Steve Lukather: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Steve Lukather
Steve Lukather stands on a stage playing a green electric guitar.
Steve Lukather, July 2007 in Walker, Minnesota
Background information
Born October 21, 1957 (1957-10-21) (age 52)
San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.
Genres Hard rock, pop rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion
Occupations Musician, songwriter, arranger, producer
Instruments Guitar, keyboards, mandolin, lute, vocals
Years active 1975–present
Labels Frontiers Records
Associated acts Toto, El Grupo, Boz Scaggs, Doves Of Fire, Los Lobotomys,G3
Notable instruments
Music Man "Luke" signature model

Steve "Luke" Lukather (born October 21, 1957, San Fernando Valley, California) is an American Grammy Award-winning guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger, and record producer best known for his work with the rock band Toto. Lukather has played with countless artists, released several solo albums and, as a studio session guitarist, has been involved with arranging, composing, and recording on over 1,000 albums.[1] He is also a member of jazz fusion bands El Grupo and Los Lobotomys, both collaborations of notable sessions musicians. While his work with Toto was predominantly based on pop rock music, Lukather's solo and side-project work spans many genres including rock, prog, jazz and funk.

Notable session keyboardist David Paich and session drummer Jeff Porcaro were high school friends with Lukather. They asked Lukather to join in forming their band, Toto, in 1976 when Lukather was nineteen years old. He was a member of Toto from that time until the band split up in 2008. Lukather's reputation as a guitarist and his association with Paich and Porcaro, already established session musicians, allowed him to secure a great deal of session work in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a prolific songwriter, writing or co-writing many songs for Toto and other artists. His career has encompassed hundreds of performances and album appearances with Toto and other well-known musicians. Lukather has been nominated for 12 Grammy awards, and has won five times.[1][2]

Lukather is known for his acumen in the studio, often recording tracks in one take using minimal sound processing. Although known for using many guitar effects in the studio and on stage, he now frequently disparages such practice, and instead advocates clean tones and minimal studio processing. Lukather plays primarily a signature electric guitar manufactured by Ernie Ball Music Man bearing his nickname, Luke, and equipped with a custom set of EMG pickups. He also plays Ovation Adamas acoustic-electric guitars.




Early life

Lukather stands on stage with a black Ernie Ball Music Man "Luke" electric guitar and raises his arms to the crowd.
Lukather in 2003

Steven Lee Lukather was born on October 21, 1957 in San Fernando Valley, California. He first played keyboards and drums, and then taught himself how to play the guitar starting at age seven, when his father bought him a Kay acoustic guitar and a copy of The Beatles album Meet the Beatles. Lukather claims that the album "changed his life" and that he was greatly influenced by the guitar playing of George Harrison in particular.[3][4]

In high school, Lukather met David Paich and the Porcaro brothers (Jeff, Steve, and Mike), all of whom became members of Toto. Lukather, who had been a self-taught musician until then, began taking guitar lessons from a musician named Jimmy Wyble, who expanded Lukather's knowledge of different aspects of music, such as orchestration. It was during this period that Lukather became interested in the idea of becoming a session musician, which provided opportunities to play with a variety of famous musicians.[3]

Jeff Porcaro, who was playing drums with Steely Dan, became a mentor to Lukather and furthered his interest in session work. Lukather's first job in the music industry was studio work with Boz Scaggs,[5] after which Paich and Porcaro—who had become prominent session musicians in their own right[6]—asked Lukather to join them in forming Toto in 1976, along with Bobby Kimball, David Hungate, and Steve Porcaro.[3] Lukather turned down an offer to join Miles Davis's band to accept their invitation.[7]


Lukather crouches on stage and intently plays the neck of a black Ernie Ball Music Man "Luke" electric guitar.
Lukather soloing

Lukather was the lead guitarist for Toto, as well as a lead and backing vocalist and composer. In the early years of the band's history, David Paich wrote most of the songs that appeared on Toto records and in the charts. Lukather also credits Jeff Porcaro for his leadership within the band. Lukather's role in Toto evolved, and following Porcaro's death Lukather felt that he needed to step up and make sure the band kept going.[3] Lukather won three of his five Grammy awards for work with Toto, twice as an artist and once as a producer.[2]

After the 1990 dismissal of their fourth vocalist, Jean-Michel Byron, Toto was without a lead singer until around 1997; Lukather assumed most of the vocal duties for the band during that time. He performed lead vocals for every track on 1992's Kingdom of Desire and 1995's Tambu except for two instrumental tracks. The Tambu single "I Will Remember", co-written by Lukather and Stan Lynch, reached #64 on UK charts.[3] Some Tambu reviewers contrasted Lukather's vocals with those of former singers such as Bobby Kimball (and indeed, panned the entire album),[8] some concert reviewers noted that he struggled vocally on certain songs, and a number of backup singers and guest vocalists accompanied the band's live shows during that period.[9] It was not until Toto brought back former lead singers Joseph Williams and Bobby Kimball to collaborate on 1998's Toto XX that Lukather returned to mainly backup vocals.[3]

Lukather's songwriting contributions grew from a smattering of tracks on early Toto albums to almost every track from the late 1980s. He wrote very few of Toto's earlier hits by himself however, with the notable exception of the hit single "I Won't Hold You Back" from Toto IV. Lukather has admitted that writing lyrics is not one of his particular aptitudes. Thus, he collaborates with other band members to complete song ideas and make them into viable album tracks.[10] Lukather contributed to all but one song on Toto's 2006 album Falling in Between.

Lukather has frequently expressed frustration in the media over Toto's decline in popularity in the United States since peaking with Toto IV. The American part of the Falling in Between tour was not well attended, and Lukather commented that American audiences prefer the mainstream "cookie-cutter" music typically heard on the radio.[11] He acknowledged that Toto maintains a large overseas fan base, but has criticized the American music industry (MTV in particular), and characterized the industry as catering to "any bonehead with a computer and a cute haircut". He has also criticized popular guitar magazines for covering unremarkable guitarists, citing Billy Corgan as an example.[12]

In June 2008, Lukather decided to leave Toto.[13][14] This decision directly led to the official dissolution of the band. On his website, Lukather stated: " Honestly I have just had enough. This is NOT a break. It is over. [...] I just cant [sic] do it anymore and at 50 years old I wanted to start over and give it one last try on my own."[13]

Session work

Lukather achieved notability in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Los Angeles, playing with a wide range of artists from Aretha Franklin to Warren Zevon.[15] He performed the famous guitar solo for Olivia Newton-John's biggest single ever on 1981's "Physical", which also doubled as Billboard's #1 single of the 1980's. He has performed on over 1,000 records spanning 36 years.[12] He largely credits fellow Toto members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro for getting him exposure in the industry.

Notable sessions include: Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Human Nature" (co-written by Toto member Steve Porcaro), Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back" single from Nicks' 1983 album The Wild Heart, several tracks from the Don Henley album I Can't Stand Still, several tracks from the Jackson Browne album Lives in the Balance, two tracks from the Lionel Richie album Can't Slow Down, and the Richard Marx album Repeat Offender. Besides sessions, Lukather has also written hits for such artists as The Tubes and George Benson, for whose song "Turn Your Love Around" Lukather won a Grammy award.[2] Lukather also sang background vocals on Van Halen's three new songs on their compilation album, The Best of Both Worlds.

Solo albums

Lukather stands on stage, playing a black Ovation Adamas acoustic-electric guitar and singing into a microphone.
Lukather singing

Lukather has released five solo albums: Lukather (1989), Candyman (1994), Luke (1997), Santamental (2003), and Ever Changing Times (2008). A new solo album is in production, slated for a Fall 2010 release.[16]


Lukather came about after Toto had been recording and playing for 11 years, and the consensus among the band members was to take a break. As Lukather had written a number of songs that did not appear on Toto albums, he decided to pursue a solo album, with the intention of presenting a dimension of his music that fans would be unfamiliar with. He collaborated with many notable musicians, including Eddie Van Halen, Richard Marx, Jan Hammer, Steve Stevens, and fellow Toto members Jeff Porcaro and David Paich. Lukather has said that the album was produced very simply, and that a lot of ambient studio noise, such as counting off on various tracks, is audible on it. He also credits bands Pink Floyd, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and guitarists Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton as influences on the album. The single "Swear Your Love" came from the album.[17]


Candyman, recorded and mastered from March 1993 through November 1993, was a collaboration of musicians who were for the most part also in Lukather's band Los Lobotomys.[18] Toto familiars Simon Phillips and David Paich participated as well as David Garfield, John Peña, Chris Trujillo, Lenny Castro, Larry Klimas, Fee Waybill, Richard Page, and Paul Rodgers. Lukather recorded the album in mostly live takes with little overdubbing.[19]

Some international fans were confused about whether Candyman was a Steve Lukather album or a Los Lobotomys album. The Japanese and US releases of Candyman were under the Los Lobotomys name rather than Lukather's; the Japanese release also featured a version of the Hendrix song "Red House." The European release of Candyman was credited to Lukather alone. Additionally, the touring band for the album was sometimes introduced as "Steve Lukather and Los Lobotomys" and sometimes as just "Los Lobotomys."[20]

The song "Borrowed Time" was released as a single in Europe and included "Red House" as a B-side.[19]


Released in 1997, Luke was a much different and more introspective album than Lukather's previous two solo efforts. The album is a concentrated collection of many of Lukather's musical influences, and he deliberately let those influences come out on the album. Luke is an experimental album, and like Candyman it was recorded mostly in live sessions with minimal overdubbing and processing afterwards. Luke also features instrumentation not heard on previous Lukather albums such as pedal steel, harmonicas, Mellotrons, and experimental guitar, bass, and drum sounds.

The US version of Luke includes a version of the Jeff Beck song "The Pump." The song "Hate Everything About You" was released as a single.[21]


Santamental was a collaborative project featuring several prominent musicians such as guitarists Edward Van Halen, Slash, and Steve Vai and drummer Gregg Bissonette.[22] When Lukather's record company, Bop City Records, approached him about recording a Christmas album, he quipped, "Why me? Do I look like Father Christmas to you mofos?" The company wanted him to do the record knowing he would approach the project with a unique angle and produce something different from the typical Christmas album. Lukather recruited keyboardist Jeff Babko and guitarist Larry Carlton, who Lukather had worked with previously, to help arrange the songs. The project was a challenge to Lukather, who had to be creative to turn the traditionally simple songs into something interesting for listeners without altering the fundamental structures.[14] He said of the album, "But I never dreamt in a million years that I'd do a Christmas record."[14]

The musicians Lukather chose for Santamental, most of whom were involved in the hard rock genre, lent a heavy feel to the album. Van Halen recorded guitar tracks for "Joy to the World" after not having been in the studio for some time but immediately made an impression on Lukather with his level of playing. Vai provided guitar work for "Carol of the Bells" along with Lukather's son Trevor, then 14 years old. Slash, who recorded his part in one take, played on the Lukather/Stan Lynch composition "Broken Heart for Christmas". Lukather spoke highly of Slash after the project, calling him the "Keith Richards of our generation". Well-known session guitarist Michael Landau played on the song "Look Out For Angels",[14] and there is a version of "Jingle Bells" featuring a big band and sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.[14]

Ever Changing Times

Ever Changing Times, released on February 22, 2008, was a collection of songs Lukather recorded in 2007 while between Toto tours. The album contains contributions from a wide assortment of fellow session musicians such as Bill Champlin, Abe Laboriel, Jr., Leland Sklar, Steve Porcaro, and from Lukather's son Trevor. Joseph Williams provides backing vocals on five of the tracks. Lukather wrote the songs for the album with his son and a handful of other musicians using basic equipment in a hotel room. His song-writing philosophy is that if a song sounds good with only guitars and vocals, it will likely sound good after a full production.[4]

Lukather collaborated with Grammy-winning engineer and producer Steve MacMillan on the project, with the goal of introducing some new methods and techniques into the recording process. Lukather described the final tracks as "perfectly imperfect", preferring to record with the five-piece backing band in one room and in one take. MacMillan encouraged Lukather to use "organic, vintage tones". As a result, Lukather eschewed effects and played the guitar parts directly through tube amplifiers manufactured by Marshall, Vox, and some boutique brands. Lukather commented that MacMillan served as a valuable "second set of ears" in the studio, often encouraging him to keep parts that he normally would have discarded.[6]

Side projects

When not working with Toto, Lukather has participated in numerous side projects such as playing with other session musicians in the band El Grupo and touring with Edgar Winter, Larry Carlton, Eric Clapton and others. In 1985, Lukather released the instructional "Star Licks" guitar video featuring many of the guitar parts from the first five Toto studio albums. It was released on DVD in 2005.[23]

El Grupo is a band made up of Los Angeles-area session musicians that plays occasional shows at local clubs. Their sound is a mixture of funk, jazz, and Latino influences, and they produced a CD of live performances in 2005.[24] Lukather has been a long-time member of the band Los Lobotomys, a collaboration of session musicians including jazz and be-bop player David "Creatchy" Garfield and Toto drummer Simon Phillips. Los Lobotomys formed in the mid-1980s and played regular shows in the Los Angeles area, often inviting whatever session musicians happened to be available and in the area. They recorded an album under the Los Lobotomys name in 1989, and the band was heavily involved in the recording of Lukather's Candyman.[18] Los Lobotomys recorded a live album in 2004 comprising several tracks from Candyman and from the 1989 album.[25]

In 1998, Lukather received an invitation to tour Japan with fellow guitarist Larry Carlton after Japanese promoters requested that Carlton's annual tours each be different from the last. Lukather and Carlton exchanged some recorded material and decided that a collaboration would be interesting. Lukather was flattered by the invitation to tour with Carlton, citing him as his favorite guitarist. Lukather speaks highly of their stage efforts, although the two were admittedly outside their normal realm of work. He stated in an interview that "you can hear us having fun on the record—you can hear the smiles on our faces."[26]

After several shows, the duo realized that they should record their collaboration even if just for their own use. Guitarist and producer Steve Vai heard one of the subsequent recordings and expressed interest in releasing it under his Favored Nations label, also home to artists such as Eric Johnson and Dweezil Zappa. Vai and Lukather mixed and produced the recording, which is said to be a mixture of jazz, blues, and fusion music.[26] The resulting album, No Substitutions, won a 2001 Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.[2] Album reviewers described Lukather as having a heavier style than Carlton.[27] Lukather and Carlton later did an international tour in support of the album.[26]

In 2005, Lukather was noted for his rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song "Little Wing" at a gala 90th birthday celebration for jazz guitarist Les Paul.[28]

Lukather has also been participating in projects such as the Fermatta Master Class Series [29] showing his support for music education around the world.

Personal life

Lukather and his second wife reside in the Los Angeles area. He recently became a father again. His daughter Tina (from his first marriage) resides in Germany, and son Trevor is an active professional guitarist, frequently performing and attending events with his father.[30]


Style and equipment

Lukather sits on stage, illuminated by a spotlight, playing a dark grey Ovation Adamas acoustic-electric guitar.
Lukather playing an Ovation Adamas

Influenced by blues-rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, jazz guitarists such as Larry Carlton, and jazz fusion players such as Al Di Meola and Frank Gambale, Lukather is known for a "melodic and intense" playing style.[31] His vibrato is very pronounced and his exaggerated wide bends are instantly recognizable. Well versed in theory, Lukather can follow chord charts and changes as a jazz musician would, and this ability enhances his value as a session musician. In interviews, he has explained how he thinks of the guitar in a "chordal cluster" format, and not the typical "linear scale" format.[32]

Lukather's approach to engineering his sound in the studio is usually simplistic. He is not known for doing a large number of takes or for incorporating much overdubbing—rather, he has a reputation for doing only single takes for many parts.[33] Although he enjoys the technical mastery that is possible in the studio, Lukather prefers the dynamic of performing live on stage.[34] He has stated that dynamics are the most important element of producing a recording with good sound quality.[35]

Despite being known in the past for having an intricate effects rack, Lukather now claims to play mostly free of effects after seeing some overdone commercial effects processors named after him.[14] Other than some delay, he has not used many effects in recent years.[34] He has held a long association with Bob Bradshaw of Custom Audio Electronics, who designed and manufactured key elements of Lukather's effects rack. Lukather is one of the few official endorsers of EMG pickups, having collaborated on his own Lukather signature "SL20" pickup system. The pickup system is a single unit incorporating two different types of pickups (including a humbucker), single volume and tone knobs, and a pickguard.[36]

Lukather is an endorser of Music Man guitars and has a signature model named "Luke" that incorporates his signature EMG pickup system. The guitar started out with only MusicMan specifications (including a Floyd Rose locking vibrato, later replaced with a vintage-style fulcrum bridge), but in 1998 the manufacturer made several customizations to the model to better fit Lukather's playing style.[37] Music Man also produces a Ball Family Reserve Steve Lukather Model that features upgraded hardware and materials.[38] Lukather has also been known to play Ibanez, Tyler and Valley Arts guitars as well as a vintage Gibson Les Paul.[39] His relationship with Ibanez and Valley Arts yielded an endorsement for a brief time in the 1980s with the release of the Ibanez Roadstar RS1010SL and Valley Arts Custom Pro Steve Lukather Signature guitars in 1984/85.[38]



  1. ^ a b Wolff, Robert (May 1, 2004), How to Make It in the New Music Business, Billboard Books, pp. 63, ISBN 0823079546 
  2. ^ a b c d Grammy Award Winners,,, retrieved 2009-08-16  Note: User search required.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Steve Lukather Biography,,, retrieved 2007-09-26 
  4. ^ a b Molenda, Michael (May 2009), "Steve Lukather", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 45 (2): 14–16 
  5. ^ Johan, Rizal (March 7, 2008), "Toto's last fling", The Star (Star Publications),, retrieved 2009-07-30 
  6. ^ a b Holland, Dave (February 2009), "Steve Lukather's 7 Ways To Tonal Bliss", EQ (New Bay Media) 20 (2): 30–31 
  7. ^ Ickkhanian, Levon (November 2007), "Sessions", Canadian Musician (Norris-Whitney Communications) 29 (6): 44–47 
  8. ^ Abrahams, Andrew (June 10, 1996), "Tambu", People Weekly (Time, Inc.) 45 (n23): 27 
  9. ^ Borzillo, Carrie (July 24, 1993), "Toto", Billboard (Nielsen Business Media) 105 (30): 15(2), ISSN 00062510 
  10. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Songwriting Lukather on Toto and Lukather albums,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  11. ^ Staff (May 24, 2007), "Toto just wants to get a little respect for soft rock classics.", Reno Gazette-Journal (Ted Power): 6 
  12. ^ a b Rule, Jeff (November 1994), "Steve Lukather: too good for the gold?", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 28 (11): 19 
  13. ^ a b Slagman, Arend, Steve Lukather – The end of Toto,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Gold, Jude (January 2001), "Christmas Carols in Peril.", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 38 (1): 85(3) 
  15. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Steve Lukather Discography,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  16. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Home,,, retrieved 2010-03-16 
  17. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Lukather,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  18. ^ a b Ottosen, Morten, Los Lobotomys,,, retrieved 2009-07-30 
  19. ^ a b Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Candyman,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  20. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Los Lobotomys,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  21. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Luke,,, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  22. ^ Leigh, Bill (December 1, 2005), "Holiday Happenings – Steve Lukather and Friends – Santamental", Bass Player (New Bay Media): 57 
  23. ^ Slagman, Arend; Slagman, Kay, Steve Lukather – Master session,,, retrieved 2009-09-02 
  24. ^ Minting, Will, El Grupo Live: Album notes,,, retrieved 2009-09-02 
  25. ^ Releases,,, retrieved 2009-07-30 
  26. ^ a b c Marshall, Clay (March 10, 2001), "Vai's Favored Nations Captures Carlton/Lukather Live In Japan", Billboard (Nielsen Business Media) 113 (10): 14, ISSN 00062510 
  27. ^ Woodard, Josef (August 2001), "Fission: All That Funkin' Jazz", JAZZIZ (JAZZIZ Publishing) 18 (8): 26(2), ISSN 07415885 
  28. ^ Sprague, David (June 22, 2005), "Les Paul 90th Birthday Salute", Daily Variety (Reed Business Information) 287 (58): 5 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Ruggieri, Melissa (June 25, 2006), "Toto's Lukather still making music with a vengeance", Richmond Times-Dispatch (Media General) 
  31. ^ Lourdes, Marc (October 4, 2008), "Guitar rocker for one and all", New Straits Times (New Straits Times Press) 
  32. ^ Gold, Jude (February 2003), "Steve Lukather's vicious triplets", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 37 (2): 19 
  33. ^ Staff (February 2007), "Legend Luke", Guitar Buyer 34 (6): 43–48 
  34. ^ a b Blacket, Matt (June 2000), "Pickups: Steve Lukather", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 34 (6): 47–48 
  35. ^ Mettler, Mike (May 2008), "Toto Recall with Steve Lukather", Sound & Vision (Bonner) 73 (4): 6 
  36. ^ "The Pro Series", Music Trades (Paul Majeski) 154 (10): 52, November 2006 
  37. ^ "Music Man", Music Trades (Paul Majeski): 186, July 1998 
  38. ^ a b Molenda, Michael (January 2008), "Gear Roundup: Music Man Ball Family Reserve", Guitar Player (New Bay Media) 42 (1): 150–151 
  39. ^ Reisdal, Lars (in Swedish), Steve Luthaker,,, retrieved 2009-07-10 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address