Despite their association with the sub-genre, Deep Purple has never been purely a heavy metal band, though many later heavy metal bands cite their influence. The group has frequently changed styles and lineups over the years, but has always included virtuoso players in its ranks and placed a high priority on musicianship. Some incarnations of Deep Purple have brought aspects of jazz to a rock context due to their frequent use of their songs as vehicles for extended and sophisticated solos.
In May 1965, a band called Episode Six became popular on the British music scene and became particularly popular in the mid-sixties. It featured Ian Gillan on vocals, Graham Dimmock on guitar, Roger Glover on bass, Tony Lander on guitar, Sheila Dimmock on keyboards, and Harvey Shields on the drums.
Two years later, a band called The Flowerpot Men and their Garden was formed, formerly known as The Ivy League. It was concentrated on a trio of singers. The new name was clearly derived from the children's show The Flowerpot Men, with the obvious psychedelic-era puns on flower power and "pot" (cannabis). The band's most popular song was "Let's Go To San Francisco." Some listeners assumed that the song was a parody of Scott McKenzie's "If You're Going to San Francisco," but the band have denied this. It featured Tony Burrows, Neil Landon, Robin Shaw, and Pete Nelson on vocals, Ged Stone on guitar, Nick Simper on bass, Jon Lord on organ, and Carol Little on drums.
A year later, these bands formed the nucleus of the early and later lineups of Deep Purple, providing Nick Simper and Jon Lord as founding members and Ian Gillan and Roger Glover as later constants.
They were formed in 1968 as Roundabout, consisting of Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Jon Lord on hammond organ, Chris Curtis on vocals, Dave Curtis on bass and Bobby Woodman on drums. After only a month of rehearsals, Blackmore and Lord would be the only two remaining members, bringing in vocalist Rod Evans, bassist Nick Simper and drummer Ian Paice. In April, the band would change its name to Deep Purple.
After three albums and extensive touring in the States, it was the inclusion of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover that created the essential Deep Purple line-up Mark II, that has reunited twice. This version of the group released the highly influential and successful albums Deep Purple in Rock and Machine Head (the latter featuring their most famous song, "Smoke on the Water"), and the live album Made in Japan.
The Mark II line up continued up to the album Who Do We Think We Are? (1973) at which point both Gillan and Glover left. They were replaced by an unknown singer named David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes on bass and sometime vocals. This new line-up continued seamlesly into 1974 with the album Burn quickly followed by Stormbringer both did well and from the outside all looked good however Coverdale and Blackmore were at loggerheads quite early as the vocalist along with Hughes pushed the established Purple sound in a new direction with elements of funk and soul creeping in.
In 1975 Blackmore decided to quit leaving the band to fill one of the biggest vacancies in rock. The gap was filled by the prodigiously talented Tommy Bolin who had established himself as a vivid imaginative guitarist with acts such as Zephyr, James Gang and Billy Cobham. On the face of it Bolin was just what the doctor ordered however the album Come Taste the Band, for all its quality, proved unpopular with die-hard fans and didn't attract any new ones. Bolin himself turned out not to be ready for the job of filling Blackmore's shoes suffering hostility from some crowds while turning in peformances of highly variable quality. He had a drug habit - heroin, which made matters all the worse. After a particularly traumatic tour to promote "Come Taste..." the band split with a whimper in April 1976.
At this point Deep Purple was history as various band members retired to lick their wounds. Tommy Bolin would be dead by the end of the year.
Subsequently all the members of the Mk2 and Mk3 line ups would go on to have considerable success in a number of bands including Rainbow_(band), Whitesnake and Ian Gillan while there were a number of promoter-led attempts to get the band to reform especially with the revival of the hard rock market in the late 70s/early 80s.
Then in April 1984 it happened, it was announced on BBC radio's The Friday Rock Show that the "classic" Mk 2 line-up was reforming and were recording new material. The band signed a deal with Polydor in Europe and Mercury in North America. The album "Perfect Strangers" was released in October 1984 and the tour followed starting in New Zealand and winding its way across the world into Europe by the following summer. The UK homecoming proved mixed as they elected to play just a single festival show (with main support from The Scorpions). The weather was famously bad but 80,000 turned up anyway.
The line-up recorded and toured "The House of Blue Light" in 1987 though to lower sales, a live album "Nobody's Perfect" (1988) was culled from US shows on this tour. While in the UK a new version of Hush was released to mark 20 years of the band. 1989 saw the departure (again!) of Ian Gillan as relations with Blackmore soured. His replacement was American Joe Lynn Turner who had sung in Blackmore's Rainbow. This line up recorded just one album "Slaves and Masters" (1991) and toured it.
With the tour done Turner was forced to go as Jon Lord and Ian Paice realised they needed Gillan back in the fold. Blackmore relented and the band recorded "The Battle Rages On," which included material written by Turner. During the support tour, Blackmore walked out, never to return and leaving the band in a fix. Joe Satriani was drafted in, so the live dates (in Japan) could be completed. Satriani was asked to join full time, but declined. The band auditioned guitarists, and Steve Morse of Dixie Dregs impressed them enough to get the gig. The new line-up continued until 2002 when Jon Lord (who, along with Ian Paice, was the only member to be in all incarnations of the band) announced he was to leave Deep Purple and pursue his solo career. Rock keyboard veteran Don Airey (Rainbow/Whitesnake, etc.), who had helped Purple out when Lord was injured in 2001, joined the band.