Michael Houser

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Michael Houser
Michael Houser
Background information
Birth nameMichael Houser
Born(1962-01-06)January 6, 1962
Boone, North Carolina, U.S.
OriginAthens, Georgia, U.S.
DiedAugust 10, 2002(2002-08-10) (aged 40)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
GenresSouthern rock, blues rock, jam rock
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Years active1986–2002
LabelsWidespread Records, Capricorn, Sanctuary, Landslide Records, Supercat Records

Michael Houser (January 6, 1962 – August 10, 2002) was a founding member and lead guitarist of the band Widespread Panic. He appeared on seven studio albums during his 16-year tenure with the band from 1986 till 2002. He is also featured on 4 live albums by Widespread Panic as well as several archive releases, live video concerts and compilations. Two solo albums by Houser were released posthumously.

Musical career[edit]

Michael "Mikey" Houser was born in Boone, North Carolina. He graduated from Hixson High School[1] in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and became a founding member of Widespread Panic in 1986 while attending the University of Georgia with John Bell. Michael's adolescent nickname was "Panic" due to his then frequent panic attacks, and this moniker later became the inspiration for the band's name.

Widespread Panic's large rhythm section, and John Bell's virtuosity as a rhythm guitarist, allowed Michael to pursue an atmospheric lead guitar style that often lingered behind the primary melodies. His predominant use of the volume pedal caused him to spend most of his performance time balanced on one leg, this would eventually lead to circulation problems causing his left leg to become numb. In 1996, during an acoustic tour known as the "Sit and Ski" tour, he was reminded of how much more comfortable and accurate his playing was while he was seated. Subsequently, Houser returned to playing all shows seated in 1997. His playing style used a volume pedal for sonic effect, rather than just for volume control.

Widespread Panic always shared writing credits for all of their songs during the Houser era, but he wrote many of the band's standards, including "Pleas," "Porch Song," "Airplane," "Ain't Life Grand," "The Waker," "Impossible," "Pilgrims," "You Got Yours," "This Part of Town," "Vacation," "Postcard," and others.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2002, he died on August 10 of that year, in Athens, Georgia, at the age of 40.[2] A solo album of his instrumentals entitled Door Harp was released after his death, and was followed by Sandbox in 2006. He is survived by his wife Barbette and two children, Waker and Eva.

Michael Houser onstage in Philadelphia, 2001

Widespread Panic has continued to tour and record after Houser's passing as was his wish.


Houser played a discontinued Fender Telecaster Deluxe Plus. This guitar is a Telecaster body with Stratocaster hardware. Houser purchased his first Telecaster Deluxe Plus second hand in 1991. A guitar lasted him about five years, needing to be replaced "'cause [he] sweated into [them] so much". Fender made two custom-remake replacements with his preferred discontinued Firestorm finish. Houser claimed of the three guitars, "they're as close as modern science can get"[3]

These guitars had Lace Sensor pickups (a Blue at the neck, and a dual Red at the bridge with a mini switch to split them), a Strat-style tremolo behind the metal place surrounding the bridge pickups, and a roller nut. Houser didn’t like to use a whammy bar, preferring to pull up on the tail of the bridge instead. The mini switch is in between the volume and tone pots. This allows for a wider array of tones than a standard Telecaster. On most Telecasters, you can choose neck, bridge, or both pickups simultaneously. With the dual Reds in the bridge being splittable, you can choose neck, bridge dual, bridge single, or combinations of neck and dual bridge as well as neck and single bridge.[4]

Houser's signature sound was also due to his use of Soldano SLO-100 Super Lead Overdrive Heads through a Mesa Boogie Quarterback 2x12 Cabinet. He played Medium Gauge D'Addario Strings.

His effects included the Soldano Surf Box Spring Reverb / Tremolo / Vibrato unit, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, the Ernie Ball 6166 Mono Volume Pedal, a TC Electronic TCF Chorus/Flanger and a Kendrick Model 1000 Tube Reverb.



Solo Studio Albums[edit]

Widespread Panic Studio Albums[edit]

Widespread Panic Compilation Album[edit]

Widespread Panic Live Albums[edit]

Widespread Panic Archive Releases[edit]

Widespread Panic "Porch Songs" Releases[edit]

brute Studio albums[edit]

with John Hermann[edit]

with Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons[edit]

  • 2002 Conscious Contact - Terminus Records [6]

with Bloodkin[edit]

  • 1994 Good Luck Charm – Backdoor Records [7]
  • 1999 Out Of State Plates - Pretty Mean Records

Compilation albums[edit]


  1. ^ "Widespread Panic ready to jam". Timesfreepress.com. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Michael Houser, 40, Guitarist And Singer of Widespread Panic". The New York Times. 13 August 2002. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Interview with Mike Houser". spreadnet.org. Archived from the original on 2008-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  4. ^ "Houser's Tone - My Take on Music".
  5. ^ "Allmusic Discography".
  6. ^ "Allmusic review of Conscious contact". Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Everyday Companion Discography".
  8. ^ "Everyday Companion Discography: Compilations".