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Mike Cross, guitarist and co-founder of alt-rock band Sponge, dies at 57

Mike Cross performs live with Loudhouse in an undated photo
(Image credit: mikecrossfromdetroit/Instagram)

Mike Cross, co-founder and former guitarist for alt-rockers Sponge, has died at the age of 57, the band announced (opens in new tab) on social media last night (March 9).

"It is with [a] heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Mike Cross," wrote (opens in new tab) the band on their Facebook page. "One of the musical architects and founding member[s] of Sponge – his influence and talent will be missed." No cause of death was given.

With his bassist brother, Tim, Mike Cross played guitar in a Detroit-based band called Loudhouse with drummer Vinnie Dombroski, and singer Kenny Mugwump. The group released an album, For Crying Out Loud, on Virgin Records in 1991, and the band's cover of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water was featured on the soundtrack to the action film, Point Break

Loudhouse would go on to add a second guitarist, Joey Mazzola, in 1992, before disbanding – without further success – later that same year. Encouraged, however, by the first steps of Loudhouse, the Cross brothers, Mazzola and Dombroski (who switched from drumming to singing duties) formed a new band called Sponge with drummer Jimmy Paluzzi. 

Sporting a tough-edged, dual-guitar sound, Sponge quickly garnered the interest of major labels eager to capitalize on the grunge gold rush, and were signed by Columbia.

Their 1994 debut album, Rotting Piñata, was certified (opens in new tab) Gold and spawned two Top 100 hits – Plowed and Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain). With their psychedelic jangle-pop influences (especially evident on Molly), Sponge had plenty of radio-friendly palatability to match their grunge-y image, and became a mid-90s rock radio favorite. 

The band's 1996 sophomore effort, Wax Ecstatic, was also a minor hit, and produced their third Top 100 single, Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina). Columbia, however, was dissatisfied with the album's performance, and dropped the band shortly after its release.

After the band's third full-length, 1999's New Pop Sunday, failed to chart, both Mike and Tim Cross left the group and Sponge briefly dissolved. Neither Cross brother took part in the band's subsequent reunion, or re-joined the band – who remain together to this day – at any point.

For the next two decades, Mike Cross mostly kept a low profile, but released an EP, No Nostalgia, with his band MC Roads on Golden Robot Records last fall. 

"We are devastated to hear of the passing of our rock 'n' roll brother and GRR family member – Mike Cross," Golden Robot wrote (opens in new tab) on its Facebook page. "What a gracious, wonderful human who had the voice of a husky angel and played guitar like the best of them. 

"All of our global team wish music love to his brother Tim, bandmates, friends and family. A sad day for rock 'n' roll but a great day for that ever expanding rock band in heaven – who we are sure Mike is part of now."

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.