Pro-Co Sound – Kalamazoo – Bryce Roberson (Uncle Dirty)
We miss him, his great ear and his guitar playing…Ronnie Fray
SysTech (Systems & Technology in Music, Inc.) from Kalamazoo, Michigan, was a collaboration between Greg Hochman (Keith Emerson’s Moog tech, later the North American sales director for Soundcraft) and Charlie Wicks (later the founder and CEO of Pro-Co).Together with Bryce Roberson (a.k.a. Uncle Dirty, ex-lead engineer at Chess Records), they formed the Sound Factory in Kalamazoo in the early 70’s. The company (consisting of Charlie’s Sound Factory, Greg’s SysTech and Bryce’s Uncle Dirtys recording studio) occupied an old factory site on Kalamazoo Avenue.
Because of the brilliance of the principals, Kalamazoo became a Mecca for musicians from Detroit, Chicago, and beyond.
Around 1969, Bryce also worked as a sound engineer at Great Lakes Studio (Dave Kalmbach) in Sparta, Michigan. He was also a fabulous guitarist who could play most any style of music.
From “The Steel Guitar Forum” February 8, 2002 by Larry Bell:
A Rat is a distortion device manufactured by a Kalamazoo MI company called ProCo.
They have made a number of devices through the years, but their claim to fame, other than the Rat, is their high quality cables and PA snakes.
At one time, in addition to the Rat, they made several rack mount effects devices. Ralph Mooney used a ProCo rack mount flanger to get the leslie sound on “The Wurlitzer Prize” for Waylon.
The Rat, TurboRat, Vintage Rat, and BRat are described on their home page (link above). I’ve seen Paul Franklin use one, in addition to many other steel players I’ve talked to or seen.
Hope this explains it. At one time (back when Gibson was in Kalamazoo), ProCo was located in a music complex including a music store, guitar repair facility, recording studio, and ProCo here in Kalamazoo. I used to hang out there when I first started playing steel, in the 70s. My first steel guitar session was at “Uncle Dirty’s Sound Machine Studios” — run by Bryce Roberson who cut his teeth at Chess Records. Now, ProCo is all that’s left. The company does pretty well, but it’s really difficult for a small company to survive in these economic times.
MCI JH16 Board 1978