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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 (2 released posthumously), as well as several archive releases, live video concerts and compilations.
Michael "Mikey" Houser was born in Boone, North Carolina, graduated from Hixson High School 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 Ernie Ball 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 Porch Song, Airplane, Ain't Life Grand, The Waker, Impossible, B of D, and Vacation.
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. 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.
Widespread Panic has continued to tour and record after Houser's passing as was his wish.