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- Posted on Mar 17th 2010 10:31PM by Dan Reilly
Chilton, a Memphis native, rose to fame at only 16 years old when the Box Tops had a chart-topping hit with 'The Letter' in 1967. After the group split in 1970, Chilton helped form rock-pop group Big Star, consisting of several Memphis-area musicians.
Though Big Star never achieved major chart success, their first three albums -- '#1 Record,' 'Radio City' and 'Third/Sister' -- have been lauded by critics and discovered by a new generation of fans. The band split in 1974 and reunited in 1993, eventually releasing their fourth studio album, 'In Space,' in 2005, with Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens as the only original members remaining. Last September, Rhino Records released a 98-song box set, 'Keep an Eye on the Sky,' featuring Big Star's greatest hits as well as rarities and unreleased demos.
"It's obvious to anybody that listens to his live performances or his body of recorded work, his tremendous talent as a vocalist and songwriter and instrumentalist," John Fry, who worked with the band and founded the Ardent label, told Commercial Appeal. "Beyond the musical talent, he was an interesting, articulate and extremely intelligent person. I don't think you'd ever have a conversation with him of any length that you didn't learn something completely new."
Big Star was scheduled to play SXSW this Saturday. Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, and son, Timothy.