teve Morse was born in Hamilton, Ohio, July 28, 1954. Not long after, however, his family soon moved to Tennessee, then Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Sometime later, Morse worked briefly with his older brother Dave Morse in a band called The Plague until the family moved to Augusta, Georgia where, in the late 1960s, he played in a band called Three with his older brother and a junior high schoolmate, William Gerald (Jerry) Wooten (keyboards). The three performed at a local psychedelic youth club, The Green Onion, along with Legion Halls and church functions.
While enrolled in the Academy of Richmond County, he formed the act Dixie Grit with bassist Andy West, adding keyboardist Johnny Carr and guitarist/vocalist Frank Brittingham, with brother Dave Morse on drums. This proved to be a short lived venture covering Led Zeppelin and Cream. West and Morse continued to play as a duet billed as the Dixie Dregs until Morse was expulsion from school in the 10th grade. Despite this, he sought and received enrollment at the University of Miami School of Music, along with West.
At University, West, with Morse, Bart Yarnall (drums), Frank Josephs (keyboards) and Allen Sloan (violins), collaborated in a lab project called Rock Ensemble II. In 1975, the group compiled a recording used for promotional efforts. This recording was eventually released in 1997 as The Great Spectacular.
Upon Morse's graduation university in 1975, he and West officially named their group Dixie Dregs. Fellow University of Miami alumnus, Rod Morgenstein, replaced the injured Bart Yarnall and the band began performing regularly; with some of their own compositions, along with covers of John McLaughlin and other southern rock favorites. Eventually getting the attention of 'Capricorn Records' recruiters and, in late 1976, the group was signed.
Their first effort for 'Capricorn', Free Fall, despite establishing Morse as an important newcomer to the Jazz Fusion genre for both his compositional skills (having written all 11 tracks) and his musicianship, sold poorly.
What If (1978), demonstrated more collaborative writing credits with the band's sound maturing into more than what was strictly considered fusion at the time; southern rock, classical, folk and country elements were combined. Though supported by a tour, record sales remained flat. The record at least gained Morse and the band an invitation to perform at 'Montreux Jazz Festival' in July 1978. The recorded performance was released the following year on Night of the Living Dregs. 'Capricorn', however, subsequently went bankrupt in late 1979, leaving the band without a label.
'Arista Records' came to the rescue to sign the band in 1979 to record three albums. Production control was handed to Morse, and Dregs of the Earth resulted in May 1980; the album peaked at number 27 on Billboard's Jazz Album Chart.
Despite the charting, 'Arista' became increasingly concerned about the band's 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 (1981) included eight new Morse penned compositions but the name change did little to address the label's sales issues so they pressured the act to add lyrics to their next release, and they did for the appropriately titled Industry Standard; the album sounded more like Morse solo work than a collaboration, but received praise all the same by being voted "Best guitar LP" by readers of guitar Player magazine in their annual reader's poll that year. Morse himself 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). After fulfilling their commitment to 'Arista', the Dregs 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 recorded a "Best Of" release, 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' (now back in business) for their first studio album in years, Full Circle (1994).
After the 1983 breakup of the Dregs, Morse then formed The Steve Morse Band, with Jerry Peek (bass) and Doug Morgan (drums) (ex-Glass Moon). After the first tour of the eastern United States, Morgan left for previous commitments, his replacement was Rod Morgenstein. The group toured Germany in early 1984, eventually being signed by 'Elektra Records', who released The Introduction soon after. A second German tour began in December 1984, with the follow up album, Stand Up being released in 1985. This effort included guest vocalists and guitarists in the form of Eric Johnson, Alex Ligertwood, Peter Frampton, Albert Lee, Van Temple, and violinist Mark O'Connor; Morse himself toured with Rush as a on opener for their Power Windows tour.
In 1986, Morse joined Kansas. While with the band, they released two albums, Power and In the Spirit of Things. While with the band, Kansas had its last big hit single, All I Wanted, topping the Billboard Top 20; a track Morse received co-writing credit. Morse then left the band after the supporting tour; 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.
In 1994, Morse joined the British hard rock group Deep Purple, to replace Ritchie Blackmore (though Joe Satriani replaced Blackmore for part of The Battle Rages On tour). Since then, he played on five studio albums Purpendicular, Abandon, Bananas, Rapture of the Deep and Now What?!, as well as seven 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 Morse and Daisley started work on the new studio album for release in 2011.
Morse began a collaboration with singer Sarah Spencer in 2007 entitled Angelfire. The album, of the same name, was released in August, 2010 on ,Radiant Records. The album featured Dave Larue and Van Romaine of the Steve Morse Band on bass and drums, respectively.
In 2011, Morse formed Flying Colors, an American supergroup featuring Mike Portnoy, Dave LaRue, Casey McPherson and Neal Morse, whose debut eponymous album was released March 2012, and debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's hard rock chart. Flying Colors released their second album, Second Nature, in 2014 to critical acclaim.
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Steve Morse playing with Flying Colors, Tilburg, Netherlands (2012).
Photo by: Vtpeters.
CC BY 3.0
|RRCA File Code||UC000255|