Personalities | Steve Lukather | Toto to Cool Licks | Guitar Heroes

Although his band of high-school buddies achieved international fame under the name Toto, Steve Lukather (b. 1957), session guitarist extraordinaire, has had to struggle under the same suspicion under which his bandmates have toiled: that the whole may add up to less than the sum of its parts.

For Toto, despite achieving worldwide fame with singles like ‘Rosanna’ and ‘Africa’ in the early 1980s, was first and foremost a band of extraordinarily talented and seasoned studio players who emerged in the Los Angeles recording scene of the 1970s.

Lukather, a native of LA, first played drums and keyboards, but switched to guitar when he discovered The Beatles as a boy. In high school, he met drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist Steve Porcaro, as well as keyboardist/singer David Paich, son of veteran film and TV arranger/conductor Marty Paich. All were becoming active in the burgeoning LA studio scene, and the Porcaro brothers were crucial to Lukather’s obtaining session work and burnishing his reputation as a multi-style studio guitarist. By the time he was asked to join the Porcaros, Paich, bassist David Hungate and singer Bobby Kimball in Toto, Lukather had already recorded and toured with Boz Scaggs. In the coming years, he would play on hundreds of hit records, including releases by Leo Sayer, Boz Scaggs, Alice Cooper, Barbra Streisand, The Pointer Sisters, Cher and Cheap Trick – in the 1970s alone.

Toto garnered a lot of buzz with their debut album, and exploded two years later with Toto IV (1982), but after that, the band settled into a long run with a mostly international cult following. With a breakout performance on Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982), Lukather became a superstar guitarist and took on a larger role with Toto, co-writing most of the group’s songs and taking over lead vocals. He launched a solo career in the late 1980s and won a Grammy for his collaboration with Larry Carlton, No Substitutions (2001). Toto continued to tour internationally, but the band couldn’t regain its early popularity in the US. In 2008, Lukather left Toto and the band dissolved, although they later reformed to tour again in support of bassist Mike Porcaro after he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lukather continues to work on solo projects – his most recent release being 2013’s Transition – and perform on other artists’ recordings. Lukather plays his own MusicMan signature model ‘Luke’, which incorporates his signature EMG pickup system.

Essential Recordings

Toto: Toto

Toto: Toto IV

Michael Jackson: Thriller

with Larry Carlton: No Substitutions

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