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Mike Ness (born Michael James Ness, April 3, 1962, Lynnmarker, Massachusettsmarker) is an Americanmarker guitarist, vocalist, and chief songwriter for the punk rock band Social Distortion, which was formed in 1978. As of Dennis Danell's death in 2000, he is the only remaining original member of the band.


Early life and career with Social Distortion

Meat's Not Green, Ness for PETA's ad
Ness—born in Lynn, Massachusetts and raised in Orange Countymarker, Californiamarker—was kicked out of his father's home in Fullertonmarker at 15, and became involved in the punk rock scene. As a member of The Band Easter with Danny Dean, Chad Carrier and Korky Ollerton, Ness was the original owner of the one-bedroom apartment described in The Adolescents song "Kids of the Black Hole". The punk house was located in Fullerton, Californiamarker in the 1980s.

Ness founded Social Distortion in 1978, releasing the Mainliner/Playpen 7" record on Robbie Field's indie label Posh Boy Records in 1981. Two years later, they released the album Mommy's Little Monster (1983) on 13th Floor Records, which was owned by their manager at the time, Monk Rock.

Ness was featured in the independent film Another State of Mind, which chronicled Social Distortion's first cross-country tour with Youth Brigade. Five years passed before Social Distortion released their next album, 1988's Prison Bound on the heels of Ness' recovery from drug addiction. Ness has been sober since October 5th, 1985. Ness briefly was employed as a house painter and assistant speech therapist in an elementary school in the mid 1980s.

Ness appeared in the band Easter from 1986-1988 and was in the music video for the songs "Slipping Away" and "Lights Out".

In 1989, Social Distortion signed a deal with Epic Records and released three albums with that label: Social Distortion (1990), Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (1992) and White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996).

The band left Epic Records after White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996) and Ness formed Time Bomb Recordings, releasing Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past (a collection of old recordings and singles that were done in the early '80s), a re-issue of the long out of print Mommy's Little Monster, along with a re-issue of their second album Prison Bound, and Live at the Roxy (1998).

Solo career

In 1999, Ness released his first solo album, Cheating at Solitaire. Although some of Social Distortion's songs paid homage to country music artists, Cheating at Solitaire was an unalloyed expression of Ness' country influences. Solitaire included guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Brian Setzer and Josh Freese, as well as members of Royal Crown Revue. Springsteen had touted Social Distortion's Heaven and Hell as his favorite record of the year in a Rolling Stone interview in 1992. Ness continued in this vein, releasing a compilation of country covers entitled Under the Influences that same year. Both albums came out on Time Bomb Recordings. Ness toured extensively in the U.S. in support of these albums, backed partially by the present-day (2006) incarnation of Social Distortion; ex-Plugz and Bob Dylan drummer Charlie Quintana, Brent Harding (upright and electric bass) and Jonny Wickersham (guitar tech). Ness and the band played at Woodstock '99.

Danell's death

Childhood friend, and founding member of Social Distortion, guitarist Dennis Danell died on February 29, 2000 at 38 due to a brain aneurysm. Ness was devastated, stating "I am saddened beyond any possible form of expression. Dennis and I have been friends since boyhood, starting Social Distortion while we were in high school. My deepest regrets to his family." The band went back to work in June 2000 on the album, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll. Many of the songs on this new album are dedicated to Danell, such as "Don't Take Me For Granted", "Reach For The Sky" and "Angel's Wings" (although Ness also stated in an October 2005 concert in New York Citymarker that "Don't Take Me For Granted" is dedicated to Joey Ramone, but in other concerts he dedicated it to Dennis Danell).

Present day

In 2003, Social Distortion recorded a live DVD called Live in Orange County at the House of Blues in Anaheim, Californiamarker which was released in 2004 along with Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, both of which were released on Time Bomb Recordings. These efforts marked the first recordings with a line up consisting of Ness on guitar and vocals, Wickersham replacing Danell on guitar, and Quintana on drums. It also consisted of songs co-written by Ness and Wickersham. This is the first time Ness collaborated with another songwriter since 1990s self-titled album, on which he and then bassist John Maurer wrote "Let it be Me". The band's lineup changed twice after Maurer left the band, just a month before the release of Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll. He was replaced by Operation Ivy/Rancid bassist Matt Freeman until early 2005 when current member, Brent Harding, joined as his replacement.

In February 2006, Ness broke his wrist while skateboarding in Las Vegas. He continued to perform vocals on the tour while TSOL guitarist Ron Emory filled in on guitar until Ness' wrist healed. On January 18, 2007, former Social Distortion bass player Brent Liles died after being hit by a tractor trailer truck. Ness dedicated a performance at the Anaheim House of Blues to him shortly after.

Ness currently lives in Newport Beach, Californiamarker. He is an avid collector of retro ephemera and hot rods, owning a 1954 Chevy and a 1936 Ford. In 2003 he founded Black Kat Kustoms with "long time hot rodder and builder" Don Nemarnik. Black Kat Kustoms is an expression of his love for hot rods, cats, bikes, and counter-culture clothing.

Despite earlier reports that the band would begin recording their next studio album by 2008, Social Distortion took a hiatus from touring and recording, when Ness was on tour with his solo band which composed of two current members of Social Distortion; Brent Harding and Jonny Wickersham. Also touring with Ness were Chris Lawrence on Telecaster and pedal steel guitar and Dave Raven on drums. In a July 2009 interview with Tarakany! Bad TV, Ness stated that Social Distortion is planning to return to the studio in December of that year or the beginning of 2010 to begin recording their new album.

On May 17, 2008 Ness and his band were joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Ponymarker in Asbury Parkmarker, New Jerseymarker for the encore. Songs played were "Misery Loves Company", "Ball and Chain", "If You Leave Before Me" and "I Fought the Law".

On April 16, 2009 Ness joined Springsteen and the E Street Band on stage at the Los Angeles Sports Arenamarker. Songs played included Social Distortion's "Bad Luck" and Springsteen's "The Rising". On May 18, 2009 Mike Ness and Social Distortion played a benefit show at the House Of Blues in Anaheim, California called "Rock to Recovery" and his son joined him on stage and played lead guitar for the song "Ball and Chain".



Although seen using Gibson SGs in his early career, Ness almost exclusively uses 1960s and 1970s Gibson Les Pauls, his primary guitar being a 1971 Goldtop Les Paul with Custom Shop Seymour Duncan P90 pickups in both the neck and bridge position, with an Orange County decal and a Mr. Horsepower (Clay Smith Cams logo) across the back of the body. Other guitars Ness uses include Gibson Jumbo acoustic guitars and often uses a Les Paul with a Rat Fink decal during live shows. Other guitars have Harley Davidson and 13 decals on them.


Ness uses Fender Bassman amps modified by Billy Zoom and Marshall 4x10 slant cabs. He also uses a Boss SD-1 Overdrive pedal.



Social Distortion

Other Appearances


  1. VH1 artist biography, Retrieved June 26, 2007
  2. "A Brief History of Social Distortion", Retrieved on February 20, 2007
  3., Retrieved on June 26, 2007
  4. "Archived News" February 29, 2000. Retrieved on July 30, 2006.
  6. Official Myspace Page Retrieved June 26, 2007
  7. December 3, 2008
  8. "Bio" Retrieved on July 30, 2006.
  9. BlackKatKustoms Interview 26 June, 2007

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