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The Dregs – live show: Steve Morse, Mark O’Connor “I’ll Just Pick” 1981


The Dregs (life in Memphis, TN 1981)
Steve Morse – Guitar/Composer
Mark O’Connor – Violin/Fiddle, Guitar
T. Lavitz – Keyboards
Andy West – Bass
Rod Morgenstein – Drums

“I’ll Just Pick” composed by Steve Morse originally appearing on the album, “Unsung Heroes.”

David Grisman Quintet bluegrass guitar phenom, 19-year old Mark O’Connor broke his arm in 1981 during a skiing accident. He flew off a cliff, flew 25 feet in the air and landed on rock face nearly costing him his life. That life was spared, but the upper left arm (humerus) was completely broken into. As fate would have it, Mark was a very lucky survivor of his accident, as there was no nerve damage (doctors observed there would have been a 50/50 chance). But the cost of the accident was a painful 3-month recovery in an arm cast, and what was left at the end was a entirely atrophied left arm, and cost him his job with the DGQ – replaced by Mike Marshall moving over from 2nd mandolin to guitar.

During his tenure there, the Grisman Quintet double billed with one of Mark’s favorite Rock Fusion groups he listened to throughout high school, The Dixie Dregs. The group’s virtuoso 26-year old guitarist Steve Morse and 19 year-old Mark O’Connor became fast friends during those bookings in Portland and Seattle as the respective group’s two lead guitarists hung out backstage and back at the hotel rooms jamming and talking about music. Steve told Mark at that time that he felt he should also be playing more violin more on stage, but Darol Anger was the DGQ’s principal violinist.

When Mark got the heartbreaking news that he was not welcome back to the DGQ during his recovery process, the devastated teenager called his new friend Steve Morse to console with him. It was during that call that Steve asked if Mark would consider “becoming a Dreg?” Steve persuaded the rest of the band to make way for Mark on violin and guitar, and to ask original violinist Allen Sloan to bow out of the band. It was an extremely tough decision to make for The Dregs and their avid fans, but Mark won over the rest of the band and their audiences in short order. Steve and Mark became good friends, played hundreds of hours on guitar together, just the two of them wherever they could.

Mark says; “Steve schooled me on electric guitar in nightclub bathrooms before each gig constantly. He always chose the bathrooms so we could hear our solid body guitars without amps, his preferred practice scenario. He told me that the tone came from the left hand as well as the right and the solid body guitar would respond to our tone production on our instruments – his legendary Fender customized Telecaster, and my 1960s black Les Paul custom. We also spent many more hours together as I learned how to play my violin with his guitar stylings, exhaustingly learning each bend he used from his guitar strings, and each rate of vibrato speed he used when he finished the bend for his classic approach, tone and virtuoso writing. It came pretty fast, because he demanded it to come fast, and I could get where he was wanting it because of my knowledge of guitar playing too. What can you say…he moved mountains for me to join, and I showed up with half an arm. He wanted me in the band the day I got out of my cast. I don’t really think he knew what I had to recover from, I could not even lift the Les Paul to get the strap over my neck at the time of this show in Memphis in 1981 – the Dreg’s roadie “Microwave” had to put the guitar around my neck on stage for months. I could not bare to show him my arm, which really did not look like a part of my body. That is why I always wore long leave shirts and jackets the first half of my 1 1/2 year tenure with the newly name minted “The Dregs.” Later, I built the strength again, we recorded ‘Industry Standard’ together and my time with The Dregs will be remembered.”

Mark O’Connor: http://www.markoconnor.com


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