The Original Rocker Mark Proctor

Not unlike most people, I lose the original "star-struck" feelings I have for "celebrities" once I meet them and get to know them. They become ordinary, yet gifted people. I have not, however, lost that feeling with Mark Proctor. I saw him perform with The 77's only twice, and got involved actively with the band and Warehouse Ministries after he had departed. So needless to say, I never got to know him and he has always been that incredible drummer who could sing lead vocals and still pound away at his kit without missing a beat.

Mike had brought up the idea of "Mark My Words" and we had discussed it for several weeks when out of the blue Mike gets a message from Mark Proctor stating that he is working at a job next door to Mike's apartment complex and would like to have lunch or something. (Try to tell me that God didn't have anything to do with this reunion!). Once you shake Mark's hand and look in his eyes you can tell that he is truly a Spirit-filled man. He has a smile that stretches from ear to ear, and is one of the most polite and kind men I have ever met. Anyway, during this visit we set up a time to talk where I could give him a decent interview and ask him just what he's been up to, along with a few questions on the beginnings of The 77's and his eventual departure....

DON: "Let's go all the way to the beginnings of The Scratch band... when was this?"

MARK: "It started in 1979. The earliest tape I have of The Scratch Band is dated 9-1-79."

D: "And this is with the female vocalist?"

M: "Yeah, Sharon McCall. Now Sharon Chamberlain.."

D: "How long was she in the band?"

M: "From August of 1979 to January or February of 1980...just a few months."

D: "And what was the purpose behind a church forming a rock band?"

M: "The original concept was that Warehouse Ministries had Saturday night concerts on a regular basis, and they wanted a "homegrown" band to go out to high schools and colleges and play, and then 'pitch' the Saturday night concerts. The original intent was to have more than one band, but when they went around recruiting, they only came up with the five of us.

"Jan was originally scheduled to be the administrator of the whole thing, rather than a player. However, the bass player we first had bailed after two rehearsals. So Jan took over on bass."

D: "But he kept the executive role through it all anyway, didn't he?"

M: "Yeah, he organized everything we ever did, at least when I was involved."

D: "Which leads me to my next line of questioning. Now that Aaron has left the band, I hear people talking about his legacy, and I think to myself, 'ya know, I was a fan when I first saw this white guy behind the kit singing his lungs out."

M: "Actually, I was probably pretty red..."

D: "I remember that you were one of the first drummers at The Warehouse who was forced to play behind a plexiglas cage that surrounded your kit."

M: "Yeah, they thought I was too loud, even then. I never did understand that..."

D: "So were the 77's the first band you played and sang in?"

M: "No, in my earlier bands, we found it hard to find a reliable singer, so I would end up being the guy because I was the only one willing to tackle it. So over the years, even when we had a lead singer, I would usually sing a song or two. In most of the bands I was a back-up singer if there was a lead. However, I was in a band for several years prior to The 77's called Whitefire that I sang a lot of lead vocals in."

D: "Have you heard "Shirley, Goodness, And Misery" with "Unsatisfied" on it and a song or two with Sharon?"

M: "Yes, a long-time fan of the band that attends my current church has a copy. He played it for me.

"You know, I have several tapes of early 77's and Scratch Band material, including the very first garage demo we ever made which has Mike singing a Steve Scott tune name "Name In Lights" plus Sharon doing the same song."

D: " Were there ever any inter-band dilemmas over who would sing a certain song? Any "I wrote it, I'm gonna sing it?"

M: "Never. Not while I was in the band...Actually, have you ever heard the song "No Party In Hell?"

D: "YES! In fact, it's my favorite song that you've ever written."

M: "Really? Wow! I originally wanted Mike to sing that one, and he had to persuade me to do it. When I departed the band just before All Fall Down, "No Party In Hell" was scheduled to go on it. I urged him to go ahead and do it. They didn't obviously...I did record it in a band I was with after the 77's called The Blitz Band. Our motto was "storming the strongholds of Satan" was a power trio."

D: "Really? Do you have tapes of that around?"

M: "Oh yeah. In fact, I've been talking to the guitarist from that group about getting some of our best material on tape together and releasing them on CD. Actually, all we have is an eight-track demo of six songs and a four-track demo of about four others. We're actually talking about getting back together and recording some new stuff."

D: "Man, many people have been asking me about you..."

M: "Oh, yeah? It's kinda funny...every once in a while when I least expect it, I'll meet someone who remembers me from back then. When Mike produced Love Coma's album, he enticed me to come down to the studio one evening because Chris Dodds is a big fan, and I was really touched when he gave me credit for inspiration on the album."

D: "Now, Mike and I have been talking about the situations surrounding your departure, and he's told me several times over that he's always felt real badly about how the situation was handled with you, and Aaron. From what I understand, you had a young family, and your daytime job had restrictions on you with all the gigs and stuff...what are your thoughts?"

M: "Well, Mike shouldn't feel bad about the thing; it was a long time ago and I don't think he had much, if anything, to do with the decision. I hesitate to say anything, but I will tell you this: I had two toddlers at the time, and a baby on the way. The band was scheduled to leave for England for a month and the departure date and baby due date were the same day. And to me, I don't believe in coincidence like that. When something like that happens, hey? God is trying to tell you something. I just said "Oh, man!"...I didn't want to hear what he was telling me. This was choice time, and I resisted. In the end, it was a hard but clear choice. I really loved the band, but clearly I could not leave my wife to have a third kid, and deal with two toddlers while I was off in England. I just couldn't, even if I could have gotten time off work. When I confirmed that I couldn't go, the Exit executives decided to make Aaron a permanent rather than a temporary replacement."

D: "That's what I was hearing at the time also. I was just getting involved during all this, and I kept thinking, "Oh, man!"."

M: "It wasn't as simple back then as it seems to be in retrospect, but that's the way it was. Aaron was a fine replacement."

D: "Well, then there came All Fall Down. I think some of the best material on that album was co-penned by you anyway, wasn't it?"

M: "I co-wrote " Caught In An Unguarded Moment ", " Mercy Mercy ", and " Make A Difference Tonight ".

"Now the way Mike and I worked during those days was I would come to him with several ideas and sheets of paper with lyrics and stuff. We'd get together and I'd run down my ideas to him. Then he'd take them home and come back with completed songs. "Mercy Mercy" grew out of a riff and a phone conversation where I said "Hey, why don't you try this with that riff", and he came back with "Mercy Mercy". I was always amazed. One of the things I miss most about the band was that relationship, how we could get the ball rolling, and he'd come back with something finished. That was cool.

"The only thing we didn't write that way was "How Can You Love". In that case it was the opposite, where I had the song, and he came in and fixed it up a bit."

D: "So after all this, you stayed with your wife and moved to Elk Grove (a suburb of Sacramento)?"

M: "Yeah, we bought a house and moved out here in 1986, and have lived here ever since."

D: "What other bands or groups have you been involved with since then?"

M: "Gosh! In ten minutes or less?"

D: "O.K., just give me the highlights."

M: "Well, The Bllitz Band was a highlight. I played with the guitarist, Jeff Smith, starting in 1986 and we gigged together until 1992 or 1993. I had to have carpal tunnel surgery in 1993, which slowed me down quite a bit for a while."

D: "Been pounding on those drums too hard, eh?"

M: "Yeah, that and my job contributed to it (Mark's day job is being a tech for IKON Office Solutions) I had it on both hands. That pretty much occupied 1993. Now the praise band I'm in (Shine On), started in August, l993. I was on the upside of recovery from the surgery. I've been playing with this band most Sundays since. Also, I've done the Christmas program, the Easter program, and the Fourth of July program just about every year.

"In 1994 I co-wrote a children's musical called "A Sling And A Prayer" based on the story of David and Goliath. It is more rock than the kid's musicals I've heard with as little dialogue as necessary to tell the story. It was primarily done to get my kids interested in singing in the kid's choir, and IT WORKED! In fact, my son played the lead role of David. One of my daughters sang in the choir and had a solo, so that was a thrill. It was also an experiment because my co-writer, Ruth Fraley, and I were listening to most of the musicals that were coming out and I thought we could try something different. The musical was recommended in Children's Ministry Magazine and has been performed around the country.

"Which brings me to "Shine On". It is basically my church praise and worship band produced as a pop-rock album. It has many popular praise and worship songs such as "We Praise You, Jesus", " Sweet Presence of Jesus", "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" and a few originals of mine, too. It's been very well received inside and outside of my church."

D: " Are you playing at different churches in the area, or have you mainly been focused on ministering to your own congregation?"

M: "Our church , so far. However, since we've made this CD, we've been invited to play elsewhere."

D: "So here's your chance to plug your latest project. How much are you charging for tapes and CD's?"

M: "Tapes are $11.00 and CD's are $16.50. The prices include CA sales tax and shipping is $3.50." (NOTE: Write to: Mark Proctor Enterprises, 9880 Estancia Court, Elk Grove, CA 95624)

D: "So long gone are the days of the $6.98 record, huh? (The original list price for "Ping Pong")."

M: "The odd thing is that if you can find records anymore, they cost as much as CDs!"

D: "And cassettes at Tower Records cost almost as much as CD's!"

M: "Well, it's all part of the royalty disbursement thing."

D: "Man, I really love this album, "Shine On"! I have it on continuous rotation in my truck. I just can't get enough of it!"

M: "You really like it, huh? A lot of people have told me that. In fact, I intend to look around for a label to pick it up and distribute it nationally."

D: "Well, you've already got a few thousand people who'll read this, and who'll check out the sound bites on the web page. We'll do our best to push it a little for you. Maybe get Rad Rockers or something to distribute it for you. It doesn't hurt to try, and see what they think of it."

M: "Good idea, I'll have to look into that."

D: "One last question, and that is we're curious if you've followed The 77's at all since you left. I'd really like your thoughts on the 3-piece, etc."

M: "Mike has made sure that I've gotten each new album as it'd come out over the years, and I like them a lot. I'm really impressed with the musicianship within the 3-piece. Of course, I rather wish that it was me playing (chuckles). I have made several tapes of my favorite tracks from each album to listen to in my car, which I do frequently and I enjoy them very much. Mark and Bruce rock!"

It's kind of fun to think of what The 77's would be now if Mark had stayed in the band. We can all speculate on how well the band would have done. It is a little known fact, but The 77's actually won a Dove Award in 1983 for the "Different Kind Of Light" video, even beating out Amy Grant!! And who's behind the kit? None other than "the original rocker" himself, Mark Proctor. The band has never repeated winning another Dove. This is not to take anything at all away from Aaron who is a superb drummer, but Mark was on the forefront of the whole "New Music" revolution during the early 1980's. When Aaron joined the band, there was a definite change in the way The 77's came across and sounded...We'll never know what Mike Roe & Co. would have become with Mark keeping time, mostly because it was God's will, and who are we to argue? Still, it is kinda fun to think........

Shine On is definitely NOT your everyday praise album. Not a pipe organ or string ensemble on the whole recording! A few of the tracks are even originals penned by Mark and other members of the group, and a few of them even get to rockin' a little bit. I think this is one of those recordings that everyone should have because the music is very good, which only leads to a more enjoyable album of praise. So, it is definitely NOT your grandmother's worship record by Jimmy Swaggart that's been sitting up in the attic somewhere collecting dust and never getting played, to be pulled out for the occasional yard sale in the hopes that someone will buy it. Shine On is not a dust collector. I think it's safe to say that for those of you who do decide to order this album from Mark will soon find the Spirit workin' on you and this will be the most dust-free jewel case you own, because you'll be playing it several times a week.

Again, you can order either the tape or CD from Mark by writing him at MPE (Mark Proctor Enterprises), 9880 Estancia Court, Elk Grove, CA 95624. Be sure to tell him that The 7's sent ya!

You can also write to Mark Proctor at his NEW email address which is : Let him know that he has quite a few fans here there and everywhere.........

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