The Box Tops Biography

Formed in 1965, and originally known as the Devilles, this Memphis, Tennesse, USA-based quintet - Alex Chilton (William Alexander Chilton, 28 December 1950, Memphis, Tennessee, USA; guitar/vocals), Gary Talley (b. 17 August 1947, Memphis, Tennessee, USA; lead guitar), Bill Cunningham (b. 23 January 1950, Memphis, Tennessee, USA; bass/keyboards), John Evans (b. 18 June 1948, Memphis, Tennessee, USA; keyboards/guitar) and Danny Smythe (b. 25 August 1948, Memphis, Tennessee, USA; drums) - sprang to fame two years later when their debut single, ‘The Letter’, became an international hit and a US chart-topper. Although nominally a band, their appeal lay in Chilton’s raspy, blue-eyed soul delivery and Dan Penn’s complementary production, with the rest of the band often replaced by session players in the studio.

The winning combination of southern soul with pop was repeated on further successes, ‘Neon Rainbow’, ‘Cry Like A Baby’ (a US number 2 hit), the annoyingly infectious ‘Choo Choo Train’, ‘I Met Her In Church’, ‘Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March’, and ‘Soul Deep’. Rick Allen (b. 28 January 1946, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA) and Tom Boggs (b. Thomas Boggs, 16 July 1947, USA, d. 5 May 2008, Memphis, Tennessee, USA) had replaced Evans and Smythe respectively by the time of the Box Top’s third album, Non Stop, but the band’s gifted singer remained its focal point. Any impetus faltered when their backroom mentors were drawn into other projects. Several of Chilton’s own songs appeared on the band’s final album, 1969’s Dimensions, with ‘I Must Be The Devil’ in particular hinting at his future direction.

The Box Tops broke up in 1969, but Chilton subsequently reappeared in the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful Big Star before embarking on an erratic solo career. He reunited with the original line-up of the Box Tops in 1996 to record a new album, and has continued to play live with the band on a temporary basis ever since.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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