Two schools of thought thrive in the wild and woolly world of Southern rock. First, you can pull the Lynyrd Skynyrd approach and get a little more country than rock 'n' roll but still keep the boogie that country lacks. A whole slew of bands have pulled this off with varying degrees of success, including Molly Hatchet and the Marshall Tucker Band. Then there is the Allman Brothers path: some country but stress free-form improvisation. Traveling down this winding road are many of the modern jam bands. This is certainly the trail Dixie Dregs took, but it left the path at some point and became something all its own.
The modern incarnation of Dixie Dregs, a far cry from the band's late-1970s heyday, is primarily the brainchild of guitarist Steve Morse, who started the group in 1975 while a student at the University of Miami's School of Music. Drummer Rod Morgenstein, violinist Allen Sloan, and bassist Andy West joined the guitarist in this first effort. Throughout the remainder of the decade, Dixie Dregs became less and less Southern rock. The influence of bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra prevailed, and Morse gained more than a few nods for an increasingly brilliant composing ability.
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In 1982, the band released Industry Standard; then its members went their separate ways. Fans waited a decade for a reunion. When it finally happened, a bit of the magic had been lost, and so, it seemed, had the creativity. Between 1975 and 1982, Dixie Dregs released seven albums. Since 1992, only four have come out, and one of those was a live album featuring a performance from the salad days. The lineup that recorded the most recent offering, 2000's California Screamin', features Morse, Morgenstein, keyboardist T. Lavitz, bassist Dave LaRue, and ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman. Despite this surfeit of talent, nothing on that disc rivaled the impressive instrumentals of yesteryear. Even so, the fretboard and keyboard gymnastics of the Dregs's live shows is still quite a sight.