Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bon Voyage, Chas Smith

This morning, Oct. 16, our friend Chas Smith peacefully vacated Earth Plane One for greener pastures.


New tribute site: http://www.chastribute.com/

Chas was hospitalized a month ago with double pneumonia, and had a severe stroke while in the hospital. He had also been fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer which he had beaten in his youth but which killed his brother several years ago, and for which he had recently started getting radiation treatments. Chas was a really tough old soldier but nobody could fight this so many illnesses and traumas forever.

Chas had just turned 50.

As a music professor at Cleveland State University, Chas taught the most popular course at the whole school, a class in the history of rock and roll and its roots. Chas put much more into his class than just the history, however. He was beloved by students as much for his spontaneous rants on life and society in general, or on space and science, or whatever had grabbed his interest that week, as for his musical subject matter.

He also taught regular and very popular workshops in music and consciousness at Starwood, Winterstar, and Sirius Rising. He taught basic musical composition to little kids through a program with the Cleveland Opera. He authored three textbooks on the history of rock and roots music: "From Woodstock to the Moon: The Cultural Evolution of Rock Music," "The Soul of Sunrise: Grassroots Music in America," and another which was only recently finished.

The focal point of his life, however, was playing music. He was in The Clocks, a popular Cleveland punk band in the late '70s and early '80s. During the 1990s and early 2000s he fronted Einstein's Secret Orchestra or ESO (with Dave DeLuca, Bob Mozick and Michele George (to whom he was married for several years). Two excellent studio albums and many good live recordings exist. In recent years ESO became more of a blues, classic C&W and jam band with many different members. Chas also toured with Cobra Verde as keyboardist.

Cleveland radio listeners heard Chas's weekly show on WCSB, Swamp Radio, every Thursday night for over 20 years. This eclectic show included not only whatever music Chas was into at the time, but live performances, jams, and also improv comedy and plays -- first with Brain Rot Theater (radio comedy sketches by Dave DeLuca, Dan Didonato, and Chas) and later with DeLuca, myself and my wife "Princess Wei." Chas also took calls from listeners -- and he got some pretty wild listeners. The bits recorded on Swamp Radio were a mainstay of the syndicated SubGenius show "Hour of Slack" for almost a decade.

Almost all SubGenius events in the Cleveland and Northern Ohio area featured ESO (or sometimes just Chas, solo) as the musical headliner from 1992 to 2002.

Chas was an outdoorsman -- not a hunter, but a hiker and camper. His seasonal camp at Brushwood Folklore Center in western rural New York grew into a sort of giant art gallery and performance area where some of the coolest events at Brushwood took place -- and if you're familiar with Brushwood, that's saying quite a bit. Variously called Tranquility Base and Club Tiki Banzai, Chas's parties (including the annual Rumble in the Jungle) are legendary. When Chas wasn't playing, he was DJing.

The camp -- and his performance costumes or "rock star duds" -- were outlets for Chas's considerable graphic arts talents. He had some of the most psychedelic outfits I've ever seen in rock shows, decorated by hand in his inimitable style. His home and especially the recording studio in the basement benefited from his handiwork and seemingly boundless energy.

Chas will be remembered by thousands -- his almost countless former students, his many fellow musicians and performers, his camping buddies and the many communities to which he was such a big contributor -- Brushwood, A.C.E. in Cleveland, The Church of the SubGenius, WCSB, Cleveland State, and probably many more of which I have yet to learn.

Chas wasn't the only reason I left Dallas for Cleveland, but he was definitely one of the main ones. He is already greatly missed.

A deep and heartfelt thanks to Bob Mozick for being such a rock for Chas and his family and friends through this whole hard time.

The funeral will be held at Brickman Funeral Home in Willoughby, Ohio --
Visiting Hours
Thursday, October 18th
4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

37433 Euclid Ave.
Willoughby, Ohio 44094


If you live in NE Ohio, you can go to http://tinyurl.com/25zpeh for

The Service, followed by the Funeral begins
10:00 AM
Friday, October 19th
Brickman Bros. Funeral Home


Hour of Slack #1122 will be a tribute to Chas. (Will air in Cleveland Sunday Oct. 20 at 9 pm on WCSB - 89.3 FM or streaming from http://wcsb.org (also to be available on SubGenius.com for download)

Jason Isla (part of the fire team at Brushwood, just married out there weekend before last) put up this excellent tribute site for Chas -- has Paypal donation area too, nice photo gallerly.

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I'm sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings, and they don't come much sadder than this one.

Bob Mozik called me at 7:30 this morning to tell me Chas had left this mortal plane.

He said Chas had a small army of visitors over the weekend - we think he was waiting to see as many friends as he could see before he left (or hear them as it was more toward the end).

A Beachland Ballroom benefit concert is in the works. His memorial will most likely take place at Brickman Funeral Home in Willoughby, OH. I will post any more info as soon as I know it.

Chas was overcome by multiple medical problems. While at the Clinic, he bravely fought 4 separate infections, double pneumonia, his Hodgkin's disease, which had come out of remission, and massive stroke damage. The thing to remember is that to the end, Chas kept a bright outlook. Always the thumbs up - while he was able.

Also, the doctors at the clinic used all of their knowledge and expertise to do everything they could for him. I visited him every other day, and witnessed very compassionate care each time I saw him.

Thanks to Bob Mozik, he had music in his ears the last week or so of his life. Bob bought a CD player and brought in many mix disks of Chas' favorite music. One of the nurses said she thought a CD player should be standard equipment for every hospice room - what could be better than soothing music to allow you to be far away while still physically there?

Chas' family had no idea how many friends Chas had. They were bowled over by the number of cards, gifts, flowers and visitors he received. I pray that that bowling over can continue when many contributions toward the Medical Fund his father set up begin coming in.

Again, donations for Chas can be sent directly to:

Donation for Charles V. Smith
U.S. Bank 26410 Lakeshore
Euclid, Ohio 44132

Please make checks payable to Donation of Charles V. Smith