An American songwriter, guitarist, singer and producer, best known as the lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star.
Chilton's early commercial sales success in the 1960s as a teen vocalist for the Box Tops was not repeated in later years with Big Star and in his indie music solo career on small labels, but he drew a loyal following in the indie and alternative music fields, and is often cited as an influence by many mainstream rock artists and bands.
A local band recruited the teenager in 1966 as their lead singer after learning of the popularity of his vocal performance at a talent show at Memphis' Central High School; this band was The Devilles, later renamed Box Tops.
The new group recorded with Chips Moman and producer/songwriter Dan Penn at American Sound Studio and Muscle Shoals' FAME Studios.
As lead singer for the Box Tops, Chilton enjoyed at the age of 16 a number-one international hit, "The Letter." The Box Tops went on to have several other major chart hits, including "Cry Like a Baby" (1968) and "Soul Deep" (1969).
By late 1969, only Chilton and guitarist Gary Talley remained from the original group, and newer additions replaced the members who had departed. The group decided to disband and pursue independent careers in February 1970.
Chilton then began performing as a solo artist, maintaining a working relationship with Penn for demos.
After a period in New York City, during which Chilton worked on his guitar technique and singing style some of which was believed to have been influenced by a chance meeting with Roger McGuinn at a friend's apartment in New York, when Chilton was impressed with McGuinn's singing and playing, Chilton returned to Memphis in 1971 and co-founded the power-pop group Big Star, with Chris Bell, recording at engineer John Fry's Ardent Studios.
Chilton and Bell co-wrote "In The Street" for Big Star's first album #1 Record, a track later known as the theme song of That '70s Show.
Moving back to New York in 1977, Chilton performed as "Alex Chilton and the Cossacks" with a lineup that included Chris Stamey (later of The dB's) and Richard Lloyd of Television at venues like CBGB, releasing an influential solo single, "Bangkok"
Chilton moved to New Orleans in the early 1980s, while also touring regularly with Panther Burns and occasionally as a solo artist, as documented in his poorly received 1982 solo release Live in London.
Touring and recording as a solo artist from the late-1980s through the 1990s with bassist Ron Easley and eventually drummer Richard Dworkin, Chilton gained a reputation for his eclectic taste in cover versions.
From the mid-1990s on, he added to his schedule concerts and recordings with the reunited Box Tops and a version of Big Star.
Chilton was present at his home in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated on September 4, 2005.
Chilton was taken to the hospital in New Orleans on March 17, 2010, complaining of health problems, and died the same day of a heart attack.