The Dixie Dregs are one of those groups that don't sell millions of albums or have regular hits on the Top 40, but really do make great music. They're a musician's band—
virtuoso players whose individual skills are enhanced by an ensemble sensibility that values melody and composition as much as it loves its licks. "The band has this nice image of being a groundbreaking instrumental fusion kind of band, carrying on from where the Mahavishnu Orchestra began—making instrumental music a little more palatable to the average, non-musician listener," drummer Rod Morgenstein said.
It's a delicate kind of balance, but the proof is in the performance—both on the Dregs' 14 releases and in their hair-raising concerts. Few groups had this much musical talent—a group of A-level students from the University of Miami's famed School of Music—squeezed into one band. The Dregs worked the rock circuit and were often, mistakenly, lumped in with other Southern rockers. Press and peer regard was huge; sales were not. Then again, instrumental bands have never had an easy time making inroads with a mass audience, even groups that tour at the 200-plus gigs a year pace the Dregs maintained. "We always thought that a couple of songs, like 'Cruise Control' or 'Take it Off the Top,' could have been more successful. Every three or four or five years, it seems like an instrumental hit comes along. But when a label sees it's an instrumental band, immediately they change their posture. You're not going to be a top priority at the label."
A reunion occurred in 1992, with Steve Morse, T. Lavitz, Morgenstein, and Dave LaRue (now with the Steve Morse Band) getting back together. Since the old Dixie days, Morse, of course, has had the highest profile of the band members, forging a successful solo career, with stints in Kansas and Deep Purple. Morgenstein played in the rock group Winger and did a duo project with keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). Lavitz played with Widespread Panic and worked with Jefferson Starship. And original electric violinist Allen Sloan has taken the greatest career left turn, working as a full-time anesthesiologist.
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