Über Widespread Panic
Like many of today's more successful jam bands, Widespread Panic earned their merit badges through arduous touring. Their music mixes brash southern rock tones with loose and lofty jazz touches that seamlessly merge with boogie-heavy blues riffs, creating songs that take you on earthy journeys into realms of joyous dance frenzy. Although their first single, Coconut Image was cut in 1986, the origins of the band go back four years prior to that when singer John Bell met up with six-string sultan Mike Houser while studying in Athens, Georgia. The duo was soon rounded out by bass man Dave Schools, keyboard player JoJo Hermann, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Sunny Ortiz. Their debut album Space Wrangler came out two years later following Coconut Image. Although it was released on a little indie label out of Athens (Landslide Records), the production and performance sounds as rich as anything ever cut by Dire Straits. More relentless touring and a healthy, grass roots buzz got Widespread Panic a much-deserved major label deal on Capricorn Records, who released their self-titled sophomore album in 1991. Although playing on the touring H.O.R.D.E. Festival stage for two years in a row is what really thrust Widespread Panic into the limelight. Eight albums under their belt and Houser was forced to leave the band to battle pancreatic cancer. Sadly, it was a battle he lost, passing away in 2002 at the young age of 40. Guitar player and longtime friend of the band George McConnell moved in to play guitar (at Houser's request). McConnell's mid-tour departure in August '06 made way for hired-axeman extraordinaire, Jimmy Herring to finally find a home with Panic. The band continue to tour, record and grow musically, sonically following in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band while nurturing their own unique signature sound that reflects a strong love of elemental music, authentic rootsy rock and innovative arrangements.