Posted by: kubiakl | July 19, 2009

Houser’s Tone

Michael Houser was the “Panic” in Widespread Panic for most of their career, from beginning until he passed away in 2002 due to pancreatic cancer.  I have always been fascinated by his guitar style – he played lead, but in a way that never took over the song.  And his tone was incredible.  Smooth and round, but bold.

His preferred guitar was a discontinued model, the Fender Telecaster Deluxe Plus.  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 tremelo behind the metal plate 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.

You can see the mini switch 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.

His amps were Soldano 100 watt SLO Super Lead heads into Mesa Boogie 2×12 cabinets.  Soldanos are all tube high gain units similar to Mesa Boogie, but with a very smooth overdrive.  They’re a bit more expensive than most similar amps, but have a great reputation for high quality and customer service.  For more about Soldano, check out their website:

Soldano Custom Amplification

Mikey’s pedals included a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, an Ernie Ball volume pedal, and a TC Electronics chorus/flanger.  His use of the volume pedal was impressive, many considered him a master of it.  In his rack he used a Kendrick tube reverb as well as a Soldano Surf Box spring reverb/tremelo/vibrato.

Videos of the Houser-era Panic days were hard to find on Youtube (well, at least good quality ones were), so I’ll spare you those.  If you are new to WP, I recommend starting with the live album “Light Fuse, Get Away” or the studio albums “Space Wrangler” and “‘Til The Medicine Takes”.

And if you come across a Fender Tele Deluxe Plus, let me know what they are like.


  1. Good quality Houser videos are hard to find on Youtube? Dude theres tons! I have a Tele Plus. Same thing as but it has no tremelo peice. Has the Lace Sensors blue and dually red. Great guitar. Picked up a used SLO for a decent price as well. Trying to hone in on his tone.

  2. My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1969 at the age of 40.
    So, many heartfelt condolences to his family.
    What a beautiful legacy he’s left behind for all to share.
    Such beautiful music…………..
    Rest in peace Michael Houser

  3. oh how i sorely miss mikey, to this very day. he was one of the greatest guitar players of our time, grossly underrated, imo. also, only my opinion, but wsp just isn’t the same band without houser. i have been lucky enough to have seen wsp with mikey almost 50 times in the past. i’ve been most fortunate to not only meet him but also hang with him before a show in germany years ago. he was one of the most down-to-earth and friendly folks i’ve ever met. since he passed, i’ve seen wsp a handfull of times and just can’t get over just how much mikey’s absense has changed the sound of the band. i always tell the ‘newer’ fans, who have never had the oppurtunity to see/hear mikey on his throne, to do themselves a (kind) favor and check out the houser days music/vids. don’t get me wrong, i still love wsp but without mikey’s lingering leads, there’s just something missing. go houser!

  4. It’s no coincidence that I find myself reading this interesting blog about the technical aspects that ‘the man’ contributed for all of those years on lead with WSP. With Youtube shuffling in the background, I’m getting a great example of what that amazing, unhurried but all embracing sound was all about with the UNO 10/28/00 show. Opener Disco>Pleas>Blackout.

  5. We miss you terribly, Mikey. Jimmy is an amazing technician and I love him, but Panic ain’t Panic without your lingering lead.

  6. I play the 91 plus deluxe. I knew Mikey and picked his brain regularly about his gear and setup. The only problem with this particular guitar is its weight. Mine weighs at about 11 lbs if I remember right. We played a double show once and it tore my shoulder and upper back up terrible. There is a reason Mike sat down. Between the weight and the constant volume peddle action, there was not much option.

    • Hey Mark, being that you knew mikey, did you ever discuss the scales he played?? I read an article with him and he said he had a physical pattern he would follow on the guitar and he could even show it to people..

      • Did you ever figure out this pattern? Seems like the holy grail.

  7. I came across one of these guitars. Now I know why he played sitting.

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