James Michael Wesley
I cannot describe how offended I was by this man's complaint. The world of high-end audio is small. What audiophiles today take as a given in this world, even take for granted, has been the result of many years of intense effort by many talented people. Some of these people have been household names, others have worked for all their lives behind the scenes. But it is appropriate, even necessary, to pay them the respect of noting their passing, to recognize the role they have played in the bringing of musical joy to our lives.
One such was Mike Wesley, who played a major role in the rebirth of the Mark Levinson brand under the ownership of Madrigal in the 1980s. I first met Mike when he visited Santa Fe soon after I joined Stereophile in 1986, to deliver a Mark Levinson ML7 preamplifier to J. Gordon Holt. Over dinner, we were talking about cosmology—conversations where Gordon was involved ranged widely and freely—and I happened to mention incorrectly the work of Subramanyan Chandrasekhar. Mike politely corrected me, based on his having studied with the Nobel Prize–winning astronomer at the University of Chicago. The conversation moved on, eventually alighting on the role of Catholicism in the modern world. Mike illuminated my grasp of Vatican II by mentioning some of his experiences working in the Vatican. I started to realize that this was no ordinary company representative.
It was soon after that conversation that Mike was diagnosed with the illness that was eventually to take his life. I regret having lost touch with Mike the past few years, so when his long-term associate at Madrigal, Mark Glazier, emailed me to let me know of Mike's passing, I asked him to put some words together to remember this extraordinary man.—John Atkinson
James Michael Wesley, known and liked by many in the audio industry, passed away in late January following a long illness. Throughout his battle, I was continually amazed with his spirit and perseverance to manage the consequences of his illness and find ways to make the most of his changing life. Mike endured serious health complications, but never lost interest in friends, technology, and helping others.
Known simply as Mike, he was involved in the audio world for over 25 years. I first met him while he was employed in sales at Glenn Poor's Audio in Champaign, IL. Mike's inquisitive, intelligent, and engaging manner separated him from other sales people I had called on in my early days at Mark Levinson Audio Systems. I immediately knew that he might be a good fit on our team and we invited him to interview. He was soon with us in Connecticut, wearing a number of hats including product development and helping in sales. Mike became well-known to many of our customers and the press, and was instrumental in developing policies that governed Madrigal's successful business relationships throughout the 1980s and '90s.
Mike was a gifted thinker, possessing a mind that was never at a loss to respond to the moment's needs. He was invaluable in conceiving a future product's operation before it was ever built. Through such contributions, we were able to look forward with specific designs at a time when it was easier for most to look back. Many Madrigal product design details were Mike's ideas.
Beyond product, Mike made many of us at MLAS and then Madrigal think more deeply about what we did, how we behaved, and how we lived our lives. Always respectful of people, Mike was a true friend of those he worked with, encouraging us to become better by focusing on the points that really mattered. He knew exactly what business we were in and never lost sight of what we had to do to be successful. Whether it was product design or relationships with people, Mike always thought things through, remembering that people are what it is all about: consumers, dealers, distributors, and the media.
Mike and his colleagues at Madrigal experienced a special time. He helped us create something that will never be forgotten or duplicated. He enriched us with a unique and clever wit and invaluable contributions. Mike, in his own inimitable way, will be with us forever.—Mark Glazier