Dear Guitar Hero: Steve Morse
You just put out a new Steve Morse Band album, Out Standing in Their Field. Do you think your playing on the record is more rock oriented because you’ve been doing all the Deep Purple stuff? —Nancy Geraghty
Good question. Yeah, I think the first track, “Name Dropping,” has that “I’ve been playing in a rock band for a long time” feeling. But I intentionally try to change the channel quite a bit during the course of a record. So there’s rock stuff, a jazz fusion–style song [“Unnamed Sources”], a classical guitar piece [“Baroque ’n Dreams”] and a bluegrass-type piece [“John Deere Letter”].
When you were in high school, did you ever carry around a guitar to try and pick up girls? —Gus Ducommun
No, no, no! Everything I did in music had the predictable effect of repelling girls. I liked girls, but when it came to the guitar, I was just like a guy who puts a bigger engine in his car: it’s not something you do for girls; it’s something you do so you can go fast and enjoy the rush. And to me, all the music I played as a teenager was about the adrenaline rush. I loved playing fast. I loved thrashing what they called “acid rock” and the stuff that led to Led Zeppelin. It was a power thing; it was not an “I can’t figure out how to talk to girls” thing. In Augusta, Georgia, the town where we were playing in the Sixties, girls hated that kind of music. They only liked stuff with horns and be-bop moves, with three or four singers dressed in the same suits dancing back and forth.
Can you tell me what was the first song you learned that really challenged you as a guitar player? —Doris Duke
Chuck Berry’s intro to “Johnny B. Goode.” “Johnny B. Goode” also sounded just like [Berry’s hits] “Maybelline” and “Sweet Sixteen.” They were all the same song, but it was about being able to make them swing. I just loved that. The other thing that really thrilled me was when I was able to play some kind of facsimile of the solo in [the Kinks’] “All Day and All of the Night.”
If you were stuck in a guitar version of Groundhog Day and had to play one of your songs over and over, which one would it be? —Al Ruggiero
Whoa! What a great question. Well, something where I could solo and try different things. One of the more epic tunes—the longer the better. Something like “Travels of Marco Polo,” or “Hereafter,” which is challenging to play and has a lot of room for improvisation.
What is your favorite Ritchie Blackmore solo? —John Pistone
The “Highway Star” solo is classic. It’s got the power section, the fast picking part and the melodic section in the front. And the progression is interesting. We start with that song every night, and you don’t just pick up a guitar, walk onstage and play it—you’ve got to be warmed up so you can play it in a relaxed way. You can’t be struggling at all.
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