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Steven J. Morse (born July 28, 1954 in Hamiltonmarker, Ohio) is an American guitarist, 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.

Early years

Morse's father was a minister and his mother a classically trained pianist; both were also psychologists. The family moved to Tennesseemarker, then Ypsilantimarker, Michigan, where Morse spent his childhood. Although familiar with piano and clarinet, Morse ultimately became interested in guitar.

Morse worked briefly with his brother Dave in a band called The Plague until the family moved to Augustamarker, Georgia. In the late 60s, he played in a band called Three with his older brother. Enrolled in the Academy of Richmond Countymarker, 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 enrollment at the esteemed University of Miamimarker School of Music.

During the 1970s, the University of Miami played host to a number of future influential musicians, including Bruce Hornsby, Pat Metheny, 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.

Dixie Dregs

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 recognized 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 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 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 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.) 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 Circle in 1994.

Steve Morse Band and Kansas

Morse began putting together the Steve Morse Band, a trio with Jerry Peek (bass) and Doug Morgan (drums). Rod Morgenstein soon replaced Morgan, and 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.

From late 1987 to early 1988, Morse worked as a commercial airline co-pilot.

Deep Purple

During the 1993 Deep Purple tour supporting their The Battle Rages On album, Ritchie Blackmore quit the band in the middle of a tour. Before they settled on Morse as a permanent replacement, Joe Satriani served as a short-term replacement to finish the tour. Since then, Morse has played on four Deep Purple studio albums, 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.

Influence and technique

Morse is considered one of the most accomplished guitarists, playing in a wide variety of genres in only thirty years. He is known for his stylistically diverse compositional skills and 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 , and 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, shredded 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".


With Dixie Dregs

With the Steve Morse Band and solo

With Deep Purple

With Kansas

With Living Loud

  • 2003 Living Loud (US: 2004)
  • 2005 Live In Sydney 2004 (2CD/DVD)

Guest appearances with other artists

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)


  1. Steve Morse: Unsung hero
  2. Guitar Player, March, 1988
  3. Steve Morse: The Hardest Working Guitarist In Show Business
  4. Steve Morse: Life With and Without The Dregs
  5. The Steve Morse Discobiography

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