The Eardrum (July 2003)
Volume 18 Number 7

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Malcolm Chisholm: 1929-2003 R.I.P.

On June 3rd, EARS roast honoree and past President; Malcolm Chisholm succumbed to lung cancer at 74. Probably best known for his work at Chess Records, this veteran engineer, educator, technical writer, consultant and past E.A.R.S. president was a treasured member of Chicago's professional audio community for decades and was born here in March, 1929.

Noted worldwide for his work and deep insights of our craft, he engineered TWO of the recordings selected to represent human civilization on the Voyager space probe, including "Johnny B. Goode". He was the first honoree at an EARS "roast" ­ a charitable event modeled after that notorious "dais" started by the New York Friar's Club nearly a century ago.

Through his craftsmanship, consistently generous mentoring and by way of his long tenure as a pioneering faculty member at Columbia College's four-year Sound Engineering program, he influenced hundreds of aspiring engineers, including many EARS veterans, though occasionally dissuading some when privately asked ­ true to his no-nonsense reputation unyielding honesty. A true renaissance man, few knew he was an accomplished photographer and diver who swam the Great Barrier Reef, scaled Mount Kilimonjaro, and traveled extensively, often on his "Harley" well into his 60's.

Though receiving multiple offers to host a memorial, his wife selected the generous offer from Shirli Dixon ­ daughter of seminal blues producer, Willie Dixon who often worked with Malcolm. The June 29th tribute was at the legendary 2120 S. Michigan address of the former Chess Records studios. Under Shirli's leadership, it is now the home of the Blues Heaven foundation, a non-profit cultural center and benefactor of current and past blues artists in need. The succession of fascinating, respectful and often humorous anecdotes, on videotape were augmented with heartfelt tributes by many including EARS vets Tim Powell, Danny Leake and yours truly. The warm, upbeat gathering of new and old friends was fitting for a man who would characteristically prefer this kind of genuine and unpretentious celebration of his life.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Ramune and his 29 year old son, Colin, who has recreated his father's enlightening website at It documents his considerable professional credits and much of his writing. Noted national publication, Mix Magazine will print a notice of his passing in the September issue due out soon. Editor, George Peterson conveyed his sincere respect for Malcolm and his writings.

A classic "Chisholm-ism" spoke well of his spirit: "life is uncertain, eat your dessert first!" Peace, old friend, you did make a positive difference in this world.
­ G. K.