Steve Howe was born in London on April 8, 1947. When he began playing guitar he had quite a few influences, chief among them was Chet Atkins. When you consider that two of the others were Django Reinhardt and the duo of Les Paul & Mary Ford, it is really hard to believe that he would become one of the most influential guitarists in progressive rock. In fact, his first band was a Chuck Berry - infused band called the Syndicats. He began playing with that group in 1964. They released several singles before Howe left the group. His next band was the In Crowd, which eventually became Tomorrow.
Under the newer name they released two singles in 1967 and an self-titled album the following year. When the group broke up in 1968, Howe went on to a band called Bodast. Bodast built up quite a following and recorded an album. However, when their label went bankrupt, the still unreleased album was scrapped and the band eventually became a casualty breaking up fairly shortly thereafter. The album would not see release until 1981. After Bodast, Howe began trying to find his next band. Auditions with such groups as the Nice and Jethro Tull were unfruitful. As fate would have it, his next band would come looking for him.
By 1970, Howe had caught the ear of several members of Yes. By this time, they had released two albums, but were not happy with their present guitarist, Peter Banks. So, Howe became the new guitarist in Yes. The first album he recorded with them was 1970's The Yes Album. It would garner them respectable commercial and critical attention, but when the follow-up Fragile came out in 1972 with the hit single "Roundabout," the group and Howe were fully propelled into the limelight. Howe stayed with the band all the way to their break up in 1980.
He also released two solo albums during that time, 1976's Beginnings and The Steve Howe Album in 1979. After Yes went their separate ways, Howe, along with Yes-mate Geoff Downes, formed Asia. The group, also containing John Wetton (King Crimson, UK) and Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) was something of a progressive rock supergroup. Howe remained with the band through their first two albums, Asia and Alpha, released in 1982 and 1983, respectively. At that time, he left the group, although he has worked with them as a guest from time to time since. His next band was GTR, formed in 1986. This group also was sort of a supergroup, featuring both Howe and Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis). That group did not stay together long, only releasing one studio album. In a way, it seemed fate as the forces were beginning to come together to bring Howe back into the Yes camp.
By this time, several changes had happened with Yes. The group had reunited without Howe and done two very commercial-leaning albums, one of them (90125) being the group's biggest seller. Also by then, Jon Anderson had once again left the group, citing a desire to do less commercial material. So, with Yes veterans Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman, they formed a new band.
Originally they wanted to call the band Yes, but bassist Chris Squire owned the rights to that name, so they went with the simplicity of their four last names and Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe was formed. Under that moniker, they released one self-titled album in 1989. Then, in a rather unusual turn of events, while they were working on their follow-up album, the group was melded into the other lineup of Yes, creating an eight-piece version of the band. The group released the Union album in 1991 and went out on a full-scale world tour to rave reviews. The lineup would not last, though, and Howe was once again a "former Yes member" shortly after the tour.
He pursued a solo career for the next several years, releasing six albums before rejoining Yes in 1995. He is still with the group. Seemingly not wanting to take time off, even during all the years of tenures in various bands, he has found time to release a large number solo albums and worked on projects by artists as diverse as Lou Reed, Queen, Billy Currie, Dixie Dregs, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Fish, and Explorer's Club.