Dolly Parton isn’t whistling Dixie. The country icon’s “Dixie Stampede,” a Civil War-themed attraction in Tennessee and Missouri, is now called “Dolly Parton’s Stampede” after Parton made the change in January.
“Dixie,” the traditional theme of the Confederate States of America, has come under fire.
But don’t expect the Dixie Dregs to change their name. The primarily instrumental band, which combines Southern rock, prog-metal and jazz, won’t alter its nearly half-century-old name.
“Things are going a bit too far,” guitarist Steve Morse says while calling from his Ocala, Fla., home. “We have all sides covered. It’s just a name. We used to play ‘Dixie’ in a minor key with three-part harmonies. It was a spoof. People got the wrong idea.”
It’s a little complicated with the Dixie Dregs. Morse, who was born in Ohio but raised in Michigan, is the only member to live in the South.
“That’s kind of funny” Morse says. “But we’re the Dixie Dregs. That’s who we’ve been since we formed. We were talking the other day about how we’re still the same as we were as when we started. That dynamic hasn’t changed.”
Morse, 63, a guitar virtuoso, has always been the featured attraction. The Grammy-nominated band formed out of the ashes of a high school band called Dixie Grit. Bassist Andy West, drummer Rod Morgenstein, keyboardist Steve Davidowski and violinist Allen Sloan were part of the 1975 lineup. The quintet just reunited in February to launch a tour.
“We really enjoy each other’s company,” Morse says. “You add that to the fact that we play a style of music that didn’t exist when we started, and we’re still doing it. We were told this kind of a band would never be possible, but there is a group of music fans that really love instrumental music. We’re giving them what they want.”
During the early days, the band would play free shows to gauge interest. “People came out and were into it,” Morse says. “That validated what we were doing right from the start.”
The band played together for eight years, and Morse went on to play with Deep Purple and Kansas.
Forty-eight years later, the Dixie Dregs are still playing whatever they want. The group will bring the “Dawn of the Dregs” tour to Durham’s Carolina Theater March 6, the first time the original lineup has performed together in 40 years.
“We’re dusting off a few songs on this tour that we never played live,” Morse says. “We’re challenging ourselves. We’ll hit with a lot of high energy stuff.”
Now that the Dregs are back together, Morse expects the act to stay intact for awhile. “We’re just having a blast,” Morse says. “This is about the most fun I’ve ever had. I love playing with these guys as much as I’ve played with anyone.”
“For me, the Dixie Dregs are right up with any group I’ve been a part of,” Morse says. “The songs are there, and I couldn’t have more fun than I’m having now. I truly believe that the fun extends from our band to the audience.”