An impromptu jam session broke out before the event with those lucky enough in the early, early crowd witnessing Luke on BASS! The night itself consisted of a few songs including "My Girl" and "Little Wing", questions from the crowd, demonstration of guitar techniques from the two Steve's and of course jokes with Luke being the main culprit!
Sterling started off the night with an interesting introduction on the history of Ernie Ball and MusicMan including the acquisition from Leo Fender. Techniques were demonstrated by Luke such as the differences between a clean and dirty sound among others. We learned from both Luke and Steve Morse how everything can be perfect at sound check and then mysteriously at the gig the guitar levels are not the same. Both guitarists were on the same wavelength when they said that a guitar solo should be as loud as the lead vocal. They both nodded in total agreement when their guitar sound that was perfect at sound check was drown out by the kick drum and bass during the gig!
During the Q&A session we learned a lot from Luke. The favorite song Luke wrote he said was "Don't Stop Me Now" because Miles Davis recorded it. Luke said "when someone of that caliber digs your stuff, then that's pretty cool." He also talked about damage to his hearing from an unexpected source, headphones. "When you have headphones on for 12 hours a day doing hundreds and hundreds of sessions it's going to take it's toll." He told us about his first Tour at age 19 with Boz Scaggs. A one word answer summed up what killed the session scene. "Machines." Luke said "the music business is in trouble. Even the "A list" session guys are having a hard time. The idea of a studio musician just doesn't appeal to people any more. Maybe it will come back though." He talked about practicing for hours and hours. But he further added that too much practice could hurt you too.
Typical of the attendees to the celebration was Mike Mullin who brought his 15 year old son Matthew and two of his same aged friends. I asked Mike "how does a 15 year old kid know about Luke?" Mike told me "actually he didn't". He said his son knew a Toto song but didn't sound too excited about going and seeing Luke. He said he told his son he might be surprised. Everything changed when Luke started playing. Everyone in the group was impressed. Mike told me when he got home he was going to look up Luke's musical history & show his son. Mike asked Luke a question during the Q&A session. He asked "I brought three 15 year old guitar players here with me tonight. What advice do you have for them?" Luke said: "follow your dreams". The youngster told me how he liked the advice Luke gave him and was impressed by Luke's guitar playing style.
Q: This is a pretty cool way to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Ernie Ball/Music Man. A successful family run business.
Luke: "A successful AMERICAN family run business in this economy doing great! Ya, it's pretty cool. This is a real low key event. We didn't rehearse for it. Just get out there and play, answer a few questions. I've been a part of MusicMan since 1993. I've known all these (Ball) kids since they were little kids. Now they are the ones coming up with all these great instruments. Scotty is the one who came up with the rosewood models. It's his deal. They sold some of those guitars here tonight!"
Q: MusicMan not only has great musicians endorsing their products they're all great people too. Including you, Steve Morse and Albert Lee.
Luke: Don't forget John Petrucci (Dream Theater) too. He's a great guy. It's great jamming with all those guys at the MusicMan Shows too. That goes back to Sterling and it being such a well run family run business."
Q: There is a true family run atmosphere here. With all the Ball kids, your son Trevor having such great respect for Steve Morse, Steve's son Kevin having a great respect for you.
Luke: "You're right. That is so true."
Q: What's your reaction to seeing all the young faces at this event tonight?
Luke: "That's what it's all about. They're the future of music. It's great to see kids so interested in playing, learning about and hopefully practicing music. I see it at my shows. The 14,15 & 16 year old kids that know the words to MY songs. Not the Toto songs. MY songs from 'Ever Changing Times' Tour. You've seen some of those shows. You know I'm not playing any of the Toto songs there. They know the new stuff. It's great. They're mouthing ALL the words! It's great. Kids that like Rock music. Those kids are the ones that will make that kind of music come back!"
Q: It's nice to see you get some good reviews on the 'Ever Changing Times' Tour & CD. How about that?
Luke: "Ya, it is kinda nice. Not like before. But the audiences have ALWAYS been there for us. I played the Toto songs over and over again. We had to play the hits. But it just became time to make a change. Toto was great! I loved Toto. I loved all the guys. They're all still my friends. I'm still working with Paich. It just became time to move on."
Q: I see Trevor is going to be opening for you again in October at a couple of the So. Cal shows. The Brixton at the Redondo Beach Pier (October 16th) & at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano (October 17th).
Luke: "Trevor is doing great. He's my best friend. We hang out all the time. He's maturing a person, a guitar player and as a song writer, all the time. He just keeps getting better all the time. He went to Europe with us last time and ended up getting up on stage with us most of the time. It was great."
Q: What about more shows in the U.S.?
Luke: "It's tough right now. But the economy will turn around, just like the music business. It's tough to make any money. We've had to cut back. You see I kind of get caught in the middle too. I am too Rock for the Jazz guys & too Jazz for the Rock guys!"
Q: But you do still have your core fans that will come see you, right?
Luke: "Ya, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Q: You're looking at making another record this year.
Luke: "Ya, that's the plan. Sometime in December."
Q: "Are you writing any material while you're on the road?
Luke: "No. There just isn't any time. It's go from one place to the next. There's just not enough time."
Q: Well, you seem really busy! Luke: "Ya, with this promotion, going back to Europe in July, a new CD, producing stuff, shows at home in October, hopefully a DVD at the Roxy show. We're really trying to make the Roxy show DVD happen. I can't say any names but we'll definitely have some surprise guests. Everything is great!"
Q: Tell us about your relationship with Ernie Ball.
Steve Morse: "It's been almost 30 years. It started with a string endorsement. I liked the family. We didn't have a contract or anything. It was a real simple arrangement. Ernie Ball and I became friends because I was a pilot and so was he. We ended up flying together up and down the coast in his airplane, using it to take us to some clinics. At the time his son Sterling was just staring to get involved in the business. Sterling was ready to take over. Ernie was almost handing the business over to him. When they bought the Music Man name and wanted to make a signature guitar for me I was hesitant at first. But they said we'll make you a guitar and if you don't like it just walk away. I said okay, I can do that. We did a bunch of prototypes and we came up with a guitar that I liked better than the one I was playing. I could have more than one of them too! Suddenly I was set with guitars. I didn't have to worry about guitars anymore. And we just kept going ever since. For the 20th anniversary we did the Y2D, which was a take off on Y2K. that's the one I use most with Deep Purple. It's more of a rock guitar. I still use my four pick up Steve Morse model with the Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band."
Q: Tell us about your relationship with Luke.
Steve: "I met Luke on one of the early Tours with Toto. The Dregs opened for them. That was great. He was very nice, energetic and a great player. But I really didn't know him until Eddie Van Halen. We did a jam with Luke, Eddie and Albert Lee. We got to know each other then. But it wasn't until the MusicMan stuff that I really got to know Luke. Playing with Albert we got to do extended solos and he got a chance to show his stuff. I love what he does. Even on rhythm too. I'm just a fan of his."
Q: "I talked to you two years ago at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim. You told me you took your son Kevin to see Luke and told him to watch this guy!"
Steve: "Yes, you're right I did! I very rarely get to bring my son to the West Coast, because I very rarely get to come here. But I think it was a jam for one of Sterlings' benefits. So Kevin got to sit there and watch him. Kevin is a great listener. He loves hearing people play well. He said he'd NEVER seen anything like it! It was wonderful. I wish I could do more of that for him."
Q: What about your Steve Morse solo album and possible Tour?
Steve: "I think it's going to be called 'Out Standing in Their Field'. The cover's going to be a picture of us standing in a field. My field! It's a little play on words. Nothing too serious. it's different styles of music. Something similar to "Southern Steele." it's just a 2009 version of what we'd do if we were doing another album. It's not earth shattering that it's some new genre of music. As far touring on the album, that's difficult. For these gigs we need months of lead time for the promoter to advertise the gigs. For some reason with Deep Purple they're always changing their schedule at the last minute. That makes it difficult to book shows."
Q: You've played with some pretty cool people, Boz Scaggs, Rod Stewart and Larry Carlton for 20 years included. Could you give us a little background on yourself.
John Ferraro: "I'm based in Southern California. A studio player down there. I'm doing all kinds of different jobs, a little teaching, currently doing a Broadway Show in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater, 'Dirty Dancing'. I'm also working on a couple of TV Shows, ' A Secret Life of The American Teenager' on ABC Family Network & 'Madison Men' on AMC . Live playing,I just got back from the ASCAP Music Festival in Washington,D.C. I had the chance to play with some of the great American Songwriters Hal David, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams and Ashford & Simpson. That was really fun. The Library of Congress was presenting archives of all the compositions of these famous composers. It was a great house band too with Lee Sklar on bass."
Q: What's it like jammin' with these guys here tonight?"
John: "It's always a treat playing with these guys. It's such a great family atmosphere. Sterling is an amazing friend. There's nobody else like him. He's so generous. All of us hopefully that's true. It's very informal so we're not necessarily going to play everybody's' tune individually. So we're just here having fun. We're here showing off the versatility and virtuosity of these guys as well as the sound of the instruments. But with Luke there are so many stories. Luke is the classic iconic guy. He's still Lukey! He's a great hang. He's a riot! He keeps us all in stitches."
stevelukather.com, May 30th 2009