Steve Morse

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Steve Morse
Deep Purple - inFinite - The Long Goodbye Tour - Barclaycard Arena Hamburg 2017 59.jpg
Steve Morse live with Deep Purple in Hamburg 2017
Background information
Born (1954-07-28) July 28, 1954 (age 66)
Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Genres Instrumental rock, progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion [1]
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active1969–present
Associated acts Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple, Living Loud, Angelfire, Flying Colors
Website Official web site

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



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

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 covered bands 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. This expulsion enabled his enrollment at the University of Miami School of Music.[ citation needed ]

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

Steve Morse, Roxy Theatre, Hollywood, CA August 28, 1999. This was the last concert of the Dixie Dregs' tour. SteveMorse.jpg
Steve Morse, Roxy Theatre, Hollywood, CA August 28, 1999. This was the last concert of the Dixie Dregs' tour.

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 covers of John McLaughlin and southern rock favourites. 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 recognised 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. 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 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 eight new Morse compositions 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 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 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 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 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

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. 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

Morse with Deep Purple in 2013. Deep Purple - MN Gredos - 08.jpg
Morse with Deep Purple in 2013.

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). Morse has played on all studio albums from 1996's Purpendicular onwards, and featured on several live albums.

Living Loud

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

In 2011, Morse formed 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, [7] and No. 11 on the BBC's Rock Album charts. [8] [9] [10] Flying Colors released its second album, Second Nature, in 2014 to critical acclaim.

Influence and technique

Morse is considered one of the hardest working guitarists in the world. [11] 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, [12] 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. [13] 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." [14] 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


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. [15]

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.

Steve Morse playing with Flying Colors, 013, Tilburg, Netherlands (2012). Steve Morse playing with Flying Colors (2012).jpg
Steve Morse playing with Flying Colors, 013, Tilburg, Netherlands (2012).


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

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. [16]


With Dixie Dregs

1976 The Great Spectacular Studioself-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
1988Off The RecordStudioDemo for Ensoniq synthesizers
1992Bring 'Em Back AliveLive
1994 Full Circle Studio
1997King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Dixie DregsLiveRecorded on June 17, 1979
2000California Screamin'Live
2005Live At Montreux 1978LiveDVD
2008Live In Connecticut 2001 (+ Cruise Control)LiveCD / DVD
2015Wages Of Weirdness (CD)/Travel Tunes (download)Live1978 radio broadcast from KWFM in Tucson AZ, recorded at Lee Furr’s Studios

With Deep Purple

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

Solo and with other bands

1984Steve Morse Band The Introduction Studio
1985Steve Morse Band Stand Up Studio
1986 Kansas Power Studio
1988Kansas In the Spirit of Things Studio
1989Steve Morse High Tension Wires Studio
1991Steve Morse Band Southern Steel Studio
1992Steve Morse Band Coast to Coast Studio
1995Steve Morse Band Structural Damage Studio
1996Steve Morse Band StressFest Studio
1998Kansas King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas LiveRecorded on February 14, 1989
2000Steve MorseMajor ImpactsStudio
2002Steve Morse BandSplit DecisionStudio
2004Steve MorseMajor Impacts 2Studio
2003 Living Loud Living Loud Studio
2005Steve MorsePrime Cuts – From Steve Morse's Magna Carta sessionsCompilation
2005Living LoudLive in Sydney 2004Live2CD/DVD
2005Mario Fasciano, Steve Morse, Ian Paice, Don Airey E-ThnikStudio
2008Steve Morse BandCruise Control – Live in New York 1992LiveCD/DVD
2009Steve MorsePrime Cuts 2 – From Steve Morse's Magna Carta sessionsCompilation
2009Steve Morse Band Out Standing in Their Field Studio
2009Kansas There's Know Place Like Home LiveCD/DVD, guest guitar
2010Angelfire (Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer) Angelfire Studio
2012 Flying Colors Flying Colors Studio
2013Flying ColorsLive in EuropeLiveCD/DVD
2014Flying Colors Second Nature Studio
2015Flying ColorsSecond Flight: Live at the Z7LiveCD/DVD
2019Flying ColorsThird DegreeStudio

Guest appearances with other artists

Various artists compilations and tributes

Other appearances

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