On this day in 2002, Michael Houser, founder and namesake of Widespread Panic, died at the age of 40. For many, this was the end of an era and one that was difficult to come to terms with. Word spread in the spring of 2002 of his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. But Houser kept playing, 15 shows in all before he passed away on August 10th, 2002, a month after his final show with Widespread Panic.
Houser was not only the lead guitarist for Widespread Panic, he was at the heart of the band, with a signature sound that echoes still through the songs and memories of Panic fans everywhere. Lending his propensity for frequent panic-attacks to the band’s name, Houser collaborated with his bandmates, writing songs together since the mid 1980s, including the lyrics to such songs as “Airplane”, “Gimme”, “Vacation,” “Raise the Roof,” “This Part of Town,” “Ain’t Life Grand,” “You Got Yours” and his final composition released in 2003, “Travelin’ Man.” Moving from playing seated (as he originally learned to play guitar) to standing up before returning to his seat on stage right in 1997, he incorporated his volume pedal into many songs and jams, creating the iconic sound that has yet to be duplicated.
With Houser’s death, Widespread Panic continued to play with the help of John Keane on pedal steel, George McConnell on guitar (2002-2006) and Jimmy Herring who has filled the lead guitar spot since 2006. Still, of all the guitarists in the world, Panic fans would easily give anything to have Houser back, seated and playing. A hiatus in 2004 allowed the band an extended break for the first time since Houser’s death, and while the sound was not the same as it once was, the fans were still there today, supporting the band that carries on Mikey’s musical legacy and nickname.
Houser left behind his wife Barbette, son Waker and daughter Eva. On August 10th, 2012, the 10 year anniversary of his passing, there was held a tribute show, ‘We Miss you Mikey’ at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. Among other pieces of art that were available at the show is the official print seen below. The art direction has been overseen by Houser’s wife Barbette and features Michael’s own doodles. Proceeds from the show benefitted The Michael Houser Fund at Athens Academy.
As a bonus, the show on Friday night will be shot professionally by a five-camera crew and streamed at Couchtour.com Fans who wish to support The Michael Houser Music Fund or who decide to stream the show are encouraged to donate to the Michael Houser Music Fund at the link on Couchtour.com
Fans of course have taken inspiration from Houser over the years and incorporate his likeness and familiar on stage pose into their artwork. Below is a gallery of images that will be updated continually as more Houser art is created. Many of these unique designs include an artistic take on the profile of Houser and his guitar, and as a result, his character, leaving him even more vividly in the minds of his fans.
Enjoy the art on this page and these two performances of songs to remember Mikey.
Gimme 11/13/91, Georgia Theater, Athens, GA
Vacation 2/9/96, Ogden Theater, Denver, CO