Born in 1933 in Houston, Texas, Michael White was raised in California and took up the violin when he was nine years old. He first came to public attention when he played with the John Handy Quintet at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1965. He has a formidable technique, regularly including passages of double-stopping in his solos. He has been able to incorporate classical and eastern musics into his techniques. In the late '60s, he moved in a new direction, joining jazz rock group Fourth Way. In the early '70s he returned to avant-garde jazz, working with artists such as tenor sax players Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson, and pianist McCoy Tyner, as well as leading his own bands.