Steven Lee Lukather (born October 21, 1957) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger and record producer, best known as the sole continuous founding member of the rock band Toto from its founding in 1976 to its latest hiatus in 2019. A prolific session musician, Lukather has recorded guitar tracks for more than 1,500 albums representing a broad array of artists and genres. He has also contributed to albums and hit singles as a songwriter, arranger and producer. Most notably, Lukather played guitar on Boz Scaggs’ albums Down Two Then Left (1977) and Middle Man (1980), and was a prominent contributor to several studio albums by Michael Jackson, including Thriller (1982). Lukather has released seven solo albums, the latest of which, Transition, was released in January 2013.
In 1976, when Lukather was nineteen years old, he was invited by his high school friends David Paich and the Porcaro brothers Steve and Jeff to join them in forming their band, Toto. He remained a member of the band throughout its entire history, in latter years serving as its manager, musical director, and live emcee. Lukather’s reputation as a guitarist and his association with Paich and the Porcaro brothers, who also became established artists in their own rights, allowed him to secure a steady flow of session work in the 1970s and 1980s. Lukather has been nominated for twelve Grammy Awards, and has won five. While his work with Toto was predominantly based on pop rock music and his solo work ventures into progressive rock and hard rock, many of Lukather’s side-projects are focused on jazz fusion. He held a long-time collaboration with jazz guitarist Larry Carlton that produced a Grammy-winning live album, and he was a member of the jazz fusion band Los Lobotomys, a collaboration of prominent session musicians. Since 2012, Lukather has toured with former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr’s live supergroup, the All-Starr Band.
Influenced by such blues-rock guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, and such jazz fusion players as Al Di Meola and Frank Gambale, Lukather is known for a “melodic and intense” playing style. He is also recognized for his efficiency in the studio, often recording tracks in one take using minimal sound processing. While he once used 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. He also plays Yamaha and Ovation Adamas series acoustic–electric guitars.
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. He has performed on over 1,500 records spanning 36 years. Music journalist Jude Gold noted, “It’s hard to name a guitarist who has had a more prolific and fulfilling career than Steve Lukather.” Lukather credits fellow Toto members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro for getting him exposure in the industry—although he lamented in an April 2011 interview that opportunities for session musicians have curtailed in recent years: “There is no ‘session guy’ thing any more—not like it was. It’s not like the old days when I was doing 25 sessions a week. All the studios are gone. The budgets are gone. The record companies are all gone.” His own output as a session musician has slowed along with the rest of the industry—as of 2009, Lukather stated he was doing only a few sessions a year.
Named by Gibson Guitar Corporation as one of the Top 10 session guitarists of all time, Lukather has performed on many notable tracks, including Earth, Wind & Fire’s Faces album, soloing on the tracks “Back on the Road” and “You Went Away”, two tracks from the Lionel Richie album Can’t Slow Down, and the Richard Marx album Repeat Offender. Lukather and Jeff Porcaro were heavily involved in the recording of virtually all of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In addition to recording guitar tracks, Lukather has also written or produced music for Lionel Richie, Richard Marx, Chicago, Donna Summer, and The Tubes. He won a Grammy award in 1982 for the George Benson song “Turn Your Love Around” (co-written with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin)
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