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Michael Philip Des Barres (born 24 January 1948), the 26th Marquis Des Barres,[1][2] is an English actor and rock singer. He is known for playing the recurring role of Murdoc on the television show MacGyver and for replacing Robert Palmer in the band Power Station, fronting the band at the 1985 Live Aid concert.[3]

Michael Des Barres
Michael Des Barres at the Chiller Theatre Expo 2017.jpg
Michael Des Barres at the Chiller Theatre Expo in 2017
Born (1948-01-24) 24 January 1948 (age 71)
OccupationActor and rock singer
Years active1960–present
Spouse(s)Pamela Des Barres (1977–1991; divorced; 1 child)
Wendy Hamilton (19??–1974; divorced)

Early lifeEdit

The only child of Marquis Philip and Marquise Irene Des Barres, Michael Philip Des Barres was born and brought up in Hove, Sussex.[4] He attended Repton School, a boarding school in Derbyshire, and went on to attend the Corona Academy drama school in London and appeared in several plays.[3]



Des Barres formed his first teenage band, the Orange Illusion, with Nicholas Young, Darryl Read, and Kit Williams, whilst they were all attending Corona Academy Stage School studying to be actors. The lineup, despite being broken up by the school's agent Hazel Malone, all went on to do greater things individually. Des Barres then formed Silverhead in England in 1972.[3] They recorded two albums, and toured the US, Europe, and Japan before disbanding in 1974.

After moving to Los Angeles, he formed the band Detective in 1975. They recorded two albums that were released on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records label, before breaking up in 1978.

A solo album, I'm Only Human, followed in 1980, with a solo tour of the US and UK. The album was recorded on Dreamland Records and produced by Mike Chapman (known for producing records by The Sweet, Blondie, Suzi Quatro, and The Knack). His musicians at this time were the session band Zoo Drive featuring John Goodsall (guitars), Paul Delph (keyboards), Doug Lunn (bass), and Ric Parnell (drums). On the recording and in significant gigs Nigel Harrison (of Blondie) replaced Doug Lunn on bass.

He was part of the band Chequered Past from 1982 to 1985, which included Steve Jones from [The] Sex Pistols, Clem Burke and Nigel Harrison from Blondie, and Tony Sales of Todd Rundgren (Runt) and Tin Machine fame.[3]

In 1983, he wrote and recorded the song "Obsession" together with Holly Knight, which later became a No. 6 Billboard Top 40 hit when covered by Animotion in 1985.

Des Barres met the members of Duran Duran when Chequered Past opened for a few shows during their 1984 tour. In 1985, when Robert Palmer withdrew from the Duran Duran side project Power Station just before their American summer tour, Des Barres was chosen to take his place as lead vocalist.[3] He performed live with them for several months before they disbanded, including a set broadcast to millions at the 1985 Live Aid charity concert in Philadelphia. Des Barres' friendship with actor Don Johnson got Power Station a guest appearance on Johnson's TV show Miami Vice. He wrote one song with the band, "We Fight For Love" which appears on the soundtrack to the film Commando.

He released a second solo album called Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1986, which featured contributions by former bandmates Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) and Andy Taylor (Duran Duran).

Although focusing more on his acting career in the following years, Des Barres continued to write music and perform live with various bands in the Los Angeles area. In 1996 - 1997, he played in Vince Lightning and the Spectaculars, which included Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom. From 1998 - 2000, he had a band called The Usual Susspects with Steve Jones and Mick Rossi.

In 2001, Des Barres formed Down Boy together with Paul McCartney's guitarist Brian Ray. In 2006 - 2007, he fronted a 10-piece soul band called Michael Des Barres and Free Love Foundation.

In 2011, he formed The Michael Des Barres Band, which included Jebin Bruni, David Goodstein, Paul Ill, and Eric Schermerhorn; the band released an album entitled Carnaby Street in June 2012.

On 5 November 2013 The Michael Des Barres Band released a live album, Hot n Sticky Live, which was recorded at the Viper Room in Los Angeles in November 2012. The album is available as high quality mp3 downloads.[3]

On 7 April 2015 Des Barres released a solo album, The Key to the Universe. Produced by Bob Rose at The Forum Music Village in Rome, the album reunites Des Barres with Nigel Harrison (former bassist of Blondie and Silverhead) on bass and guitar, in addition to Clive Deamer (Portishead, Robert Plant) on drums, and Dani Robinson on guitar.[5]


Des Barres has appeared in over 100 different TV shows and almost 30 movies in his career. He first started acting at 8 years old as 'The Nux Bar Kid' on posters all over England. He appeared (uncredited) in the 1966 film starring Tony Curtis, Drop Dead Darling. His first credited film role was as a supporting cast member in the classic 1967 film To Sir, with Love, playing an East End pupil who always wears dark sunglasses indoors and out,[3] followed by a few other minor roles before he decided to pursue a career in music instead. He later concentrated his energies on acting again and was cast in Ghoulies (1985) as cult leader Malcolm Graves,[6] and Nightflyers (1987) as a charismatic empath. He worked opposite Clint Eastwood in 1989's Pink Cadillac. His other film roles have included Midnight Cabaret (1990), Under Siege (1992), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), A Simple Twist of Fate (1994), and Sugar Town (1999). He also appeared in the 2004 film Catch That Kid and had a brief part in David Lynch's classic 2001 film Mulholland Drive.[7]

On television, besides the role of Murdoc in MacGyver, Des Barres was also a lead cast member of The New WKRP in Cincinnati during the 1991-92 season, as part of a husband-and-wife morning team. He had previously appeared on the original WKRP in Cincinnati as the lead singer of a punk band, Scum of the Earth. During this same time, he played a gay man (Leon's boyfriend) in two episodes of Roseanne. He also played one of Darlene's baby's doctors on one of the final episodes of the series. Some of his dozens of television appearances include Seinfeld, Renegade, ALF, Ellen, Nip/Tuck, Just Shoot Me!, Hart To Hart, My Sister Sam, Lois & Clark (which reunited him with another MacGyver recurring-character alumna, Teri Hatcher - the two had even appeared together in two MacGyver episodes), JAG, Melrose Place, Nash Bridges, Northern Exposure, Rockford Files, Sledge Hammer!, Sliders, St. Elsewhere, 21 Jump Street,[3] The Pretender, Dead Like Me, Frasier, Hawaii, Bones, and NCIS (in the Season 10 episode "Phoenix").

He played an eccentric record producer in Four Kings. He has also done voice work for several animated television series.

On 23 October 2013 Michael joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the world premiere of 200 Motels: The Suites, by Frank Zappa, in which he appeared as Rance, the narrator.[3]

On the episode "Murdoc + Handcuffs" of MacGyver (2016), broadcast on 2 February 2018, he plays Nicholas Helman, who mentored Murdoc and wants him dead.


Currently, Des Barres hosts "The Michael Des Barres Program" every weekday morning on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (SiriusXM Channel 21).

Personal lifeEdit

A heavy alcohol and drug abuser during the 1970s,[8] Des Barres has been sober since June 1981. In the mid-1980s he was one of the founding members of Rock Against Drugs.[9] He later did volunteer addiction counseling and worked with homeless teens. Des Barres has also organised and hosted the annual Don't Knock the Rock Film Festival, which first took place in 2003.[10]


Solo albumsEdit

  • I'm Only Human (1980)
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me (1986)
  • The Key to the Universe (2015)

With SilverheadEdit

  • Silverhead (1972)
  • 16 and Savaged (1973)
  • Live at the Rainbow (1975)

With DetectiveEdit

  • Detective (1977)
  • It Takes One to Know One (1977)
  • Live from the Atlantic Studios (1978)

With Chequered PastEdit

  • Chequered Past (1984)

With The Michael Des Barres BandEdit

  • Carnaby Street (2012)
  • Hot n Sticky Live (2013)



Year Title Role Notes ref
1967 To Sir, with Love Williams
1971 I, Monster Boy in Alley Released in the U.S. in 1973 [11]
1985 Ghoulies Malcolm Graves American horror-comedy film [11]
1989 Pink Cadillac Alex American action-comedy film [11]
1992 Waxwork II: Lost in Time George Horror-comedy film directed and written by Anthony Hickox and a sequel to the 1988 film Waxwork. [11]
1997 Poison Ivy: The New Seduction Ivan Greer Erotic thriller, drama and sequel to Poison Ivy (1992) and Poison Ivy II: Lily (1995). [11]
1999 The Hungry Bachelors Club Mr. Spinner Directed by Gregory Ruzzin, based on the novel of the same name by Lynn Scott Myers. The film was retitled Food for the Heart for its DVD release. [11]
Sugar Town Nick Independent film written and directed by Allison Anders and Kurt Voss about a web of characters coping with ambition, fame, and the aftermath of fame. The film was named after the 1966 hit single Sugar Town by Nancy Sinatra. [11]
2001 Mulholland Drive Billy Stylized onscreen as Mulholland Dr. American neo-noir and mystery film written and directed by David Lynch. [11]
The Man from Elysian Fields Nigel Halsey [11]
2002 Ocean Park Gower [11]
2004 Catch That Kid Brisbane Adventure and comedy film directed by Bart Freundlich. [11]
2012 California Solo Wendell Independent feature film [11]


Year Title Role Notes ref
1985 Miami Vice Himself w/ The Power Station Episode: "Whatever Works" (S 2: Ep 2) [11]
1987–91 MacGyver Murdoc Recurring [11]
1988 Miami Vice Shane DuBois Episode: "Baseballs of Death" (S 4: Ep 14) [11]
1991–93 The New WKRP in Cincinnati Jack Allen Recurring [11]
1993 Seinfeld Restaurateur Episode: "The Smelly Car" (S 4: Ep 21) [12]
1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Lenny Stoke Episode: "Wall of Sound" (S 2:Ep 2) [11]
1996–97 Melrose Place Arthur Field Recurring [11]
1997 JAG King Josif Episode: Washington Holiday (S 2:Ep 9) [13]
2002 My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star Eric Darnell [11][14][15]
2002 Gilmore Girls Claude Clemenceau Episode: "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving" (S 3:Ep 9) [13]
2002 Charmed Dark Priest Episode: "We're Off to See the Wizard" (S 4:Ep 19)
2004 Dead Like Me Gideon Jeffries Episode: "In Escrow" (S 2:Ep 6) [16]
2004 JAG Howie Black Episode: "Trojan Horse" (S 9:Ep 22) [13]
2005 Alias Miles Devereaux Episode: "The Index" (S 4:Ep 10) [11]
2010 Bones Simon Graham Episode: "The Rocker in the Rinse Cycle" (S 5:E 19)
2012 The Finder Icepick Episode: "Voodoo Undo" (S 5:E 19)
2012 NCIS Del Finney Episode: "Phoenix" (S 10:Ep 3) [11]
2014 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Marty ‘The Cat’ Kirch Episode: "Long Road Home" (S 14:Ep 17) [11]
2018 MacGyver (2016 TV series) Nicholas Helman Episode: "Murdoc + Handcuffs" (S 2:Ep 15) [11]


  1. ^ "About Michael Des Barres". Michael Des Barres. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  2. ^ "In Conversation With: Michael Des Barres". 100 Per Cent Rock Magazine. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Michael Des Barres Interview". Guitarhoo!. 8 December 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Ghoulies / Ghoulies 2 Blu-ray Details
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Rocker Michael Des Barres, once part of the problem, now fighting drug abuse". Google News archive. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Rock stars deliver anti-drug messages". New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Don't Knock The Rock 2012". Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Michael Des Barres : Credit Listings". Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  12. ^ "The Smelly Car". Wikipedia. 2 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "Michael Des Barres". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Tuned In: British 'Office' crosses the pond, but will it work?". 22 January 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Wanna-Be Comedy: Almost Infamous". NY Daily News. 14 March 2002. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  16. ^ "Dead Like Me, In Escrow". Retrieved 30 August 2017.

External linksEdit