Malcolm Smith
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     Memorial portrait of Malcolm Brian Smith 

       by Jim Nelson

     The setting of this drawing was inspired not only by a photograph, but by thinking back to an autumn day in Maryland a few years ago.  A great wind blew as I walked through the woods, moving thousands of leaves in incredible swirls and I suddenly realized that I could see the shapes of the wind in the leaves... that there were spirals and spheres, columns and tunnels, all moving in time to the rhythms of the universe.

      It struck me later when thinking about Malcolm, that this was how music was with him... that it was already there in him, even if he wasn't playing an instrument, and that it would come rushing out of him in mighty gusts, like the wind.  And that you could just throw the notes at him like leaves to reveal the wonderful shapes of the music.  With Malcolm, you could see the music. 
      So I titled this print, "Leaves in the Wind." 

      Jim Nelson - 1997
     PO Box 383, Fair Haven, NY 13064

Joe Physician of Nightwatch Recording's Eventide Newsletter is writing a piece about Malcolm ... here is a preview of that article:
"Rarely can someone leave a legacy as important and honest as Malcolm has left us with. He will not be forgotten; he truly will live on. When we cue up Cantiga or The New World Renaissance Band on the c.d. player and the gentle sounds of his fiddle or the impassioned chords of a gypsy guitar are given life again from the digital encryption on a silvery disc of plastic, Malcolm lives on. 

In his wake he leaves a legacy anyone could be proud of; music of importance, music of inspiration and a vision for the future of a music that was borne in the past."

Greg Cahill: This is the Texas Hill Country waterfall in the Malcolm story below.

October 29, 1996

One of the things that we most often give up as touring musicians is personal time. We always seem to be rushing to the next show because of the extra ten minutes of sleep in the motel room or the 'sit down' meal at the diner instead of doing the fast food drive-thru or the flat tire on the back road short cut, etc. On a Special Consensus tour a few years ago, we were rushing to do a show in Austin, Texas, when our fiddler Malcolm Smith casually mentioned that he knew of a beautiful secluded waterfall off the highway a few miles up the road. He said that although we were trying to make time on the road, a brief stop to catch our breath at this special place (a waterfall in Texas?) might be a very calming rest period that would benefit our mental health on the road as well as our performance that evening. We all agreed with him and pulled off the highway on a winding road in the dry, low hilly area. To this day I am amazed that he knew exactly where to stop and park the van - there were no markings or signs of anything but rough terrain. We walked around a bend and down a short hill and stopped in astonishment as we viewed a most beautiful waterfall and pond that at first seemed to be a 3-D picture rather than the real thing. Very few words were spoken - we mostly grinned a lot and just stood motionless for a short while before returning to the van. This was one of our most peaceful moments on the road ever, and it did indeed make the rest of the tour very special and it certainly endeared us to Malcolm forever. He gave us the gift of peace when we least expected it, without saying a word. His music was always from the heart and made for strong and lasting friendships no matter how much time elapsed between visits. I will miss Malcolm a lot but will always have this "peace spot" inside that makes me grin when I think of him. Rest in peace, old friend. 

Greg Cahill

From: Richard Fowler

I'm sure Malcolm will be missed by many. All who live by their music command a measure of respect, and our world is now with one less. I've looked at the screen for a few minutes now and can't think of anything to add that you don't already know or haven't already felt. 

Please give my sympathy to Becky.


This is terrible news indeed. Malcolm was a gentle, talented, enthusiastic and supportive person, and a fine man to have as a friend. We shared many an evening over a span of seven or eight years after "the day's shows" were over at the Texas Renaissance Festival, and I always appreciated Malcolm's wry wit and seemingly bottomless cache of obscure tunes. He will be sorely missed by his large circle of friends and admirers. 

All good wishes to Becky and the Smith family in this sorrowful time. 

Max McCullough
McLean, Virginia

It's sad to hear such a free spirit as Malcolm has passed on. He was the master of the obscure fiddle tune - I remember playing the Houston International festival with Malcolm. He had just gotten back from Europe and was hot into 16th century Finnish dance tunes - odd time signatures, strange keys, and the pickup band (8 of us) with only two practices several months apart. One of the most unusual and most fun gigs I've ever played. 

My condolences to Becky and the Smith family, and to all that had the pleasure of knowing Malcolm. 

Charles "Charlie Bones" Johnson 
Richmond, VA (formerly of Houston, TX)

Becky Wow! Man thats awful! I'm so sorry. He was the best! You must be having a real hard time right now. Please except our condolences from both Kaila and I. I'm so sorry that Kaila never got to meet him. He would have been the perfect fiddler for her band if he lived here in the Bay area. I'm sure we would have all played a lot more music together. I remember his helping me with classical music early on. He had such a love for music and natural talent for all styles . He'll really be missed I'm sure. Anyway, you take care of yourself and let me know if I can do anything Anytime.

Love to all you guys. 
Mike Marshall

Dear Becky,

I was surprised and saddened to read about Malcolm's death. I remember many early years at Kerrville, the year he brought the gypsies and the years he played all night with every musical style and brought a vibrancy and deep rooted soulfulness to each note. 

I'm so sorry for your loss. Cash Edwards

Dear Becky, Pat and Bryan,

My heart is saddened by your news. What a shock for you and your family. And what a loss to yours and Malcolms musical family. Such a talented, sweet and charming fellow. I have fond memories of us pickin' and playing back in the old days.

Our love and thoughts are with you at this really difficult time. If we can help in any way, please let us know.

We love you, Amy and Jim Nunally

From: Dix Bruce 

Jim Nunally told me about Malcolm last night. I am so sorry for your loss. I know how close you were, how much you shared, especially music. I don't think there is any understanding of this type of tragedy, pain or loss, at least not in this life. We just have to try and look ahead for the better times and look back and remember all the happiness. Our thoughts will be with you. 

Dix, Kathi & Gennie-

My heart is with you in this difficult time. It's so hard to lose a loved one, and even harder when it's so unexpected. I hope that you are able to put together a worthy memorial for him. Just remember, though, that the best memorial is already there -- in the hearts and memories of those who loved him and his music. 


 Andy Shaw

Becky, I was sorry to hear about your brother. Losing a brother is hard. I will pray for your family and friends at this sad time. I am sending a poem that a friend sent me when my brother was killed. It has been comforting to me over the years. I hope you will find some comfort in it at some time.
A mando friend, Carol Tittel 
A Parable of Immortality 
I am standing on a seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the
morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch until at last she hangs like
a speck of white cloud just where the sea and
sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, "There she goes!"
"Gone where?" Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and
spar as she was when she left my side.
And just as able to bear her load of living
freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me~ not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There she goes!"
There are other eyes watching her coming 
And other voices ready to take up the glad shout
~ "There she comes!"

My sympathy on the loss of Malcolm. I'm sure you don't remember me, but I knew both of you -- back in the late 70's. 

Two things about Malcolm stand out in my memory. One was that his level of playing ability was far above most of the other folks you'd see in the campground, or even on stage. He tackled complex swing or jazz tunes that were on a whole different plane from what most of the rest of us played. The other thing was that he never looked down on folks like me who were far below him in knowledge and playing ability. He was always open and accessible and never used his considerable skill to put down beginners like me. Whenever I was at Kerrville or some other festival, hunting for a good jam session, I always looked for him and Zeke in the campground because I knew I'd get a friendly reception and have a chance to learn something. 


Ken Brown 

In life we are as roses growing along side a wall, one day a special light shines through a crack in the wall and we pass through the wall to the light on the other side, to bloom everafter. 

God bless you and your family and all who knew Malcolm, 

Cathy Caber 

Dear Becky,  It's been difficult accepting that Malcolm is no longer around somewhere. I know that it is a tragic and painful thing for you, because he was your brother & close friend.

I am hurt for everyone who has been close to Malcolm up to now, who has to feel the sadness & emptiness of the loss. My grief is not such an intense pain, but more that an important element of the fabric of my life has been permanently removed. 

Love always,Jill

I send much love and warm thoughts to Becky, Pat, Christi, and all the rest of you. It was always a comfort for me to think of Malcolm and know there was someone else in the family who chose a musical life over the "normal" workaday alternative. I will always treasure my many memories of wild and loony musical adventures we shared through the years... like the gypsy jazz guerrilla invasion of Paul's Saloon in San Francisco about 20 years ago... largely spearheaded by a perpetually grinning Malcolm. It will be difficult now to play the fiddle without remembering him. I'm sure the Anderson Fair picking party will be a hell of a scene. Take it out on a high note! 

Love, Danny Carnahan

 Dear Becky,
 I'm very sorry to hear of the loss of your brother. I lived in Houston from 1978 - 1989 and played music quite often with Malcolm. I also took a few mandolin lessons from you - which I still remember. You both were quite an inspiration to me. I loved the Cypress Swamp Stompers and remember jam sessions with you and Malcolm in Houston. Do you remember Karl Caillouet's kitchen jam sessions? 

My husband and I live in Denver and are both very active in the bluegrass community. I played in a band called Ladies' Choice for a while but now just play mando and bass for fun. If you are ever in this area please contact us. My love and prayers are with you and your family during this very sad time. 
God Bless. 
Jan Willis (used to be Galambos)

From: Doug Duryea and Ellen Moore

Please convey our most heartfelt sympathies to Christy, Becky, yourself and Linda, Martha, Bob, and all of those many others we know in common. It is a great sadness to hear of Malcolm’s passing.
My introduction to Malcolm was in 1976 when Miss Ellen introduced me to the great and extended family associated with Anderson Fair. As I recall, the Swampstompers were already in finest form then. Miss Ellen had just acquired a viola from Malcolm and was taking lessons as well. His fee might be cash, beer, or whatever or a little bit of everything. 

In all of the years we have jammed and played together it always seemed to me that every single time was a certain education in music theory and example. As a beginner harp person, he would play guitar and show me the parts of a lead break and then play the rhythm and fill right behind it. Playing bass along with him recently was no exception. I have always had the feeling that every musical moment was a thrill for him whether he got paid or not and that he had an unparalleled passion for music of any kind and at just about any moment in time. And every moment of music with him as well became a thrill for me. 

His love and gentleness, sparkle, and killer smile are already sorely missed. Our love and condolences to all of the survivors. 

Love Doug and Miss Ellen

 From: Linda Lowe
Let Him Go Gently *
If he isn’t long for this old world
please let him go gently
If this evening is his setting sun
then you do what must be done
But let him go gently
Let him rest easily
Teach the children how to grieve
and let him go gently
Lift his spirit up with tenderness
Lay him soft against your breast
Let him hold a full life time of grace
And take him to a sacred place

If this a final lullaby
Open up a crack of light
Show his family how they can survive
And keep his memory alive

But let him go gently
Let him rest easily
Teach the children how to grieve
and let him go gently

*Words and Music by Linda Lowe ... the original song, performed a capella under the title "Let Her Go Gently", was a favorite of Malcolm's. 

From: Pat Bridgwater,

I was truly sorry to read about Malcolm. He had a special sparkle that even those who are not "in the biz" could recognize and appreciate. I have special memories of those old days with the Stompers, and would like for you to offer my sincere sympathies to his family and friends who are missing him so desperately now.

From:  Mark, Betty & Kasey Carboni 

While at the Arizona Reniassance Festival, Betty (My wife) was asked by Malcolm where I was. Betty explained that I had to stay back in Houston, TX do to my work load and that it was my birthday (March 16th,). Malcolm played happy birthday for me while my wife video taped him. I never saw this tape till A.D. I cried again. All our best wishes to all that knew him. All the rest we can to him. We missed you Malcolm.

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