|Sitting near the top of the pyramid in the American jam band scene, Widespread Panic (aka WSP) has become a successful touring act with a loyal fan base over a career that has spanned more than 25 years. Though the group formed in Athens at the University of Georgia, they’ve come to develop a reach that extends across the entire country and internationally. The band’s sound includes elements of rock, pop, funk and jazz into a cohesive package that attracts fans from all across the musical spectrum, positioning its style alongside the likes of Umphrey’s McGee, Moe. and the String Cheese Incident. Take in this wonder of jam band music live by purchasing your Widespread Panic tickets today!
John Bell and Michael Houser are the founding members of Widespread Panic. Living in the same dormitory at the University of Georgia, the two were both guitarists and began collaborating and experimenting with one another’s musical styles. They were writing songs together as early as 1981, and began to build a group around themselves over time. Throughout the mid-1980s bassist Dave Schools and drummer Todd Nance would be added to the lineup, rounding out the band. Adopting the name Widespread Panic, the group quickly rose to popularity among the collegiate music scene in Georgia and the southwest. By playing enough shows at local universities and bars, they were able to land a recording contract with Landslide. While signed to this label, the group continued to tour and released its debut album, Space Wrangler in 1987, which attracted national attention.
Widespread Panic’s fame continued to grow through extensive touring, expanding farther and farther across the country. Ultimately, they would leave Landslide Records, opting instead to take a major label contract with Capricorn. Since that signing, the group has gone on to release a plethora of live albums and 10 studio recordings, all of which have found success with its fan base. Among them are Dirty Side Down, Widespread Panic, Earth to America, Don’t Tell the Band, Everyday, Ain’t Life Grand, Bombs & Butterflies, Free Somehow and Ball. While its albums have sold well by most measures, the true indication of its success has been its popularity as a touring act. For more than 20 years, despite undergoing numerous lineup changes and struggles, the band continues to sell out arenas on a regular basis. They even hold the record for most sold out shows at the popular Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, having packed it to capacity on 42 separate occasions.
After nearly 20 years of touring with the group, guitarist Michael Houser became ill with pancreatic cancer in 2002. Though he continued to play for some time after that, the illness forced him to leave the group in July of that year, a little more than a month prior to his death. His role was filled by George McConnell for several years, and then from 2007 onward by guitarist Jimmy Herring.