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Guitarist Steve Morse Permanently Exits Deep Purple to Care for Ailing Wife

The veteran rocker's wife Janine is battling stage four cancer

Steve Morse exits Deep Purple
Steve Morse, photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
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    Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse has announced his permanent departure from the band.

    Morse previously went on hiatus in April to look after his wife, Janine, as she battled cancer. At he time, he had planned on returning to the group. Morse now says he’s leaving Deep Purple for good, and guitarist Simon McBride — who has been filling in — will take his place.

    “Last Autumn, I suddenly left the Purple writing session in Germany because my wife was having a real medical crisis,” Morse said in a lengthy statement posted on Deep Purple’s Facebook page. “Almost a year later, we are learning to accept stage four aggressive cancer and chemo treatment for the rest of her life.”

    He continued: “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.

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    He continued, “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.”

    Morse took over guitar duties in Deep Purple in 1994 following the exit of longtime guitarist and band mastermind Ritchie Blackmore. Morse played on eight studio albums and other releases during his time in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band.

    Outside of Deep Purple, Morse founded the band Dixie Dregs in the early ’70s, and also was a member of Kansas in the ’80s.

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    As for his own replacement, Morse went on to praise McBride, stating that he “already has the gig nailed.”

    “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,” Morse added. “I guess you have to jiggle the key just right because I never got it open.”

    The members of Deep Purple issued personal statements reflecting on Morse and his time in the band. You can read singer Ian Gillan’s remarks below:

    “In circumstances like these it is normally difficult to find the right words. But not in the case of Steve Morse; I know what I want to say.

    He came from a different background to the rest of us in Deep Purple and yet his musical genius has been somehow compatible and played a big part in the fresh direction adopted by the group when he joined and made his first album with us in 1996, and then onwards, for over a quarter of a century, enjoying the longest incumbency of any Deep Purple guitarist and contributing to the longest unchanging line-up, which started when Don Airey replaced Jon Lord – who retired in 2002 – until the present day.

    I first became aware of Steve through the Dixie Dregs, particularly the track Take It Off The Top’ which was the theme tune for Tommy Vance’s BBC rock show and impressed me mightily. I didn’t realise at the time that one day I would be lucky enough to stand on stage with Steve and enjoy his consummate skills up close and dangerous.

    I got to know him as a very kind man, full of ideas and the patience to see them developed. He would say, ‘You never know until you try it’. We sure had some fun debating that approach, but mostly in good humour and he always gave as good as he got.

    Steve has a legacy with Deep Purple that can never be forgotten, and that smile will be missed. It would be wrong to comment on his personal circumstances, suffice to say he’s in a bad place right now but dealing with it bravely and as best he can; we all admire his devotion; he’s been a strong family man all his life.

    All this has come at a terrible time for everybody, including the other musicians in Deep Purple. After two years off the road because of quarantines everywhere, we had to get back to what we do, and that is perform live around the world and make music in the way we have always done, since 1968.

    As we get older, we realise that we’re much closer to the end, and that triggers an urgency that won’t be tamed. From Steve’s perspective, I can only imagine that there is no possible ‘nice’ way of continuing with a new man, but it is either that or call it a day, because the lack of momentum was gradually becoming something more significant; it felt terminal.

    The best way I can describe this is by using Steve’s own words; when I sent him a love letter a few weeks ago, he replied that it was weird being at home whilst we guys were out there, but ‘reality intervenes’… and that’s what has happened.

    I can only put out love and respect, and positive vibes at the memories of good times together.”

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    The collective statement from Deep Purple concluded: “There will be no further comment from the band. We kindly ask that Steve and Janine’s privacy is respected and to keep them in your thoughts at this time.”

    See the full statements from Steve Morse, Deep Purple, and the individual band members below. After playing a series of summer shows, Deep Purple will return to the road for a Fall UK/European outing that runs from late September through early November.

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