By: Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
In this month’s blog, I would like to pay tribute to M.L. Procise III, who passed away earlier this month. ML was an icon in our industry, and he was a mentor and a friend.
When I was first getting my feet wet in audio and reading the trade magazines from cover to cover, one name I had repeatedly read was M.L. Procise III. M.L. was one of the top engineers, mixing the biggest and most high-profile tours at the time, and I gleaned every bit of wisdom that he shared with the printed page.
Several years later I was on my first tour with Spin Doctors. I had only been mixing them for a few months when we played Deep Ellum Live in Dallas, TX. We were doing an ‘evening with’ and just before the band finished their first set, a man who looked vaguely familiar walked in and planted himself just to the side of FOH. He seemed to be watching what I was doing as much as he was watching the show. Though I didn’t think anything of it, during intermission I noticed him talking to our LD, who was also our Production Manager. They had a good long conversation and the mystery man headed backstage. Shortly after the LD asked me if I knew who that was? When he told me it was M.L., I nearly shit myself. “Oh my god! Is he leaving?” I asked. “No,” the PM told me. “He went to say hello to the band and would be coming back to see the rest of the show.” “You never should have told me,” I panicked, “now I’ll be a nervous wreck!” The thought of having M.L. Procise standing over my shoulder while I mixed was nerve-wracking to say the least. After all, he was a legend, and I was still wet behind the ears, still constantly second guessing myself, still wondering if I really knew what I was doing. Well, he came back, and after the show M.L. introduced himself to me and proceeded to give me such wonderful compliments on my mix that I was incredibly humbled. Here was this legendary engineer giving me props and telling me to get in touch with him at Showco.
A few years later I had to opportunity to visit him on the ZZTop tour when they played at the Broom County Arena in Binghamton, a horrible sounding venue. M.L. invited me to sit at FOH, and I was in awe for the entire show. I could have easy closed my eyes and imagined I was at home listening to my stereo, it sounded so perfect, and he made it look so effortless.
From that first meeting in Dallas and throughout my entire career ML had always been tremendously supportive. I have never worked for Showco or Clair but he was always more than happy to help me find work and suggest me for the FOH position on tours they were staffing. Something he has done for many fledgling and independent engineers, always our champion. We kept in touch, catching up several times a year and getting together whenever I was in Dallas and time and schedules permitted. He would take your phone call at any time and any day of the year, happy to share his knowledge and/or advice when needed, while always making you feel like you were his equal, never inferior.
M.L. loved food, good food. If you had a day off in Dallas and he was in town, he’d pick you up and take you for the best Mexican food you ever had. If you didn’t have a day off, he would come by the gig with trays of BBQ from his favorite BBQ joint, enough to feed an army.
I spoke to M.L. not long before he lost his wife Debby to cancer. She was very sick, and he was still recovering himself after becoming seriously ill while on tour in Europe. We talked about a lot of things, work, touring, life, family. He seemed to come and go in the conversation at times being fully present, and others drifting off into what seemed to be silent contemplation. I worried about him. After Debby had died I had heard things went down hill pretty fast for M.L. He wasn’t doing well, and his health was never great to begin with.
Then I saw him last summer when he came out to the GooGoo Dolls show in Dallas. I was happy to see that he looked better than he had in a long time. Not great but still better. We talked about his wife and how he was doing, and he said it was really tough and he had his rough spots but he was on the mend. When it came to showtime, he told me he would probably only stay for 3 or 4 songs. I was touched when he ended up staying for most of the show because he was having such a good time.
M.L. Procise III was an amazing engineer, one of the best in his field, and one of the sweetest, kindest souls. He was my idol, a mentor, and it was a pleasure to have known him and an honor to consider him a friend. M. L., you will be missed.