By all rights, the Dixie Dregs should have never gotten to the point where they became a much-beloved cult band after being founded in Augusta, GA. Coming up at a time when disco was the dominant commercial genre, the Dregs were considered “too jazz for rock audiences, too rock for jazz audiences and too weird for country audiences. Despite all that, the quintet, led by founding members Steve Morse, Andy West and Allen Sloan, developed a rabid fan base over the course of six albums that culminated with 1982’s Industry Standard.
Since that time, the band members have periodically regrouped, with this year marking the first time in 40 years that the original lineup—Morse, West, Sloan, Steve Davidowski and Rod Morgenstein—are sharing the stage. It’s something Morse admits was one of those ideal scenarios that finally came to fruition.
“I think everybody with this on their bucket list wanted to do this. T. Lavitz, our keyboard player for most of those years, had died,” he recalled. “Then we found out [our other keyboardist] Mark Parrish had died. [Keyboardist] Steve Davidowski was around somewhere, but still alive and playing. So we got in touch with him. We wanted to do this while everyone was still around and we still had the original version of the band.”
Fans champing at the bit to see the Dregs will have to hop on board quickly as the band will only be on the road through the end of April. No plans are in place for the group to hit the studio and Morse himself will be flying out to Mexico City to hop back into the latest leg of Deep Purple’s “Long Goodbye Tour.” That said, fans who do come out to see the Dregs will be pleased to not only hear a set-list made up of suggestions from a fan poll, but even a few other surprises as well.
“We actually had an online poll that [bassist] Andy [West] created, where fans could be the sixth member and cast a vote. So everybody took their list and we went for the common ground. That’s how we came up with it and Steve Davidowski played on the Free Fall album, so we’re heavy on those tunes,” Morse explained. “We’re going to play the classics and actually a few songs that we’ve never done live before—‘Day 444’ and the second one is ‘Go For Baroque.’ [Off of 1981’s Unsung Heroes]. They were big production pieces, but we never tackled them [on stage]. We wanted to try and figure out a way to do them live, so I’m real happy about that.”
Coming back to the New York area is a sort of homecoming for the Dregs. Roslyn club My Father’s Place was a regular concert haunt for the band and drummer Rod Morgenstein was a Plainview native (and currently calls Northport home). Morse has plenty of fond memories of the support his crew received back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, whether it was while they were on stage or through the airwaves.
“Rod Morgenstein’s parents live on Long Island, so Long Island is his stomping ground. His friends and family were so supportive of us and we spent many nights sleeping in Rod’s basement and using it as a base of operations while we drove into the city, trying to find a way to make it in the music business,” Morse said. “They were always the biggest cheerleaders. It was like the one hotbed that we had to count on as far as touring. And we were based down in Georgia, so that was a big jump of mileage. But that was the thing that sustained us. If we could just get enough gas money at this gig in North Carolina to get us to New York, then we’d be OK to get home. Plus, WBAB and WLIR were always in our corner. I don’t know how to chart that kind of grassroots support, but we felt it and knew we had it.”
The Dixie Dregs will be appearing on March 15 at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. For more information, visit www.theparamountny.com or call 631-673-7300. The Dregs will also be appearing on March 16 at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., NYC. For more information, visit www.the-townhall-nyc.org or call 212-307-4100.