Guitar master Steve Morse reflected on how Deep Purple fans weren’t all that thrilled about him taking the spot that once belonged to Ritchie Blackmore.
Although no longer a member of Deep Purple, Morse is a huge part of the band’s history, playing for almost three decades — between 1994 and 2022. He swooped in around the time when the legendary hard rock band finally parted ways with Ritchie Blackmore and after Joe Satriani’s brief stint in the band.
Speaking to Rick Beato in a recent interview, Morse recalled how the band’s fans were very dismissive of him being in there. After all, they expected to see and hear Blackmore. He explained (via Rock Celebrities):
“The people that hate me for being born, they would go to the shows just because I’m not the original guy. They want to see that guy on the albums. They’re waiting to get the albums signed, and I’m not the original guy.”
In fact, as Morse also adds, he left his “heart and soul” on the stage, and some people still weren’t that happy about it.
“Those people will begrudgingly say, ‘Okay yeah, it was kind of neat,’ if they see me giving my heart and soul and loving the music and enjoying it,” he added.
Nonetheless, as Steve also recalled, he did his best to soften up the Purple fans who were dismissive of him, simply for not being Ritchie Blackmore. And it came down to his approach of playing Blackmore’s parts.
“I know it’s not cool to a lot of people to be enjoying the music as much as I do on stage, but I think it comes across most of them. It softens them up,” Morse added.
“Especially when I do a little bit of, ‘This is a little bit of how Ritchie played the solo. No, I’m not Ritchie I can’t do it like him but I’m gonna improvise my own thing.’ I think that’s the sweet spot, showing that you care, you give the nod to them and you also can’t help but be yourself.”
Steve Morse joined Deep Purple back in 1994, right after Satriani’s brief stint for “The Battle Rages On” tour. Although not the original member, he ended up serving as the band’s longest-running guitar player, with a total of 28 years at the moment of his departure.
The official announcement came in July 2022. For a few months, starting in March that year, Morse was replaced by temporary fill-in, Simon McBride. However, due to Morse’s wife Janine being diagnosed with cancer, he decided to officially part ways with Deep Purple so that he could stay closer to her.
“Last Autumn, I suddenly left the Purple writing session in Germany because my wife was having a real medical crisis,” Morse offered in his official statement. “Almost a year later, we are learning to accept stage four aggressive cancer and chemo treatment for the rest of her life.”
“We both miss being at shows, but I simply couldn’t commit to long or far away tours since things can change quickly at home. I suggested lining up a substitute guitarist last Autumn, hoping we could see the miraculous cancer cure all of us have heard about. As time went by, I could see the way things were heading though, after 28 years of being in the band.”
“I’ve already played my last show with Purple back in Florida on the Rock Legends Cruise. I wish to thank the listeners who so strongly supported live music and turned every show from a dress rehearsal to a thundering, exciting experience. I’ll miss everybody in the band and crew but being Janine’s helper and advocate has made a real difference at many key points.”
“As Janine adjusts to her limitations, she is able to do many things on her own, so we will try to play some shorter nearby concert tours with friends to – hopefully – get both of us out of the house!”
As far as his replacement, Simon McBride, goes, Morse had nothing but kind words to share:
“I know Simon has the gig nailed already. But I’m now handing over the keys to the vault, which holds the secret of how Ritchie’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ intro was recorded. I guess you have to jiggle the key just right because I never got it open.”
As this point, there have been a total of five guitar players in Deep Purple. Apart from Blackmore, who’s the band’s co-founder, the lineup also saw Tommy Bolin, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, and Simon McBride.