His enormous heart and love of making music helped shape our DNA
The Musician’s Friend team was deeply saddened to learn of Steve Read’s passing in the early hours of November 15. A remarkable musician and friend, Steve embodied our culture with an infectious enthusiasm and a heart that beat to the rhythms of rock and blues.
Preaching the Gospel of Clapton. Obsessing over the latest guitar or MIDI miracle. His mischievous grin beaming in every direction. Committed family man, musician and connection builder—that was Steve. He’s barely gone and we miss him madly.
Steve joined Musician’s Friend in its early days when we operated out of a nondescript Medford, Oregon warehouse, selling a handful of instruments, strings and accessories via mail order. In those pre-Internet days, he did it all: packing, receiving, talking to customers, and above all, infusing a passion for music into everything and everyone he touched.
After getting his feet wet in every aspect of the business, Steve, with his gregarious, easygoing personality naturally gravitated into his ultimate role as Manager of Artist Relations. It was with this gig that he helped dozens of Musician’s Friend customers form once-in-a-lifetime experiences, interacting with some of the biggest names in music. Steve organized the drawings for sweepstakes that put our customers face-to-face backstage with acts such as Santana and Fleetwood Mac. Steve would accompany the winners on these all-expenses-paid trips to concerts around the country and took delight in helping them shape cherished memories.
Along the way, Steve had some pretty unforgettable experiences of his own. Setting up Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp scholarships for sweeps winners gave Steve the chance to play with some heavy hitters. Remembering one of those events, Steve wrote, “One of my favorite nights was playing with Elliot Easton of The Cars, Bruce Kulick of Kiss, Simon Kirke of Bad Company, Gary Burr of Ringo's All-Starr Band and Jack Blades and Kelly Keaggy of Night Ranger at a private event held at a rehearsal studio in Hollywood. The audience kept calling out tunes, and we just kept playing them.”
Another collective memory shared by the Musician’s Friend team is the day Steve performed Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” on the front lawn at headquarters. Backed by longtime Clapton bassist, Nathan East, together with Randy Pratt on drums and Al Dinardi playing second guitar, Steve’s stirring vocal and guitar work will remain indelibly etched in our minds.
Steve performs his hero’s “Tears in Heaven” with Clapton’s bassist, Nathan East providing support.
He and his wife of 33 years, Ellie Read, were fixtures in our musical community performing as the duo Pyramid. Steve also played in other area bands including Milk and Honey, Palomino, Country Dreams, and Buckshot and regularly sat in with many more.
It was no accident that Steve got hooked up with Musician’s Friend. A gear head to the core, he got into building multitrack MIDI sequencing when that was still a bleeding-edge pursuit. After unsuccessfully looking for a simpatico drummer to join Pyramid, Steve hit on the then-revolutionary idea of performing live with pre-recorded drum tracks. Remembering the process in an interview, Steve said, “We hired a guy with an electronic kit who was on break from his main band, and over the course of about three weeks, recorded him playing over 90 tunes. It was all recorded live, during gigs, so there was no clock. Instead of quantizing the performance to death, we just fixed the glitches, added count-ins, and ran with it.”
Visiting Steve's tribute page on Facebook offers a sense of the regard in which he was held. A sampling of the comments posted there:
One of those rare people that just beam!
Humble, gracious, loving, giving, funny, driven, and lover of life.
I knew that anytime Steve and I played together, there would be no lack of groove.
…you're one of those special people who connects to others on a heart-to-heart level.
I first met Steve answering an ad for a guitar player—we hit it right off, but my transportation was non-existent and my world was very small due to that—so Steve bought me a car—not new or fancy but a good car and my world changed ...
Until next time, Brother. If a man's life is to be measured by the friends he's made and the lives he's touched you will forever be one of the greatest men I've ever had the privilege to call my Friend.
I'll always treasure that he helped me achieve a goal to sing with a live band.
Steve was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, 2013 and despite a series of other health setbacks, maintained a stoic and positive outlook. His wife Ellie reports that thanks to hemp oil therapy, “He died cancer-free and also hepatitis-free. He spent the last years of his life helping others. It was all done legally under Oregon law. He cured himself. He died of infections in his blood, which he could no longer fight off.”
He is survived by his wife Ellie, son Jesse, and grandson Dari, who Steve helped raise.
A memorial event is still in the planning stage and once a date and location have been set, it will be posted on Steve’s Facebook tribute page.