Michael Des Barres’ arrival in the entertainment world came early – as a Marquis attending boarding school in England, he first started acting at age eight in commercials and school plays. He later moved on to Corona Theatre School in West London where he was cast in the 1967 classic film To Sir With Love, starring Sidney Poitier.
At nineteen, Michael played the androgynous rock star Rose in the nude musical The Dirtiest Show In Town, produced by Robert Stigwood, of Jesus Christ Superstar fame. Andrew Lloyd Webber saw Michael’s performance and went backstage to tell Michael that he should indeed form a real rock band. Michael quickly wrote his first song titled “Will You Finance My Rock and Roll Band” which he performed for Lloyd Webber, that song lead Michael to form Silverhead, his first band, a raucous glam rock experiment. They were immediately signed to Purple Records in 1972. In 1974 Michael married his girlfriend of seven years actress Wendy Hamilton (Professor Emeritus Wendy Wheeler, London Metropolitan University).
After two albums and two world tours Silverhead disbanded and Michael moved to Los Angeles broke and in love with Pamela Miller "Miss Pamela" of the GTO's, he arrived in L.A. with two hundred dollars and a hair dryer, ending his marriage to Wendy Hamilton. Michael married Pamela Des Barres, author of “I’m With The Band” in 1977. Michael and Pamela amicably divorced in 1991 and have one son, Nicholas Dean Des Barres.
In Los Angeles Michael formed the band Detective. Detective was signed to the famed Swan Song Records by Jimmy Page and recorded two albums. That era also saw Michael appear on U.S. television in the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati with Detective playing the punk rock group Scum of the Earth. Michael’s character, Dog was featured throughout the episode and the band itself played at the end of the show. The members of Detective went their separate ways in 1979.
Throughout the years of Silverhead and Detective Michael had been struggling with drugs and alcohol and in 1981 he finally got sober and has remained so. "People didn't understand why I didn't drink or do drugs in the 80's, I was a pariah, but I understood that it was for kids. It was making me psychotic and it was destroying my natural energy. It made me listless and uncreative and I thought that was unacceptable. It was more important to be able to look into my son's eyes and be able to connect with him, than it was to look in the eyes of some lower companion with bad coke." As a result of his sobriety he co-founded R.A.D, Rock Against Drugs, a highly successful P.S.A. that helped enthuse the culture of MTV with an anti-drug status.
In 1982 Michael formed the band Chequered Past, featuring Steve Jones, Clem Burke, Nigel Harrison and Tony Sales. The band opened for Duran Duran in 1984, it was this association that led to Michael being chosen to replace Robert Palmer as lead singer of The Power Station when Robert Palmer withdrew. Michael performed with The Power Station in Philadelphia at Live Aid before two billion people after a ten day rehearsal. A highlight of the touring set was Michael’s song “Obsession, cowritten with Holly Knight in 1983. At the time, it had been released by the L.A. based New Wave group Animotion and was a number one hit in twenty-seven countries.
Michael's love of acting had never subsided and in 1985 he was cast in the role most familiar to his fans – that of “Murdoc” in the ABC hit series MacGyver. Playing a master assassin who seemingly could not be killed, Murdoc had always succeeded in taking out his targets until MacGyver. Murdoc appeared in nine episodes of MacGyver, starting in 1985 and throughout the series run and was widely considered to be MacGyver’s premier arch nemesis. As Michael's acting career in the U.S. was taking off, he was cast in many of the most popular shows of that era, including Melrose Place, Seinfeld, WKRP in Cinncinati, Miami Vice, Alf, Roseanne, The Rockford Files, Northern Exposure, as well as films such as Ghoulies, Nightflyers, Pink Cadillac, Diary of a Sex Addict and The Man from Elysian Fields. 2018 and 2019 saw Michael return to play another master assassin "Nicholas Hellman" on the new CBS reboot of MacGyver, In a nod to his iconic role he returns as the mentor of the new "Murdoc".
In 2014 Michael was asked by Steven Van Zandt to bring his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and soul music to Little Steven’s Underground Garage, SiriusXM, Channel 21 where he can be found DJing every weekday from 5am-8am P/T, and 9pm-12am P/T. Playing classic rock and soul music from The Rolling Stones to The Ramones and The Shangri La's to The Temptations. On Sirius XM Michael is heard by more than six million listeners a day, people are drawn to his show for the outstanding music, as well as Michael's positivity, humor and his inimitable rock and roll intellect and experience. First hand rock and roll history from someone who was there.
Michael is now signed to Steven Van Zandt’s label Wicked Cool Records. 2018 saw the release of two singles Living in the USA, which came in second in Little Steven’s Underground Garage Coolest Song In The World contest, as well as a cover of Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody. Michael also formed a new band, Michael Des Barres and The Mistakes and released a double A side single on Wicked Cool Records in 2019, Crackle and Hiss, with B/W Stop! In The Name of Love. Michael continues to record on Wicked Cool Records and recently released a cover of The Sex Pistols “Anarchy In The UK”, produced and arranged by Steven Van Zandt.
On the winter solstice of 2018 Michael and his long term partner of twelve years Britta Hayertz-Des Barres were married in Los Angeles California.
Michael’s highly lauded documentary “Who Do You Want Me To Be?”, filmed in 2012, directed by Josh Elvis Weinstein, began streaming July 10th, 2020 on Amazon Prime and various other streaming platforms.