35 Facts About Alex Chilton


William Alexander Chilton was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer best known as the lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star.


Alex Chilton is frequently cited as a seminal influence by influential rock artists and bands, some of whose testimonials appeared in the 2012 documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.


Alex Chilton grew up in a musical family; his father, Sidney Alex Chilton, was a jazz musician.


Alex Chilton was 16 when his first professional recording, the Box Tops' song "The Letter", became a number-one international hit.


Alex Chilton began recording his own solo material in the fall of 1969 at Ardent Studios with local musicians including producer Terry Manning and drummer Richard Rosebrough, and producing a few local blues-rock acts.


In 1979, Alex Chilton released the album Like Flies on Sherbert in a limited edition of 500 copies.


Alex Chilton spent most of 1980 and 1981 living in Memphis and staying off the road, except for a trip to London in May 1980 to play two shows with bassist Matthew Seligman and drummer Morris Windsor of the Soft Boys, and guitarist Knox of the Vibrators.

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Alex Chilton continued to work with Tav Falco's Panther Burns on stage and in the studio during this period.


Alex Chilton toured briefly in 1981 as a solo act, backed by a trio of musicians who played at different times with Tav Falco's Panther Burns: guitarist Jim Duckworth, bassist Ron Easley, and drummer Jim Sclavunos.


Alex Chilton moved to New Orleans in 1982, where he spent much of 1982 and 1983 working outside music: washing dishes at the Louis XVI Restaurant in the French Quarter, working as a janitor at the Uptown nightclub Tupelo's Tavern, and working as a tree-trimmer.


Alex Chilton moved back into playing music full-time in the summer of 1984, when he and Coman began a four-month stretch playing in a cover band called the Scores, working in four-hour shifts at the Bourbon Street tourist bar Papa Joe's, and taking requests from a printed list of songs placed on the customer tables.


Alex Chilton stopped playing regular gigs with Panther Burns and formed a trio with the group's bassist, Coman, and drummer Joey Torres to play his out-of-town bookings.


At this point, his career was effectively relaunched, and for the next 25 years, Alex Chilton sporadically led a three-piece touring band, recorded studio and live solo records for several independent record labels, and reunited with versions of his previous bands the Box Tops and Big Star for brief tours and recordings.


At the outset of this period, while in New York in 1985 to play a booking at Danceteria, Alex Chilton was connected through a journalist with Patrick Mathe, founder of the Paris-based record label New Rose.


In 1985, Alex Chilton began working with Memphis jazz drummer Doug Garrison, and his trio continued touring and began to record as well.


Alex Chilton forged a new direction for his solo work, eschewing effects and blending soul, jazz, country, rockabilly, and pop.


Royalties from this version allowed Alex Chilton, who had struggled financially since leaving the Box Tops, to buy his first new car since his Box Top days, and a piece of rural land near Hohenwald, Tennessee, where he planned to build a small house.


Alex Chilton was given a $21,000 recording budget by his European and US record labels which allowed him to augment his band on various songs with a three-piece horn section, backup singers, piano, keyboards, and rhythm guitar.


Alex Chilton was able to continue the genre-mixing he had started with Like Flies on Sherbert by including soul, blues, gospel, and rock songs on the same record.


Alex Chilton ended the album with a cover of "Raunchy", his instrumental salute to Sun Records guitarist Sid Manker, a friend of his father from whom he'd once taken a guitar lesson; this song was a standard in his early Panther Burns repertoire.


Alex Chilton followed up High Priest with Black List, his third EP in four years.


Alex Chilton produced albums by several artists beginning in the 1980s, including the Detroit group the Gories, and continued producing Panther Burns albums well into the 1990s.


In 1990 and 1991, Alex Chilton took time off from touring and recording to live during the warm months in a tent on his land in rural Tennessee and work on clearing trees and framing his planned house, a project he was never to complete.


In 1993, Alex Chilton recorded Cliches, an acoustic solo record of jazz and pop standards, in New Orleans' Chez Flames studio with producer Keith Keller.


Alex Chilton took an enlarged edition of his band on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in July 1995 to promote the album, playing the song "Lies".

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Alex Chilton released one more album as a solo artist, the 2004 CD Live in Anvers, which featured him playing a show in Belgium with a pick-up band of European musicians.


Alex Chilton reformed Big Star in 1993 with a lineup that included two members of the Posies, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow.


Alex Chilton had toured Europe in 1991 with a version of the band, and had sung Box Tops material as a featured singer in oldies package tours during the 1980s and 1990s.


Alex Chilton toured and recorded less frequently in his final decade, choosing to spend more of his time at home in New Orleans.


In 1995, Alex Chilton purchased a 19th-century center-hall cottage in the Treme neighborhood for $13,000, and he enjoyed working on his house and practicing Scott Joplin rags on his piano.


Alex Chilton was present at his home in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter on September 4,2005.


Alex Chilton was taken to a hospital in New Orleans on Wednesday, March 17,2010, complaining of health problems, and died the same day of a heart attack.


Alex Chilton had experienced at least two episodes of shortness of breath in the week prior to his fatal heart attack, though he did not seek medical attention in part because he did not have health insurance.


Alex Chilton was survived by his wife, Laura, a son, Timothee, and a sister, Cecilia.


Alex Chilton was honored with a star on the outside mural of the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue, recognizing performers that have played sold-out shows or have otherwise demonstrated a major contribution to the culture at the iconic venue.