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Joe Palmaccio, Grammy-Winning Mastering Engineer, Passes at 56

Four-time Grammy-winning mastering engineer Joseph M. Palmaccio, age 56, died unexpectedly on October 16 while recovering from injuries following a motorcycle accident.

Joe Palmaccio
Joe Palmaccio

Brentwood, TN (October 21, 2021)—Joseph M. Palmaccio, age 56, died unexpectedly on October 16 while recovering from injuries following a motorcycle accident. Over the course of his career, Palmaccio accrued more than 600 mastering credits across diverse genres, for artists such as Donald Fagan, Michael Jackson, KISS, Jeff Buckley, Wu-Tang Clan, Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Eric Clapton, Taylor Swift, James Brown, Phoebe Snow, Nas, Soul Asylum, Johnny Cash, ELO, Godsmack, Eagles, ACDC, John Mayer, Heart, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Winwood, Luther Vandross, Laura Nyro, Tito Puente, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Liza Minelli, Mahalia Jackson, Village People, Tony Bennett and Tower of Power.

In total, Palmaccio was nominated for six Grammy Awards and won four in the Best Historical Album category for Mastering: 1998’s The Complete Hank Williams, 2003’s Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey, 2004’s Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970, and 2014’s Bill Withers: The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums. He was also recognized by the W.C. Handy Blues Awards, the 2019 Latin Grammys for Toda Pasa (Juan Delgado), and a 2016 Hungarian gold record for Rackák Menni Amerika.

Palmaccio began his formal musical training at age eight outside of Chicago, first as a trumpet player and later as a drummer. His love of music led him to record his first demo at Hedden West Studios as a teenager. While a student at Libertyville High School, a bright future was hinted at as he shared the stage with schoolmate Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) and later played in a rival band, Destiny. Morello recently shared with Howard Stern on-air his good-natured envy of the band.

After completing a B.A. from Indiana University in Telecommunications with a minor in Religious Studies, he went on to work as a mastering engineer for Bonneville Broadcasting (1988–1990), PolyGram Records (1990–1995), Sterling Sound (1995–1998), and Sony Music Studios (1999–2006), before opening his own studio The Place…For Mastering in Nashville.

All-New: The Place…for Mastering, Nashville

Palmaccio’s transition to Polygram was the turning point in his career. Moving to a major label opened the door for both prominent and interesting work, and the vast number of reissues and special projects he did at the time earned him the nickname “Mr. Boxed Set.” Moving on to Sterling Sound, Palmaccio created a solid foundation for his future in the music industry by continuing his work on many reissues and frontline projects. Sony Music New York was perhaps his most cherished studio time. He was proud to work with a company that had a camaraderie of technical and artistic professionals and that took seriously its missions to create new music and preserve the legacy of great artists.

Masters With a Plan: Four Engineers Talk Music, Mentoring and Hi-Res Formats

Palmaccio left New York for Nashville to pursue the dream of building a studio to his exacting specifications and, more importantly, to have more time to focus on his family. The move also allowed him to curate his prized drum collection and play with wonderful old and new friends in the area. Being an adjunct graduate professor at Belmont fed his soul as he served upcoming engineering talent. Upon his death, Palmaccio was the president and chief engineer of The Place…for Mastering in Nashville where he enjoyed the variety of working with major labels and independent artists in both digital and analog formats. Concurrently, he rejoined Sony Music in Nashville during 2019 where he enjoyed making new dear friends.

He leaves behind his wife, Alex Rockafellar; children Maddie and Michael Palmaccio; sisters Marguerite (Dan) Dadabo, Linda (Bruce) Becker, and Janet Palmaccio. Aunt Margaret Jodice and many nephews and nieces also mourn his loss. A Celebration of his Life will be held on Saturday, October 23 at the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.