Musicians’ Memories of Mikey Houser
Count MButu played percussion with Aquarium Rescue Unit. He appears on Panics most recent live album, Live in the Classic City, recorded on April 1, 2000 in the bands hometown of Athens, GA. He has also jammed with the band several times since the mid 90s:
During the HORDE tour, I got a chance to know him and hang out and listen to their music. I really liked his approach to music. To me, music is like having a conversation. Playing with Michael was always easy. When Id work with him, wed sit down in the dressing room and talk about the show and then wed just go on the stage and do it. I call it to conversate and that’s something that he was really good at; communicating with other musicians. He was really special.
Saxophonist Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has joined Panic on stage a handful of times since 1998, when DDBB opened Widespreads Halloween show in New Orleans. Lewis also appears the bands 2000 live album, Another Joyous Occasion: He was one of the nicest guys I ever met in my life. He was a beautiful human being, really soft-spoken. It is really a great loss to the music world. We did quite a few gigs with Widespread Panic. Every time we played together, Michael would always be the guy to show us the parts. He wasn’t loud, he just had a nice warm sound. Great musician. We’ve been tripping out ever since we got the news. [Sunday] night we were in Nashville and we played a song for Mike. Everybody in the audience got real quite. We played Big Chief. You know, he was a lively guy. We didn’t want to send him out on a sad note, so we sent him out on a happy note. He was so well-loved.
Galactic recently opened a number of summer dates for Widespread Panic. The individual members of Galactic have joined Panic on several occasions, including Houser’s last performance on July 2, when drummer Stanton Moore sat in on percussion. Galactic issued a collective statement:
‘Michael Houser was a great a man and a great musician – the heart and soul of Widespread Panic. He will be sadly missed by everyone in our band and everyone whose lives he touched.’
Warren Haynes plays guitar for Govt Mule, The Allman Brothers Band and Phil & Friends. He has collaborated with Panic numerous times, dating back to July of 91 in Colorado. Since the passing of Allen Woody, Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools has performed several shows with Govt Mule:
‘Mikey was a wonderful spirit. He was one of those guys who was always in a good mood and was always making other people feel better. Musically, he was always exploring. It was all about trying to find some new territory and innocence really took over his musical style. I remember playing with them in 93 in Virginia and it was Freddy Jones Band, my band, Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic, and that tells you how long ago that was. I got up and played Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ for about 45 minutes and it was great. I remember Dave Schools coming up to me and saying you know, Mike does his thing and his thing is like stream of consciousness. He just plays and you just join in there with him. He was trying to prepare me for the fact that it wasnt going to be like a traditional [jam] it was just going to be like bobbing and weaving and musical conversation. When we got done everyone was smiling and hugging.
‘Aside from being a stylist on the guitar, Mike had a cool songwriting style as well. His overall sound was such a big part of Widespread Panic. His approach to guitar was a little different than the average person and that helped make Widespread what it was. It was the sum of all those people, but he was a really big part of that sound. Again, he was such a wonderful person to be around, that plays into the music as well. Your spirit comes through your music.
‘We’ve lost a lot of great people recently and the older we get, that’s going to happen more and more. We just have to seize the day and take advantage of the opportunities that are here now and live life to the fullest. Not to say, to excess, but just enjoy your life and be thankful for the friends you have and the experiences that you’ve had because you never know. We always learn from these kinds of experiences.’