Guitarist Michael Houser was the longtime leader of the Athens, GA-based jam band Widespread Panic before sadly passing away in 2002 after a bout with cancer.
Born in Boone, NC, on January 6, 1962, Houser formed the nucleus of Widespread Panic while attending the University of Georgia in Athens during the early '80s (the group's name was based on Houser's nickname at the time, "Panic"). By 1988, the group was signed to the Capricorn label -- issuing a total of seven albums for the label over an 11-year span (including such early band classics as 1988's Space Wrangler and 1991's self-titled sophomore effort). Although the group never reached the same commercial heights as some of their peers (Phish, Blues Traveler, etc.), the band amassed a large cult following on the strength of its live shows. It was Houser's diverse guitar playing that many seemed to focus on (resulting in accolades from such talented fellow guitarists as Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes), as he incorporated bits of jazz, blues, and rock into his own style. After the band split from Capricorn in the late '90s, Houser appeared on further Widespread Panic releases (issued either on their own or via the Sanctuary label), and also contributed to a side-project with his fellow Panic bandmates and Vic Chesnutt, called Brute. But around the same time, Houser was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Although he valiantly tried to carry on with his music career, Houser was forced to come off the road during the summer of 2002, and he died shortly thereafter in his home on August 12, 2002, at the age of 40. The Michael Houser Music Fund was created shortly thereafter by his friends and family, with donations benefiting the Athens Academy (a school which encourages children to pursue their interest in music). His only solo album, Door Harp, was released the next month as a lasting tribute to the inspiring passion of his work. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi