Their debut LP, Space Wrangler, established a small fanbase and inagurated several years of constant touring before the band signed to Capricorn Records and released their major label debut, Widespread Panic in 1991. After appearing with the H.O.R.D.E. tours for a few years, the band became one of the most popular new jam bands that arose in the mid-1990s.
Playing as many as 250 shows a year, Panic built a large fanbase without MTV or Top 40 Radio. To celebrate the release of their first live album, Light Fuse, Get Away, Widespread Panic offered a free "CD release party" concert in the streets of hometown Athens. An estimated 100,000 fans descended on the town, transforming it into the largest CD release party in history.
In August 2002, founding guitarist Michael Houser lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. George McConnell, a long time friend of the band and Beanland alumnus, joined in Houser's wake. At the end of the summer tour, Panic went back to the studio to record Ball, a testament that, as Houser wished, they would continue as a band.
After 18 years of non-stop touring, only pausing for studio recording and Christmas vacation, the band announced in late 2003 that they would be taking a hiatus in 2004 to spend time with their friends and families.