Longevity is among the hallmarks of Widespread Panic, still going strong where many of the jam-oriented rock groups it came up with in the 1980s and 1990s have gone under.

Longevity is among the hallmarks of Widespread Panic, still going strong where many of the jam-oriented rock groups it came up with in the 1980s and 1990s have gone under.

A good thing, too: Only a band with lots of hard-won miles on it could weather three major changes to its lead guitar stead in the span of five years.

Then again, there’s nothing quite ‘‘normal’’ about Panic, least of all that it’s a rock band that’s still considered a cult act, despite having sold out venues as large as Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks Amphitheater. (It returns to the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston on Wednesday night.) It’s also a band that didn’t pack up its tent following the loss of original lead guitarist Michael Houser, felled by pancreatic cancer in August 2002.

Houser co-founded Panic with singer/guitarist John Bell at the University of Georgia at Athens in 1983, with bassist Dave Schools and drummer Todd Nance coming on board soon after and leading up to the first official Panic gig in 1986.

The band moved steadily from regional favorite to a national following (including its first New England gigs in 1989), picking up percussionist Domingo ‘‘Sunny’’ Ortiz (who’s fond of sporting a Big Papi jersey at Boston shows) and keyboardist John ‘‘JoJo’’ Hermann along the way. The venues got larger, the crowds more fervent, and the song catalog vast.

Following Houser’s death, the band recruited former Beanland guitarist George McConnell, whose style divided Panic fans between those who welcomed his idiosyncrasies and those who felt McConnell never quite got up to speed with full-throttle Panic. In August 2006, McConnell parted ways with the band, and Panic gave the nod to Jimmy Herring, who made his debut as lead guitarist last fall at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Part of what makes Jimmy Herring such a compelling addition to the lineup is that he’s not only a longtime associate of Panic, but he’s also neither a rookie nor a stranger to denizens of Jam Nation.

A native of Fayetteville, N.C., the 45-year-old Herring was a prodigious guitar talent early on, and he gigged as part of Col. Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit at the same time Panic was coming up, meshing with Blues Traveler, the Dave Matthews Band, the Allman Brothers Band, Phish, and other peer groups involved with the HORDE festival tours of the early 1990s.

‘‘They were really different from any other band, and they had a lot of tunes. They wrote a lot,’’ Herring said in a recent phone interview from an Austin, Texas, tour stop. ‘‘I really liked the way they did things in their organization, and they shared everything equally - a band in every sense of the word. Plus, they had an incredible improvisational spirit; songs they wrote could be played differently every night, with a lot of room for personal interpretation, and that’s really hard to do while also having a strong song.’’

After ARU ran its course in the mid-1990s, Herring played with Project Z and Jazz is Dead (which included Dixie Dregs and onetime Panic keyboardist T. Lavitz), and also filled in as a guest guitarist with the Allmans both before and after the band fired guitarist Dickey Betts in 2000.

Herring then joined up with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh for what was widely considered the greatest of the Phil Lesh & Friends lineups - Lesh, Herring, Warren Haynes, Rob Barraco, and John Molo - and stuck around for several Lesh rosters thereafter, culminating in tours with both Lesh and the reconstituted Dead in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

After playing his last Lesh gigs in summer 2005, Herring had a number of projects in the hopper, including a band with Barraco called the Dragonflys, the occasional ARU reunion, and work with Hampton associate and Codetalkers leader Bobby Lee Rodgers, when he got the call from Panic.

‘‘I thought maybe JB had heard about (the ARU reunion) and wanted all of us to come play with Panic like we did in the old days,’’ Herring recalls with a chuckle. ‘‘When it wasn’t that, I was pretty shocked. My first thought was ‘wow,’ because at the time I didn’t have a 100 percent full-time commitment going on like I did the first time they called me.’’

Before McConnell became the agreed-upon replacement in 2002, Panic had asked Herring to take over Houser’s stead. But Herring was otherwise occupied.

‘‘I was completely committed to playing gigs with Phil, and we had two weeks off between rehearsals and the start of a 40-city tour, and if I had split on Phil I would have left him in a bad position,’’ Herring says. ‘‘I was shocked when they called back. There were feelings of weirdness; I was happy, but sad for other people, too. But in the end, I’ve known many of these guys for 17 years and they needed my help, so it was ‘well, of course I’ll do it!’’’

‘‘It’s not playing with guys I’ve only read about, I’m playing with guys that are my peers,’’ he adds. ‘‘That alone takes a little bit of stress away. I’m playing with my old friends.’’

The band has been airing more new material following its last studio album, 2006’s ‘‘Earth to America.’’ It’s also been back down for sessions at famed Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, in preparation for its next opus.

Panic also recently issued ‘‘Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999,’’ a one-disc compilation that cherry-picks some of the band’s most well-known songs from its formative decade. While live shows are the best place to start, it’s as good an introduction to a band like Panic as a single disc of principally studio tracks could possibly be.

Of note: If you’re headed to the Panic show, and even if you’re not, we’d advise considering a nightcap at the Bulfinch Yacht Club at 234 Friend St. in Boston. One of the city’s up-and-coming music venues, the Bulfinch’s 11:30 p.m.-starting bill that night is listed as a ‘‘Widespread Panic Aftershow Party’’ starring the acerbically witty rocker Jerry Joseph.

Joseph’s association with Panic - as a guest and also as a side project collaborator with members of the band - goes back almost two decades, and Panic has introduced a number of his songs into its repertoire over the years. His presence in the area suggests a raft of sit-in possibilities both during and after Panic’s headlining show.

Widespread Panic
With Girl Talk. At Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave., Boston, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18. Tickets $30 available at the box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. Doors at 6 p.m.