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. His first credited role was in the 1967 classic as Williams in To Sir With Love. At age nineteen, while living in London, Michael was cast to play an androgynous rock star in a nude musical called The Dirtiest Show In Town, produced by Robert Stigwood. Stigwood also produced Jesus Christ Superstar along with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Lloyd Webber saw Michael’s performance and came backstage to tell Michael that he should form a rock band. Michael quickly wrote a song titled “Will You Finance My Rock and Roll Band”. That song, plus the demos Lloyd Webber asked Michael to sing of songs from Jesus Christ Superstar got him a “yes". Silverhead was born in 1972 and signed to Purple Records, giving Michael the conduit to three chord glory that he is known for today. After several years together, a brief marriage to Wendy Hamilton occurred in 1974.
After two albums, Silverhead disbanded and Michael moved to Los Angeles. Upon arrival, he formed the band, Detective, and the band was signed to Swan Song Records by Jimmy Page. At this time, his marriage to Wendy Hamilton ended, and he met and married “Miss Pamela”, Pamela Des Barres, author of “I’m With The Band” in 1977. The two were amicably divorced in 1991 and have a son, Nicholas Dean Des Barres. That era saw Michael appear on US television in the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati with Detective playing the punk rock group Scum of the Earth. While Michael’s character, “Dog” was featured throughout the episode, the band itself played at the end of the show. The members of Detective went their separate ways in 1979. Michael’s next band, Chequered Past ran from 1982 to 1985 The band opened for Duran Duran a few times on their 1984 tour, and it was this association that led to Michael being chosen to become the touring vocalist for The Power Station when Robert Palmer withdrew. After only a ten day rehearsal, Michael performed with the band in Philadelphia at Live Aid before two billion people. A highlight of the set was Michael’s song “Obsession, cowritten with Holly Knight in 1983. At the time, it had been released by the LA based new wave group Animotion and was a number one hit in twenty-seven countries.
Never one to rest on his laurels, after The Power Station tour ended, Michael embarked on the role most familiar to his fans – that of “Murdoc” in the ABC hit series MacGyver. Playing a master assassin who seemingly cannot be killed, he always succeeded in taking out his targets…until MacGyver. Murdoc appeared in nine episodes of MacGyver, starting in 1985 throughout the series run and was widely considered MacGyver’s arch nemesis. At the same time, Michael was appearing in other top shows and movies as well, such as Melrose Place, Seinfeld, WKRP in Miami Vice, Alf, The Rockford Files, Roseanne, Rockford Files Northern Exposure, Ghoulies, Nightflyers, Pink Cadillac, Diary of a Sex Addict and The Man from Elysian Fields. Michael’s performances on MacGyver were so memorable that, in 2019, he was brought back to play the role of Nicholas Helman on the CBS reboot of MacGyver– the mentor of Murdoc in his earlier years, who now has a deadly score to settle with him.
It wouldn’t take long for the love of three chords to beckon Michael back to music, releasing Carnaby Street in 2012 and The Key to the Universe in 2015. His next releases were on Steven Van Zandt’s label, Wicked Cool Records. 2018 saw the release of two raucous singles “Living in the USA” (#2 in Little Steven’s Underground Garage for 2018) and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”. On the winter solstice in 2018 Michael and his long-term partner, Britta Hayertz-Des Barres married. Michael also formed the LA rock band, The Mistakes, whose entire ethos can be summed up as “we play very loud and make a lot of mistakes”. Michael and The Mistakes released a double A side single on Wicked Cool on July 5, 2019: “Crackle and Hiss/ Stop! In The Name of Love”.
Michael has been broadcasting on Sirius XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel 21 for the past six years, with his show playing from 5AM-8AM, and 9PM-12AM PT Monday through Friday. Heard by more than six million listeners, Michael’s encyclopedic musical knowledge and emphasis on positivity draw people to him, not only for the music, but for the positive vibes. He continues to record on the Wicked Cool label and recently released a cover of the Sex Pistols “Anarchy In The UK”, produced and arranged by Steven Van Zandt.
More will be revealed in Michael’s forthcoming documentary “Who Do You Want Me To Be”, directed by Josh Elvis Weinstein, streaming July 10, 2020 everywhere.