I can honestly say that I don't think I've EVER received so much mail after the passing of one of our rock heroes. Literally DOZENS and DOZENS of emails came in from our readers after the sad passing of former Box Tops Lead Singer Alex Chilton, CLEARLY a List Favorite. (In second place would have to be Gene Pitney ... we received a TREMENDOUS outpouring of memories and praise when Gene left us a few years ago.)
We can't run 'em all ... and let's face it ... at some point all the news reports sound the same ... so here are just a few of the emails I've received in the past 24 hours:
Click here: The Associated Press: Influential guitarist, singer Alex Chilton dies
As the lead singer of "The Box Tops" and "Big Star" Alex had few musical peers. The success of both bands was short lived compared other groups of the era -- and he was quoted as saying he 'didn't mind flying under the radar.' I'd beg to differ: Alex soared above the radar -- and, as such, was an inspiration to all of us who loved his unique style and the urgency he brought to a song. I know that The Beach Boys, particularly Dennis and Carl, were huge fans of Alex and while I'm saddened to learn of his tragic passing at age 59, I am confident that the three of them are up there doing a bit of harmony, remembering the 'good old days,' and waiting for the rest of us so they'll have an audience once again. RIP Alex, you were one of a kind.
Fred Vail / Treasure Isle
Music City, USA
I just heard about Alex Chilton's passing. I am upset beyond words. We played a couple of shows with The Box Tops and they were amazing. When we did a show together in Vegas, I had a chance to spend time with Alex, and I am grateful for that. I have always been a huge fan. I will miss him. My condolences go out to Gary, Bill and the entire Box Tops family.
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords
I read the news today, oh boy.
Alex Chilton died yesterday in New Orleans, apparently of heart disease. The reunited Big Star was scheduled to perform in Austin this weekend. He had many ties to both Memphis and New Orleans. I remember him most for his hits with the Box Tops, including The Letter, Cry Like A Baby, Soul Deep and Neon Rainbow, to which I danced many a slow song in my junior high days.
Yesterday (Wednesday) morning I found myself idly singing "The Letter" by the Box Tops as I puttered in the kitchen. My wife asked me why I was singing that song, & I told her about briefly meeting Alex Chilton, circa 1978, when I re-recorded Undercover Angel for K-Tel Records in Nashville. So hearing today that he passed yesterday http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2010/03/rip-alex-chilton-american-music-man.html was a spiritual experience as well as a sad shock.
God bless this American Treasure.
I heard the sad news early this morning about the death of Alex Chilton. Our family had a chance to see him with most of the original members of the Box Tops a few years ago. He was really on that day and the band was great. They opened for the original Raspberries at a Summer festival in Waukesha Wisconsin. It is sad to think only about 50 people were there.
Now THAT is a downright crime ... two EXTREMELY talented acts who helped to make both the '60's and the '70's just a little bit brighter. What a shame. (kk)
I'm sure by now you've heard that Alex Chilton of The Box Tops passed away last night. They only had three hits, right? But I sure do remember his voice!
The Box Tops had two REALLY Big National Hits ... but they cracked The National Top 40 a total of eight times: The Letter (#1, 1967); Neon Rainbow (#24, 1967); Cry Like A Baby (#2, 1968); Choo Choo Train (#17, 1968); I Met Her In Church (#37, 1968, and MY personal favorite); Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March (#28, 1969); Soul Deep (#13, 1969) and Turn On A Dream (#35, 1969.) They also did an EXCELLENT version of the Bob Dylan tune "I Shall Be Released", another favorite of mine. (It peaked at #67 in 1969.)
Here in Chicago, "The Letter" held down the #1 Spot for six straight weeks ... and "Neon Rainbow" and "Soul Deep" both made The Top Ten. ("Soul Deep" went all the way to #3 here in Chi-Town and remains one of our local chart favorites.)
The Box Tops were amongst the acts working with Chips Moman in the mid-to-late '60's and early '70's that helped define "The Memphis Sound". Incredible to think that Alex was only 16 when "The Letter" was first released ... he had the soulful voice and musical presence of a singer two or three times that age! He also clearly had a very long and loyal following. He will be missed. (kk)
-- submitted by Eddie Burke
Hey Kent ... what a sad day.
I thought you might want to pass this on.
This is a GREAT, in-depth report and profile of the man ... highly recommended! (kk)
I LOST A GREAT FRIEND YESTERDAY. I'VE KNOWN ALEX CHILTON FOR A GOOD THIRTY YEARS & WE HAD SOME GREAT TIMES. WHEN HE WAS STRUGGLING TO MAKE A BUCK HE USED TO COME OVER TO MY HOUSE & RECORD FROM MY EXTENSIVE RECORD COLLECTION, AND I'M PROUD TO SAY SOME OF THE SONGS HE RECORDED IN MY BASEMENT ENDED UP ON SOME OF HIS SOLO LP'S & IN HIS CONCERT PERFORMANCES (I THINK WE SHARED AN ECLECTIC & VARIED TASTE IN MUSIC)!
HE WAS NEVER REALLY COMFORTABLE WITH "FAME". HE WAS A SIMPLE GUY WHO DID WHAT HE WANTED TO DO, WHEN HE WANTED TO. AT TIMES HE COULD BE A BIT ODD, BUT HE'D NEVER TRY TO ACT BETTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE. I REMEMBER DRIVING HIM TO THE AIRPORT ONE DAY & HE WAS FREAKED OUT ABOUT AN $80,000.00 ROYALTY CHECK HE RECEIVED AFTER THE BANGLES RELEASED HIS SONG "SEPTEMBER GURLS" ON THEIR MULTI-PLATINUM WORLDWIDE SMASH "DIFFERENT LIGHT" LP. HE SAID HE NEVER SAW THAT KIND OF MONEY WITH THE BOX TOPS, EVEN AFTER SELLING MILLIONS OF RECORDS! I'M SO GLAD I HAVE A LOAD OF PICTURES TO REMEMBER HIM BY. I'LL SURELY MISS HIM, HE WAS DEFINITELY ONE OF A KIND & A TRUE POP PLEASURE.
MICHAEL G. BUSH
This from Ron Smith of oldiesmusic.com:
Alex Chilton, lead singer of the Box Tops, died Wednesday (March 17) of an apparent heart attack in the emergency room of a New Orleans hospital. He was just 59. Born in 1950 in Memphis, Alex was only 16 when he was recruited to front a local group, the Devilles. They were actually the third group the talented singer performed with. But this one was to succeed beyond his wildest dreams. Hooking up with producer Chips Moman, Alex (along with guitarist Gary Talley, keyboardist John Evans, Bill Cunningham on bass and drummer Danny Smythe) recorded the rock classic, "The Letter" in 1967. All of the members were teenagers still, but that didn't stop the song from rocketing to #1, where it stayed for 4 weeks. It was followed by six more top 40 hits including "Neon Rainbow" (#24-1967), "Cry Like A Baby" (#2, 1968) and "Soul Deep" (#18-1969). All told, the group had ten chart records in four years, but numerous personnel changes led to its breakup in 1970. Alex then set out to learn guitar from masters like Stax Records' Steve Cropper and in 1971 he formed Big Star. While nowhere near the commercial success that the Box Tops were, they were critically acclaimed until their own breakup in 1974. Alex moved to New Orleans and worked on a variety of solo and supporting projects since then, including reunions with his two groups.
And here is the official Associated Press Report:
NEW ORLEANS — Singer and guitarist Alex Chilton, known for his influential work with bands the Box Tops and Big Star, died Wednesday. He was 59.
Chilton died at a hospital in New Orleans after experiencing what appeared to be heart problems, said his long time friend John Fry.
Fry, the owner of Memphis-based Ardent Studios, said the death was unexpected and that Chilton's wife, Laura, was very distressed.
"Alex was an amazingly talented person, not just as a musician and vocalist and a songwriter, but he was intelligent and well read and interested in a wide number of music genres," Fry said.
As the teenage singer for the pop-soul outfit the Box Tops, Chilton topped the charts with the band's song "The Letter" in 1967. Their other hits were "Soul Deep" and "Cry Like a Baby."
His work with Big Star had less mainstream success but made him a cult hero to other musicians, as evidenced by the title of the 1987 Replacements song, "Alex Chilton." Big Star's three 1970s LPs all earned spots on Rolling Stone magazine's list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Chilton said in a 1987 interview with The Associated Press that didn't mind flying under the radar.
"What would be ideal would be to make a ton of money and have nobody know about you," he said. "Fame has a lot of baggage to carry around. I wouldn't want to be like Bruce Springsteen. I don't need that much money and wouldn't want to have 20 bodyguards following me."
"If I did become really popular, the critics probably wouldn't like me all that much," he said. "They like to root for the underdog."
Chilton had been scheduled to perform with Big Star on Saturday at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
"Alex Chilton always messed with your head, charming and amazing you while doing so. His gift for melody was second to none, yet he frequently seemed in disdain of that gift," the festival's creative director, Brent Gulke, said in an e-mail.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
THE LETTER ... one of the biggest hits of 1967 ... and the '60's!
And one of MY personal favorites, I MET HER IN CHURCH
This just in, too ...
'DAVY CROCKETT' STAR FESS PARKER DIES
Fess Parker -- who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone -- has died of natural causes ... a rep confirms with TMZ.
Parker -- who also starred in "Old Yeller" -- owned the DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara and the Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos, CA.Parker married Marcella Rinehart in 1960. They had two kids. He was 85.
Parker not only played both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but he also had a Top Five hit with "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" back in 1955, one of four artists to chart with this tune at the peak of the television show's popularity. (It was Bill Hayes who had the #1 version) kk
Fess Parker, the actor best known for his TV roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, died Thursday (March 18) at his home in Santa Ynez Valley, California from natural causes. He was 85 and had been married to the same woman for 50 years.
He was born in 1924 in Ft. Worth, Texas, and served in the Marines in World War II (though at six foot, six inches, he was too tall to achieve his ambition of being a pilot). After the war, he graduated from the University of Texas before moving to California to become an actor. He was a contract player for Warner Brothers but it was at the Disney studios that he made his mark. The song, "Ballad Of Davy Crockett," which came originally from a December, 1954 episode of "Disneyland," became a #5 hit the following Spring for Fess. Disney took the TV episode along with its two sequels and created the movie, "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." He also charted with the song "Wringle Wrangle" from his Disney film, "Westward Ho, The Wagons!" Other movies included "Old Yeller" and "The Great Locomotive Chase." In 1964, he starred in NBC-TV's "Daniel Boone," which aired for six seasons. He later entered real estate development in California, including the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara and a winery nearby.
-- Ron Smith / oldiesmusic.com
And let's not forget ...
Just a few words about my friend, Bobby Espinosa of El Chicano who passed recently. He and I were very good friends and had been performing and rehearsing together for the last three years. He actually joined my current band, REBOOT last year. But due to illness, he had to drop out. We were also discussing and planning to do an instrumental jazz album together, but never got into the studio. We did two local TV shows together. His passing was a shock to all of us who knew and respected him. He was a good friend and a great musician. I'll be attending his funeral service on Saturday, March 20th. He will be missed by all of us who loved him.
Yes, we lost Bobby a few weeks back ... scroll back to see our El Chicano flashback on the web page! Didn't know you guys had been rehearsing together ... too bad nothing ever came of that ... sounds like Bobby may have been in poor health for a while. (Would LOVE to hear something you guys were working on if you have anything to share!) kk