Social Distortion’s Mike Ness reveals he has tonsil cancer

Mike Ness in a white shirt, navy vest and navy tie
Mike Ness in 2019.
(Timothy Norris / WireImage via Getty Images)

Mike Ness, singer and guitarist for the legendary SoCal punk group Social Distortion, said Wednesday he has Stage 1 tonsil cancer.

“We think that life is going to go according to our plan, but it has a way of saying ‘I don’t think so!’” the 61-year-old Ness wrote on Instagram, announcing his diagnosis and treatment.

“I was feeling well enough to continue with recording in the studio up until the very day before surgery,” he continued. “The recovery from surgery is a day-by-day process and in three weeks we start radiation and that should be the last therapy I need. The team of doctors are certain that once finished with this course, I will be able to start the healing and recovery process. We expect a full recovery enabling me to live a long and productive life.”


In light of the news, Social Distortion announced it will postpone a planned summer tour and its work on an upcoming album, the band’s eighth. “The band and I were so inspired and excited to lay down these tracks, which by the way sound f— AWESOME!” Ness wrote. “It breaks my heart to postpone the Summer Tour, and this album release, but time is required to heal. I can’t thank our loyal fans enough who have been waiting so patiently for this. While it will take a little longer — I promise you that it will be delivered and it will exceed your expectations.”

Representatives for the band and its label, Epitaph, did not immediately return requests for further comment.

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Ness also noted in his post, “I want you all to know that this has opened my eyes to a whole new struggle. I know it’s one that many of you or your loved ones have personally endured, and my heart goes out to you — because I now know what it’s like from this heavy experience.”

Social Distortion is a staple of Orange County and Southern California rock, beloved for singles like “Ball and Chain,” “Ring of Fire” and “Story of My Life,” which blended high-octane punk with nods to classic country and rockabilly. Though the band’s last album, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes,” came out in 2011, it remained a consistent force on the road; last year, the band resumed a long-standing series of shows at the House of Blues Anaheim.

After Ness revealed his diagnosis, punk peers from Bad Religion, Against Me! and other bands offered him well wishes for his recovery.