(Note: John Davis is a musician with Title Tracks, formerly Georgie James and Q And Not U.)
I was in Austin, TX for the SXSW festival and conference, playing some shows with my band, Title Tracks. I had just stepped off stage when a KEXP DJ told me the news: "I don't want to bum you out, but Alex Chilton just died."
I'm not sure what I said in response, but I immediately thought of the "Big Star" show that was supposed to happen that weekend in Austin. I also thought of Jody Stephens, the group's drummer,, whom I had just met for the first time a few weeks earlier, when Title Tracks passed through Memphis, Big Star's hometown.
I've been doing a radio show on WOXY.com for the past year and I'd wanted to record an episode of my show focused on all of the "Big Star" paraphernalia that has come out in recent months. There's the majestic Big Star box set called Keep An Eye On The Sky, with dozens of unissued live recordings and outtakes. Equally important to me was the deluxe reissue of Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos." Bell was Big Star's ill-fated co-frontman for the band's 1972 debut album, "#1 Record." He quit the band shortly after the album's release and bounced around for a while before beginning to make a comeback in 1978 with a glorious double A-side single, "I Am The Cosmos" b/w "You And Your Sister." Sadly, Bell died in a single car accident in December of '78, essentially unaware of the musical legacy he had contributed so much to.
When I came back from the tour I learned of the demise of WOXY and my radio show, due to a lack of funding. I'm glad to be able to share this interview, recorded in February at Ardent Studios, with Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and Ardent founder John Fry.
Big Star Meets John Fry: Drummer Jody Stephens and Studio Owner John Fry discuss how they came to know each other and how the early version of Big Star started working at Ardent Studios.
Big Star Peers: Jody Stephens and John Fry discuss whether or not any other bands from Big Star's original era were doing anything in the same vein musically.
Quintessential Big Star: Jody Stephens and John Fry determine which Big Star songs most quintessentially melded the band's love for British Invasion rock music with Stax/Memphis soul.
Resurgence and Reunion: Jody Stephens and John Fry look back to see when the resurgence of interest in Big Star began and describe how and why Big Star reunited in the early '90s.
Big Star Then and Now: Jody Stephens and John Fry talk about the differences between making a Big Star album in the '70s and making one now; also, how magical the '70s were.
Despite Chilton's death, the surviving members of Big Star went ahead with the show at SXSW and were joined by a long list of guest musicians, all of whom wanted to pay their respects to Chilton and the friends he made music with.
John Doe, Chris Stamey, M. Ward, Evan Dando, Susan Cowsill and plenty of others (including original Big Star bassist Andy Hummel) joined in and made a sad occasion a little less so. Nothing can bring back Chilton, but nothing can take away what he left behind, either.
You can watch some video clips and read thoughts on the show here.