue, Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy". Flyingcolorsmusic.com. December 28, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  11. ^ "All Media Reviews: Flying Colors – Flying Colors (2012)". Allmediareviews.blogspot.com. January 18, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  12. ^ "Second Nature Review". September 5, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  13. ^ "Third Degree Review". September 26, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  14. ^ "G3 Tour 2012 - Down Under (Satriani/Vai/Lukather), Europe (Satriani/Vai/Morse), South America (Satriani/Petrucci/Morse & Satriani/Petrucci/Lukather)". www.g3tour.com. Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  15. ^ Perry, Shawn (June 13, 2002). "Steve Morse: The Hardest Working Guitarist In Show Business". Vintagerock.com. Archived from the original on November 29, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  16. ^ "The Steve Morse Discobiography". Thehighwaystar.com. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  17. ^ "John Petrucci". TheFunkyGibbons.net. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  18. ^ "Ritchie Blackmore – Recalls Life with Deep Purple". Guitar.com. Archived from the original on October 10, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  19. ^ Obrecht, Jas. "Steve Morse: The Complete 1978 Dixie Dregs Interview". Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  20. ^ "Rig Rundown: Deep Purple's Steve Morse". Premierguitar.com. August 12, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.

External links[edit]