I Never Travel Far Without a Little Big Star

SXSW Panels

Live Shots
Photo by Gary Miller

I Never Travel Far Without a Little Big Star

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 20

Alex Chilton led an extraordinary life, and for 90 minutes this SXSW panel of friends and bandmembers told his story as best they could. Conceived as a celebration of Big Star in the wake of last year's box set Keep Your Eye on the Sky (Rhino), the gathering changed its focus after Chilton's passing earlier in the week. What became clear was that although he was a hard man to love, his talents and influence were wide-ranging. Memphis writer Bob Mehr of The Commercial Appeal, who penned the box set's liner notes and served as moderator, took a chronological approach to Chilton's life. Big Star's drummer Jody Stephens spoke of the singer's family life: "His house was a fascinating place. It was a center of culture, and he stuck with that his entire life." Tommy Keene told of seeing the Box Tops, Chilton's first scrape with success, open a show for Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, while Chris Stamey of the dB's recalled stories of he and Chilton living together in New York. Of Big Star's lasting appeal, Mehr nailed it. "The albums still sound fresh," he said, "both of their time and ahead of their time." Appearing via Skype, John Fry of Memphis' Ardent Studios claimed that Chilton "didn't really like to celebrate the past." Now that he's gone, others had no choice, and while a few tears were shed, they reveled in the man's memories.

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