There’s not much that hasn’t already been written about Steve Morse. A storied career, Steve has done remarkable things in bands like the Dixie Dregs to playing with shredders Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
Morse’s career took off slowly, often culminating in abrupt junctures where most musicians would give up. However, Morse was adamant about driving through these rough patches. A remarkable attribute common to most of Morse’s works was a personified use of melodic, rhythmic patterns, an intense merging of rock, classical, folk, and country elements. It typified stress on experimental arrangements in the compositions. Throughout most of his early career, Morse’s music was meant for only a particular class of experimental music enthusiasts and largely avoided commercial acclaim.
In his early 20s, Morse enrolled in the University of Miami (School of Music), one of the most prestigious music schools. For the first time, some of his close friends, such as Andy West, noticed his compositional skills, with whom he would later form the Dixie Dregs. In 1975, Morse and West began work on a few records under the Capricorn Records label. Most of the works produced would entail jazz, hard rock, and fusion elements, with vocals added only very late due to commercial pressure. After the releases of Free Fall (1977) and What If (1978), Morse’s compositional ability became widely known, and as a result, he was invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival of 1978. However, despite Morse’s managers’ constant efforts to introduce vocals into their tracks, albums such as Unsung Heroes (1981) and Industry Standard (1982) still had mixed reviews overall. Despite some regrettable failures in the commercial context, The Dixie Dregs’ days did manage to bring out some of the best compositions for Morse.
After the band’s separation in 1983, Morse embarked on his new venture, the Steve Morse Band. During this time, albums such as The Introduction (1984) and Stand Up (1985) saw a return to his initial passion for producing instrumental music. Soon after, Morse joined another band, called Deep Purple, and collaborated with them on five of their albums while also occasionally filling in lead and rhythm guitarist roles in their live sessions. One of his first efforts with the band was the 1996 top-charting album, Perpendicular, with Morse taking writing roles on songs like Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming. The song’s performances featured some outstanding guitar techniques, with soothing arpeggio arrangements and impressive harmonics’. Morse’s past projects have included Living Loud, Angelfire, and Flying Colors, with whom he has experimented with several genres. Morse’s legendary vision, conceptual framework, songwriting skills, and guitar arrangements are a few factors that have contributed to a long-lasting and successful music career, with artists like John Petrucci and Shawn Lane often regarded as guitarists following in Steve Morse’s footsteps.
In terms of guitars, Throughout the 1980s, Morse used 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. 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.
Music Man Guitars then approached Morse to create a signature model to his specifications; he is now one of the company’s longest endorsees. In particular, he’s been using prototype n°1 of his Steve Morse signature guitar for more than 20 years (the guitar has been refretted ten times). He now has two signature models with MusicMan guitars: The first one is a replica of his n°1 guitar, which features a poplar body with a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, four pickups (a DiMarzio Steve Morse bridge and neck model Humbuckers, and two DiMarzio single coils, a DP 117 and a custom wound Steve Morse single-coil in HSSH configuration) volume and tone controls. The switching is also particular: it features a three-way selector that changes between the bridge humbucker, the neck humbucker, and the first single-coil (aligned with the Bridge Humbucker), a mini switch that adds the bridge pickup to any configuration, and a third switch that adds the second, slant single coil to any configuration. This switch also allows for independent single coil selection. • The second one, the Steve Morse SM Y-2D, is an updated version with quilted maple top same neck & body, three pickups (the slanted single coil has been eliminated), and a 5-way super switch.
Morse has released 47 albums as a solo artist and a member of the Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple, the Steve Morse Band, and other groups. And he’s guested on 64 other recordings by artists ranging from Pavarotti and Liza Minnelli to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Some of Morse’s studio releases are Deep Purple’s “Now What?!” in 2013, a self-titled album by Angelfire (which combined folk-rock, pop, classical crossover, and New Age textures) in 2010, and the Steve Morse Band’s “Out Standing in Their Field” in 2009.
To learn more about Steve Morse, Please visit: stevemorse.com