By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
“Did you hear the ’59 Sound coming through on grandmama’s radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?”
“The ’59 Sound,” The Gaslight Anthem
The superstars in flashy suits, in front of bright lights and millions of fans, get all the attention.
Even after they die, their legacies live on, with fans mourning them for decades.
If you need proof, I hear there’s a new statue in Fairpark.
But behind every great superstar, there are the guys in the shadows.
Musicians have engineers, producers, the sound guys, to thank for their polished, perfected sound. The guys who push buttons and adjust levels – no, it’s not a glamorous job – and use their magic ears to make sure the music sounds incredible enough to raise the hair on your arms, even after you’ve heard that song a million times.
Tupelo mourns its superstar, as it should.
But recently North Mississippi lost a great sound guy, and so far almost no one has noticed the gaping hole his death has left in the music community throughout the Mid-South.
Two of his best friends, musicians Bob Ray and Mark Willcutt, remembered their friend recently, swapping stories and laughs and memories.
Mike Mihelic, they said, was the quintessential tech geek and music fan.
His love for technology and music led him to become a record producer and engineer.
He was one of the first in the area to make the big move from analog to digital, and he helped others, like famed Muscle Shoals producer Jimmy Johnson, make that transition, too. He was such an expert at his craft, his word was final.
“I always said, if Mike said the sky was gonna be plaid in the morning, I’d get my camera out,” Willcutt said.
Mihelic even made his own wires to connect his equipment in his studio, Willcutt said.
No matter the time, the place or the need, Mihelic was there, with his expertise and dry sense of humor, ready to get to work. Then, earlier this summer, Mihelic began forgetting names, and seeing things that weren’t there.
He was diagnosed within the first week of June with a brain tumor, and he died on June 21. He was 56.
His death came so quickly and went so unnoticed that folks needing his help still call Willcutt, Ray or his other friends, asking where he is.
“He’d always say, ‘Whatever you need,'” Ray said.
Now, his expertise, his humor and incredible work ethic are missed. He may never have a statue in his honor, but fans will continue to enjoy the music he left behind, even if they don’t realize it’s something he helped put together.
That may be legacy enough for a true music man.
Sheena Barnett covers entertainment for the Daily Journal. Contact her at (662) 678-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.