Former Scene and WMMS artist Brian Chalmers — best known for drawing the rock radio station’s iconic “Buzzard” for much of its life — died suddenly last weekend. He was 54.
From former Scene editor Mark Holan: “I met Brian Chalmers (B.C., as most of his friends called him) at the first Scene Christmas party I attended (when I was delivering the mag on Thursdays) back in ’77-78. We got inebriated together and immediately bonded as kindred spirits embracing life, rock 'n' roll and good times. He was manic, impetuous, hilarious, creative, in short everything about the ’70s rock scene that made it so exciting. He had been schooled to be Scene's art director by Tom ‘Cowboy’ Schmidt, a country rock fanatic (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson — way before alt-country) and followed Tom as Scene's art director around 1979 (which is when I started full-time as Scene's assistant editor).
“Those were the golden days of Scene (in my humble opinion). We were putting new and old bands on the cover, designed by Brian. He spent a lot of extra time on those covers. He wanted them to be perfect because he put his ‘B.C.’ on them.
“The basement offices of the Scene (1314 Huron Rd.) at Playhouse Square underneath Publix Bookstore were like a bunker of rock 'n' roll rebellion. We were too established (having been around since 1970) to be cool for the burgeoning underground music scene but too "rock 'n' roll" for big advertisers. We worked well with the Belkins, the record companies and the House of LaRose (Budweiser distributors), and that was enough to survive.
“Brian used to have to fight for raises. He'd call a liar a liar, and one time he and the late Jim Girard actually had to be physically separated because Brian claimed Jim had lied to him about something. Brian had wrestled in high school (North Royalton) and loved to get physical if need be.
“One of Brian's favorite bands was Humble Pie, and he loved Steve Marriott above all rockers. He even drew a storyboard based on the Small Faces' rock 'n' roll fairy tale from Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. One of the characters was "Happiness Stan," and when the latter-day Pie played the old Cleveland Agora (on East 24th Street), one of Brian's greatest joys was to present Marriott with his drawings. For Brian, it was like meeting a Beatle. There are photos (taken by Bob Ferrell) of Brian looking very proud at the meeting.
“After Brian was unceremoniously fired (for not coming back from a vacation on the appointed day), he was welcomed into the arms of the Almighty Buzzard. David Helton, the creator of the Buzzard, had always been a good friend of Brian's, and he got him the job as his assistant, putting the Buzzard everywhere (Blossom, Nelson Ledges, Stadium, etc.) rock 'n' roll fans went. It was good gig for Brian, and he made a lot of friends at ’MMS. He survived while others went to the chopping block.