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This article is about the band. For other meanings see panic.
Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic performing at the Vegoose Festival.
Background information
Origin Athens, Georgia, USA
Genres Blues-rock, southern rock, jazz fusion
Years active 1986–present
Labels Widespread Records, Capricorn Records, Sanctuary Records, Landslide Records
John Bell
John "JoJo" Hermann
Todd Nance
Domingo S. Ortiz
Dave Schools
Jimmy Herring
Former members
Michael Houser
George McConnell
T Lavitz

Widespread Panic is an American rock band from Athens, Georgia. The current lineup includes guitarist/singer John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz, keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann, and guitarist Jimmy Herring. Michael Houser and George McConnell have also played lead guitar for the band.

Since their inception in Athens, GA in 1986, Widespread Panic has risen to elite status among American jam bands.[1] Following in the steps of other southern rock jam bands such as The Allman Brothers, they have influences from the southern rock, blues-rock, progressive rock, funk and hard rock genres. They are frequently compared to other jam band "road warriors" such as the Grateful Dead and Phish.[2] Widely renowned for their live performances, as of 2008, they hold the record for number of sold out performances at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO at 32 and Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA at 17.


Band history

1981-1995: Early years and rise to national attention

John Bell and Michael Houser met in 1981 in their dorm at the University of Georgia. Bell had been playing guitar as a solo act, and invited his new friend Houser, also a guitarist, to join him.[3] They began living together and collaborating on music in that year, writing still-popular songs such as "Driving Song" and "Chilly Water" together.[4] Bassist Dave Schools met Bell and Houser in 1984 and first played with them on February 24, 1985, at the A-Frame house on Weymanda Court in Athens.[5] On February 6, 1986, Houser called childhood friend and drummer Todd Nance to sit in with Houser, Bell, and Schools for a charity event in Athens; it was their first show as "Widespread Panic".[4] The band was named for Houser's once-frequent panic attacks.[6] Texan percussionist Domingo S. Ortiz ("Sunny") joined the band later that year.[7]

Widespread Panic during Space Wrangler years

The band began touring bars and fraternities on a regular basis. Panic signed with Landslide Records in 1987. In September of the same year, they recorded their first album, Space Wrangler, at John Keane's studio in Athens. Col. Bruce Hampton is rumored to have delivered the first pressing to the band.[4] Songs on the album included “Chilly Water,” “Travelin' Light,” “Space Wrangler,” “Coconut,” “The Take Out,” “Porch Song,” “Stop-Go” and “Driving Song.” [8] After Space Wrangler, touring expanded to include additional northeastern dates, along with Texas, Colorado, the west coast, and internationally to Vancouver, Canada. They played their first show in Colorado in March 1990, opening for Jerry Joseph's band Little Women.[4]

Widespread Panic signed with Capricorn Records in January 1991. Later that year, they released their major label debut, Widespread Panic (aka Mom's Kitchen).[9] . That same year Billy Bob Thornton directed the movie Widespread Panic: Live from the Georgia Theatre which was recorded over two nights in Athens, Georgia.[10]

As the band began to tour more, John Hermann ("JoJo") joined the band as a keyboardist in March 1992 replacing Dixie Dregs keyboardist T. Lavitz who joined the band a year earlier.[2] The band continued to tour throughout the entire US in 1992 joining the famous HORDE tour with Blues Traveler, Phish, and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, among others.[11] They released "Everyday" in March 1993 and "Ain't Life Grand" in September 1994.[9] Panic marked their rise by playing on network television for the first time in November 1994.[4]


Aerial view of crowd at Light Fuse, Get Away CD release party

On April 18, 1998, to celebrate the release of their first live album, Light Fuse, Get Away, Widespread Panic offered a free "CD release party" concert in Athens Georgia. An estimated 80,000-100,000 fans descended on the town, transforming it into one of the largest CD release parties in history.

In 2002, the band received gold certification for their concert DVD Live at Oak Mountain. They also headlined two nights of the first annual Bonnaroo Music Festival which drew a crowd upwards of 70,000 people.

In early 2002, guitarist Michael Houser was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Houser continued to perform with the band into the middle of that year, but following a performance on July 2, 2002 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa he left the tour because of his declining health. Guitarist George McConnell, a former bandmate of JoJo Hermann's in Beanland, took over as lead guitarist for the remainder of the band's scheduled dates. Michael Houser died on August 10, 2002.[12]


In 2003, the band released Ball, the first studio album with McConnell as the guitarist. The album was unique among the band's offerings in that none of the songs included had been performed live by the band prior to the recording. All of the material included was written specifically for the album with the exception of "Time Waits," a song which John Bell had performed in solo appearances, and "Don't Wanna Lose You," a song John Hermann had performed with his side-project Smiling Assassins. Late in 2003, the band announced that they would be taking a hiatus from both recording and performing in 2004. However, 2004 did see the release of three live albums: Night of Joy and Über Cobra--both of which were recorded during a November 2003 three-night run of shows at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC--as well as Jackassolantern, a compilation of cover songs performed during the band's Halloween shows. A fourth live album taken from the Myrtle Beach shows, Live at Myrtle Beach was released in early 2005.

In January 2006, the band recorded their 9th studio album, Earth to America, in Nassau, Bahamas at Compass Point Studios, with Terry Manning producing. It was released June 13, 2006. Their May 9 show at Atlanta's Fox Theatre was simulcast in LIVE HD, via satellite, in select movie theatres nationwide.[13] Over 60,000 fans across the country watched it live in the theatres. This show was also released in DVD format on November 14, 2006, entitled 'Earth to Atlanta'.[14]

On August 2, 2006, nearing the end of the summer tour, the band announced that George McConnell had left the band making July 30, 2006 at the Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO his last show.[15] Producer John Keane and former Houser guitar technician Sam Holt filled in on guitar for the remaining two weeks of the tour.


Widespread Panic performs their 32nd consecutive sold out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater
Members of the Allman Brothers join Widespread Panic on stage in Canandaigua, NY. August 22, 2009

In late 2006, Fayetteville, NC native Jimmy Herring took over the reins of the lead guitarist in the band, kicking off their fall tour with three nights at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York.[16]

Panic’s 7th annual New Year’s shows on December 30 and 31st, 2007 marked their 15th and 16th sellout performance at Philips Arena.[17]

The band released their 10th album, Free Somehow, on February 12, 2008. It, too, was recorded with producer Terry Manning at Compass Point Studios.[18]

Following the release of the new studio album, Widespread Panic began to release vintage concert performances from the Widespread Panic Archives. Carbondale 2000 was released on June 10, 2008 followed by Valdosta 1989 released on February 24, 2009 and Huntsville 1996 released on June 23, 2009. The band will continue to dig into their show archives, which encompasses the past 25 years, and release these shows as multi-track recordings.[19]

June 27, 2008 marked the bands 32nd sold out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. This was more than any other band in the venue's history. Mayor John Hickenlooper proclaimed Friday, June 27 "Widespread Panic Day" in the City and County of Denver.[20] The same year, Widespread Panic was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 20.[21]

The band continued to tour throughout the rest of 2008 and the spring of 2009. In the summer of 2009, Widespread Panic teamed up with fellow southern rockers, The Allman Brothers to do a summer and fall co-headlining tour.[22]

In March 2010, it was announced that Widespread Panic would be releasing a new album entitled 'Dirty Side Down' on May 25 2010. [23]

Live shows


Known for never playing the same show twice, the band has a show-to-show ritual of choosing the night's setlist. At the beginning of each tour Garrie Vereen, a member of the band's road crew, makes a master list of all the songs the band performs and laminates it. Each night before the show he marks the last 3 nights' set lists in different colors. The band can see what has been played recently and then decide what songs to play during the first set. They return back to the list during setbreak to pick songs for the second set, and likewise, return after the second set for any additional sets if playing more than two, or the encore. This process is explained by Vereen in the DVD The Earth Will Swallow You.


Widespread Panic has the policy (similar to that of the Grateful Dead) of allowing any of their fans to tape, trade, and distribute their shows. Fans have been taping and trading shows since before they gained national prominence, allowing them to gain their strong national following.[24]



Side Projects

  • The band recorded two albums with guitarist Vic Chesnutt as brute., in 1996 (Nine High a Pallet) and 2002 (Co-Balt).
  • Todd Nance has recorded and toured as part of the band Barbara Cue releasing three albums.
  • Dave Schools has recorded and toured as part of the band Stockholm Syndrome.
  • John "JoJo" Hermann has toured with JoJo's Mardi Gras Band when Widespread Panic took a year break. He has also toured with The Smiling Assassins.

Charity/Benefit Work

  • Contributed a live June 2000 performance version of Give to Carved in Stone, Vol.1, an album benefiting the Preserve the Rocks Fund, a donation-driven reserve dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
  • Recorded a cover of the NRBQ song Ain't No Horse for the CD "The Q People - A Tribute to NRBQ".[26]
  • Contributed covers of The Doors' medley Peace Frog/Blue Sunday to the album Too Many Years to benefit Clear Path International's work with landmine survivors.
  • Created the annual "Tunes For Tots" event. This concert event raises money to support public school music programs.[27]
  • Recorded a cover of John Lennon's Crippled Inside as a bonus track for the compilation album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.[29]
  • JB, Dave, and Jimmy began to donate several sets of strings to "Wear Your Music" from Relix magazine. Both Relix and Azu Studio have teamed up to produce unique jewelry handcrafted from authentic strings donated by various musicians. Profits from jewellery sales benefit selected charities.[30]
  • The band participated in the Make It Right Foundation New Orleans and purchased a house for the rebuilding of the 9th Ward in New Orleans.[31] Widespread Panic fans joined in and created the “House That Widespread Panic Fans Built” – they continue to raise money to match the band’s contribution and have a house funded by Panic fans.[32]
  • Performed a concert on November 19 to benefit the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York, NY.[33]
  • The band began holding food drives at select shows each tour benefiting local food banks. This was an effort to "pick up the torch" the fan-run organization Panic Fans For Food handed over.[34]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Bledsoe, Wayne (July 11, 2008). "Gas Prices cause Widespread Panic to rethink touring strategy" (newspaper article). Knoxville, TN: Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Hill, Taylor (27 June 2007). "Choice Cuts With John Bell". interview. Jambands. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Tennille, Andy (July/August 2006). "Widespread Panic". American Songwriter. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  5. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (12 August 2002). "Widespread Panic Co-Founder Dies Of Cancer". Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  6. ^ "Michael Houser Biography". 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  7. ^ Patris, Chris (12 August 2002). "Widespread Panic Guitarist Succumbs to Cancer". High Times. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  8. ^ "Widespread Panic Revisits 'Space Wrangler'". Relix Magazine. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  9. ^ a b "Widespread Panic Discography". Discography. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  10. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton Filmography". Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  11. ^ Mettler, Mike (13 August 1993). "Blues Traveler, Phish, Widespread Panic & Col. Bruce Hampton haven't merely risen from the Dead". article (Guitar Player). 
  12. ^ Widespread's Houser Dead at Forty
  13. ^ May 9, 2006, simulcast in theaters.
  14. ^ November 14, 2006, DVD release.
  15. ^ George McConnell, lead guitarist with the rock band Widespread Panic, has moved on to further adventures
  16. ^ Widespread Panic is happy to announce that Jimmy Herring will be joining the band as lead guitarist
  17. ^ Panic's 2007 New Years Shows
  18. ^
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ "New Music From Widespread Panic". idiomag. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  24. ^ Tomcho, Sandy (20 July 2007). "Widespread Panic plays Bethel Woods". Bethel Times Herald-Record. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ [4]
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Panic to perform Bill Graham Benefit Concert tonight in New York!.
  34. ^ Info on Summer Food Bank Donations.

External links

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