Michael Houser (January 6, 1962 - August 10, 2002) was the lead guitarist of the band Widespread Panic.
Houser was born in Boone, North Carolina, graduated from Hixson High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and became a founding member of Widespread Panic in 1982 while attending the University of Georgia with John Bell. Panic's large lineup released Houser from rhythm guitar duties, and allowed him to play lead melodies that lingered behind the dominant vocal melodies. Houser's nickname of "Panic" (earned due to his once-frequent panic attacks) became the basis for the band's name. Due to circulation problems and his extensive use of the Ernie Ball volume pedal and the crybaby wah pedal, his pedal leg began to go numb. During an acoustic tour known as the "Sit and Ski" tour, mostly in Colorado, Houser remembered how much more comfortable and accurate he was sitting down while playing. Houser returned playing all shows seated in 1997. Mike taught himself to play the guitar while sitting on the arm of a couch. At the first Widespread Panic show, he played an acoustic guitar while sitting on a small metal chair with his right foot on the volume pedal. Many consider him a master of the volume pedal for his skilled incorporation of its use in conjunction with the other members of Panic.
Houser was considered to be the "silent genius" of Widespread Panic and wrote many of the band's most well known songs, such as Porch Song, Airplane, Ain't Life Grand, and Vacation. Houser played with many influential guitarists including, Carlos Santana, Bob Weir, Robby Krieger, JJ Cale, and Taj Mahal. If not recognized in life, his contribution to music has soared posthumously. Widespread Panic has now successfully replaced Michael Houser with the likes of Jimmy Herring, but Mikey's unique sound laid the foundation for the focus of the band's music forever.
Houser played a discontinued guitar called a Fender Telecaster Deluxe Plus. This guitar is a Telecaster body with Strat 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" 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 the 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 Tele. On most Teles, 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.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2002, he died later that year 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.