Highly influential American singer-guitarist Alex Chilton, best known for his membership in the groups The Box Tops and Big Star, as well as his solo work, died earlier today (3/17) in a New Orleans hospital reportedly the result of heart problems. He was 59.
Chilton was only sixteen when he found himself with the number one pop hit in the country in 1967 with the Box Tops' hit single “The Letter.” By the end of the decade the group had broken up and Chilton (whom the Replacements wrote a song about, which is known to a new generation from being playable in Rock Band 2) went on to form the influential (albeit never commercially big) power-pop group Big Star.
The group was to be one of the biggest attractions at this year’s SXSW music festival, happening in Austin, Texas this week. The reunited Big Star (who played the Fillmore in SF three years ago) was scheduled to play this Saturday (3/20) night. Earlier that day both Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and Big Star bassist Andy Hummel (who are already in Austin tonight) were booked to appear on a SxSW music panel (Chilton was not booked on the same panel) all about Big Star and their influence. According to a few sources down in Austin tonight, Chilton's bandmates are considering going ahead with the panel, only now it will become a tribute to the late great Alex Chilton. And as for exactly what will happen in place of the scheduled Big Star concert late Saturday night, it is still uncertain but many are already speculating that it will become a big scale tribute concert with many surprise guests performing in honor of the man.
Big Star "Thirteen" from the 1972 LP #1 Record (Ardent/Stax)