Steve Morse is to temporarily step away from live duties with Deep Purple. The band returned to action last month with a trio of performances in Florida – including a show on the annual Rock Legends Cruise – but Morse is now to go on hiatus to look after his wife, who is ill.
In a statement, Morse says: "Hello, everybody. I've just done a few gigs with the band, after years (!?) of not playing live. It's a bittersweet, wonderful time to get together.
"However, my dear wife Janine is currently battling cancer. At this point, there are so many possible complications and unknowns, that whatever time we have left in our lives, I simply must be there with her.
"I am not leaving the band – I hope that after she gets a clean bill of health, I can re-join the tour. However, I am not seeing any likely situation which would allow me to do overseas touring in the immediate future. I continue to be privileged to be a part of the Purple family tree, and also to get to feel the amazing support of so many loyal fans and the rest of the band.
"There's a certified world class guitarist ready to take over for the live shows whom everybody will surely be happy to hear.
"I appreciate all your sincere prayers for Janine and thank you all."
Morse's stand-in will be Irish guitarist Simon McBride, who got his start with Sweet Savage when they reformed in 1994 (filling in for Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, who left the band in 1983 to join Dio). He's also performed with Andrew Strong, the Don Airey band, and in classic rock supergroup Snakecharmer alongside former Whitesnake and Black Sabbath bassist Neil Murray and Ozzy/Sabbath keyboardist Adam Wakeman.
McBride also accompanied Ian Gillan on an "Ian Gillan sings Deep Purple" run of dates through eastern Europe and Russia in November 2016.
"I'm deeply honoured to be asked to stand-in for Steve and play for such an iconic rock band like Deep Purple," says McBride. "They are amazing musicians and amazing people… I'm very excited to get out and play all those iconic songs and rock the stage with such legends. My thoughts are with Steve and Janine and their family."
Deep Purple have also issued a statement, saying, "All of our thoughts are with Janine during her fight against cancer and also with Steve while he supports his wife at a very difficult time. We hope that Steve will be able to join us back on the road later this year."
Deep Purple's next scheduled live date will be at the Menorah Arena in Tel Aviv on May 22, ahead of a lengthy European tour. Simon McBride's solo album The Fighter arrives via earMusic on May 27. A single from the album, High Stakes, was released last month.