Steve Lukather: Toto

Why You Should Know Him

It is always a pleasure to find artists that are as versatile in their field as Steve Lukather. He was very well versed in drums, keyboards, and violin before he taught himself to play guitar at age seven, garnering an abundance of inspiration from The Beatles.

Lukather was Toto’s original guitarist as well as lead and backing vocalist and one of its composers. 1982 marked the most successful year for Toto, unleashing their fourth album, Toto IV, that featured the hit songs “Rosanna,” “Africa,” and “I Won’t Hold You Back.” While the album boosted their fame and introduced them to an international audience, it was their hit “Rosanna” that earned them multiple Grammy nominations.

Lukather’s leadership skills became crucial in the year 1992 when bandmate Jeff Porcaro passed away suddenly due to heart failure. The loss had a profound effect on the band and resulted in a string of lead singers temporarily filling the role. But by 1997, Lukather was doing most of the vocal work (and songwriting).

By 2008, Lukather was the only original member of the band still performing, but in June of the same year, he made the decision to leave the band, which caused its official dissolution. The band briefly reunited to support Toto bassist Mike Porcaro (who was battling Lou Gehrig’s disease), at which time they announced a tour schedule in 2014, followed by the release of Toto XIV in 2015.

Through it all, Lukather went on to win three of his five Grammy’s for work in Toto, once as a producer and twice as an artist.

The Gear

Lukather is known for his “intense and melodic” playing style, influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Journalist Jude Gold noted Lukather for his pronounced vibrato and that his “exaggerated wide bends” are very easily recognizable.

At the heart of his equipment are two Bogner-Ecstacy-101B half stacks, and his speakers of choice are Celestion Vintage 30.

When asked about his famous “Rosanna Burst” and how he developed the sound for it, Lukather explained that it mainly came from his ’59 Les Paul Standard Sunburst. He said, “Plug it into a Marshall, crank it up, and boom, done. Very old school.” The famous burst can even be heard on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (that’s Luke on the guitar solo), Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.”

Lukather has held a long-standing relationship with Bob Bradshaw of Custom Audio Electronics, who designed multiple elements of his effects rack. He is also one of the few official endorsers of EMG pickups, even having collaborated on his own signature Lukather SL20 pickup system: a pre-wired pick guard containing two EMG custom SLV single coils and an EMG 85 humbucker.

In 2012 Lukather collaborated with DiMarzio Pickups on a signature set of pickups called “Transition.” Since then, he has been using these pickups in his signature Music Man Luke 3 guitar.

Where Is He Now?

During his time in the band as well as after, Lukather released multiple solo albums including Ever Changing Times in 2008, All’s Well that Ends Well in 2010, Transition in 2013, and Someday/Somehow in 2016.

In 2012, Ringo Starr announced that Lukather would be the guitarist in his All Starr Band for their summer tour. Lukather has been touring with the ensemble ever since, performing hit Toto songs like “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” and “Africa.”

In 2016, Lukather appeared on 5 out of 13 tracks on German composer and guitar player, Christian Tolle’s album, Now & Then.

Lukather will be releasing a tell-all autobiography set for 2018 as well as having plans for a new Sony album and a 2017-2018 tour.

Bonus Video! Check out the promo for 2015's release, Toto XIV. This record is as strong as anything else in the band's historic catalog:

Back to the Top 40 Under-Appreciated Guitarists of the 1980s.

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