Many were upset to see the Dixie Dregs guitarist in the spot that was for so long occupied by the band's legendary co-founder Ritchie Blackmore, despite the fact that Blackmore left the group of his own volition a year earlier in a move front man Ian Gillian later said "saved" the band.
Morse says in those days, some fans showed up at Deep Purple shows specifically to harass him.
On a recent episode of the Ernie Ball: Striking A Chord podcast, Morse recalled one incident where a fan whipped a bottle at him — he ducked and the projectile hit co-founding keyboardist Jon Lord in the head. It was awful but even that wasn't the worst incident.
"South America. In Chile, [a man] was spitting at me," Morse said. "Every time I would come up front to do a solo, and my eyes were closed involuntarily...because I'm into the music. I don't have any poses or any kind of idea what I look like...I was just playing and during the last song, he spit into my mouth."
Morse still isn't sure whether the way he looks onstage played into the fans' vitriol or if it was solely the fact that he wasn't Blackmore (Joe Satriani filled in for Blackmore a year earlier, so Morse didn't understand what all the hate was about).
"Anyway, this [spit] lands in my mouth suddenly," Morse continued. "If there was a movie soundtrack, you'd hear the needle being scratched across the record. ...I finally made eye contact with the guy; he was pointing to himself all proudly, 'Yeah, it was me!'"
Violated and enraged, when the song was over, Morse launched himself into the audience in an attempt to fight the spitter. He didn't make it to the man's neck like he wanted, but it created a pretty memorable scene for anyone who was watching.
"From the audience, it looked like the guitarist did a stage dive into the audience and they were clapping and applauding," he laughed. "The guitarist appeared to have outstretched hands pointed at this guy's neck. Well, the crowd and the security guys sort of floated me back, prevented me from making contact. And the next thing I knew, I was thrown back onstage and the whole place erupts in applause, like, 'This guy is awesome! He loves us!' ...They didn't realize I had a moment of contemplating murder."