Memphis recording studio founder remembers Alex Chilton

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Legendary Memphis musician Alex Chilton died Wednesday at the age of 59.

A band member said he had a heart attack Wednesday night in New Orleans.

Chilton was born and raised in Memphis.  He was just 16 when he hit the big time with the band the Box Tops.

In the 1970's, Chilton did not enjoy the same level of fame in the band Big Star, but their contribution to rock and roll has gained more critical acclaim in the last decade than ever before.

Since Big Star reunited in the early 1990's, album sales for the band had been going strong.  However, Chilton did not measure success by fame or fortune, but rather the music.

Chilton spent a lot of time in the 1970's at Ardent Recording Studio where Big Star recorded three albums.

Ardent Recording Studio founder John Fry never lost touch with Chilton.

"He and his wife were at home in New Orleans and he started complaining of some symptoms and got to the hospital and died in the emergency room," Fry said.

Chilton's sudden death was difficult for Fry.

"Suddenly you hear in the course of a few hours Alex has gone from healthy and with us to ... dead," Fry said.

US Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis shared the news with representatives Thursday.

"He is an embodiment of Memphis music," Cohen said.  "Hard, different, independent, brilliant, beautiful."

Big Star was scheduled perform this weekend at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.  Despite their shock and grief, band mates have decided the show will go as a tribute to Chilton.

Big Star was scheduled to open the Levitt Shell Concert Series in Overton Park in May.  There is no word on whether that show will go on as a tribute to Chilton.

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