Music : Jam Band, Jam, Southern Rock
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Widespread Panic New Years Eve 2013
Widespread Panic is a rock band which formed in Athens, Georgia, United States in 1986. The band currently consists of John Bell (vocals, guitar), Jimmy Herirng (guitar), Dave Schools (bass), John “JoJo” Hermann (keyboards), Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz (percussion) and Todd Nance (drums). The band has previously included Michael Houser (guitar) and George McConnell (guitar) and have released 11 albums.
Michael Houser and John Bell (‘JB’) met at the University of Georgia at Athens between 1982 and 1984, and began playing music together around town as a duet. JB played solo shows as well. In the Fall of 1984, David Schools saw JB play a solo show at Abbots in Athens. Dave and JB were introduced by a mutual friend. Shortly thereafter, JB & Mike recruited Dave to play bass with them, and from Mike’s nickname (“Panic”), the band name Widespread Panic was chosen. On February 24, 1985 the band played their first performance as Widespread Panic at the A-Frame house on Weymanda Court in Athens. Mike, JB, & Dave performed around Athens as a trio, occasionally utilizing local drummers. While their shows consisted primarily of cover tunes (by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, and Traffic, among others), their repertoire did include a handful of original songs: Sleepy Monkey (the band’s first original composition), Chilly Water, Space Wrangler, and Coconut (written by JB before joining the band). During this time, the trio also met vocalist Kelly Jo Davis (who is later married to blues guitarist and friend of WP, Tinsley Ellis). Kelly Jo performed frequently with the band throughout 1985 and 1986.
February 6, 1986, Mike recruited high school friend/band mate Todd Nance for a WP gig (an Aid For Africa benefit) at the Mad Hatter Ballroom in Athens, opening for Strawberry Flats (featuring John Keane). This is considered the first “official” Widespread Panic show. Todd evidently had a good time, and accepted their offer to join the band. On February 9, 1985, Mike, Dave, and JB, with Joel Morris on drums and Kelly Jo Davis on backing vocals, recorded Monkey Image (Sleepy Monkey) and Coconut Image (Coconut) at Panoramic Recording Studio in Arnoldsville GA, to be released as their first single. The 45rpm vinyl was released (in a pressing of only 500) shortly thereafter on the band’s Space Baby label.