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Steve Howe (guitarist)
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Steve Howe (guitarist)

Stephen James Howe (b. April 8, 1947) is a popular musician and has been considered one of the world's leading guitarists since the early 1970s. Howe was born in Holloway, North London, England and is best known for his work with the progressive rock group Yes. He has also been a member of Asia and GTR, and has released 13 solo albums.

Gibson Guitar Corporation, the maker of Howe's first electric guitar (which he was still playing forty years later), said that Howe "elevated rock guitar into an art form" and "helped define a new style of music known as art rock." In a tribute to Howe and his personal favorite ES-175 guitar, Gibson produced a Steve Howe signature model in 2002.

Table of contents
1 Early Influences
2 Changing Yes Lineup
3 Best Overall Guitarist
4 Other Bands
5 Solo Work
6 External Link

Early Influences

Howe was the youngest of four children who grew up in a musical household, listening to brass band music on 78 rpm records. He received his first guitar, an f-hole acoustic, as a Christmas present from his parents at age 12. He taught himself to play by listening to music by artists like Bill Haley & His Comets;, Les Paul, and Tennessee Ernie Ford, and eventually began playing in local halls. He credited Chet Atkins with his greatest inspiration, "the idea that one guitarist could play any kind of guitar style." (Brian Vance. November 15, 2000. Steve Howe: The man with the guitar mind. http://www.gibson.com/whatsnew/pressrelease/2000/nov15a.html )

He bought his first electric guitar, a jazz-style Gibson, in 1964: "No one was playing archtop, hollowbody guitars in a rock band. People laughed at me and thought I was really snooty. To me, it was an object of art, it wasn't just a guitar," Howe said about his ES-175. He made his first recording, "Maybellene," in 1964 with a band called the Syndicats. In 1968, he recorded albums with both Tomorrow (initially called The In Crowd) and Bodast.

Howe declined offers from both The Nice and Jethro Tull while waiting for a record deal to materialize for Bodast, but the group's prospective label went bankrupt. He was then approached by the members of Yes as a possible replacement for Peter Banks, who had appeared on the group's first two albums.

Changing Yes Lineup

In the spring of 1970, Howe joined Yes and played his first show with the group at Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 21, 1970. Howe was pictured with the group on the jacket of their second album, Time and a Word, which was released in August, but Banks had actually played on the recording.

Beginning with The Yes Album, Howe's guitars (electric, acoustic, and steel) combined with Jon Anderson's vocals, Chris Squire's bass, and Rick Wakeman's keyboards as an essential part of the "wall of sound" created by the band's classic lineup. His classical and jazz influences helped produce a playing style unique among rock musicians, while the group took a position as the definitive progressive rock band.

In early 1980, however, Anderson and Wakeman left the group and were replaced a few weeks later by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. The departure of Rick Wakeman was particularly difficult for Howe who believed the two produced their best work while they were together. He continued with the band until Yes officially split up on April 18, 1981. Over the next few years, Howe contributed to several albums produced by Horn for other artists (including Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Secret Wish).

In 1989, while legal battles were being fought over ownership of the name "Yes," Jon Anderson asked Howe, Wakeman, and Bill Bruford if they could record some tracks together. They released an album and completed a tour under the name Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Eventually, ABWH joined with the four members of Yes (Tony Kaye, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire and Alan White) to record the album, Union.

Since Keys to Ascension in 1996, Howe has again appeared on all the albums recorded by Yes.

Best Overall Guitarist

Despite the troubles Yes was experiencing at the time, Howe was voted "Best Overall Guitarist" in Guitar Player magazine five years in a row (1977 - 1981) and was inducted into Guitar Player's "Gallery of Greats" in 1981.

Other Bands

In 1982, Howe, King Crimson's John Wetton, Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Geoff Downes of The Buggles formed the band, Asia, but after two popular albums and a few hit singles, Howe left the band over differences with Wetton.

In 1986, Howe formed GTR with ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. Their only album went gold, but Hackett's departure to pursue solo interests spelled the end for the group.

Solo Work

In October, 1975, Howe released Beginnings, his first solo album. It featured Yes band members Alan White, Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz and reached number 63 in the US and number 22 in the UK charts.

His second solo work, The Steve Howe Album, was released in November, 1979. Many consider it his best solo recording, with some of his most original compositions. Howe played alone on half of the tracks, while others again feature White, Bruford and Moraz, along with vocalist Claire Hamill.

Since 1991, Howe has released a solo recording almost every year, ranging from acoustic to progressive to a Bob Dylan tribute. His son Dylan played the drums on his 1998 all-instrumental solo release, Quantum Guitar, while Elements, released in 2003, featured both Dylan and Howe's younger son Virgil (keyboards and vocals), as part of a project called Remedy.

Solo Discography

Howe's personal web site, Guitar Rondo, was launched in May, 1996. The guitarist takes an active role in the site by conducting auctions for gold albums and selected guitars, and answering questions from fans.

On May 24, 1996, Howe received an honorary Ph.D in Music from Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York.

External Link