Once upon a time (1971
to be exact), Alex Chilton
wandered back to Memphis
from New York
after quitting the the Box Tops
and trying a solo career
. Upon returning
, he met up with his high school
friend Chris Bell
, who invited him to join Ice Water
, the band that he was gutarist
for at the time, since the guitarist
departed. Also in the band were Jody Stephens
and Andy Hummel
. Alex and Chris decided to rename the band Big Star, after a local grocery chain
They recorded their first album, #1 Record, at Ardent Studios in 1972. It got a lot of critical acclaim and some airplay, but Stax gave it the worst possible distribution. Towards the end of the year, Alex and Chris were involved in a power struggle over the direction of the band, and ultimately Chris left to pursue a solo career, which was just beginning to take off, when a car wreck took his life in 1978.
In 1974, the three remaining members released Radio City, an album that got even higher praise than their debut. However, after a repeat performance by their record label to distribute, Andy Hummel gave up the band. John Lightman replaced Andy on the bass for touring dates that included a radio session recorded for an album. After the tour they started work on another album, and they recorded songs, and then it all fell apart. All the songs recorded (an albums' worth) were shelved, and the band broke up.
Alex finally started a long solo career, and Jody went back to working at Ardent Studios. Then in 1978 the shelved tracks were compiled in various orders and issued under different names, Third and Sister Lovers, through Europe. The album made it all over the place and back to the states. And thusly, a bunch of power-pop bands were spawned including the dB's, the Replacements, Let's Active, Game Theory, and R.E.M.. All of them influenced by the Big Star albums that were barely released.
The mid-80's came along and some of the influenced bands were thrust into the college radio/next big thing limelight. So the more people that heard them, the more people heard their vocal praise of Big Star's music, through interviews, covers at live shows, and well, the best way it's been done, the Replacements' song Alex Chilton. In 1992, after a new generation of artists influenced by Big Star started to gain even more popularity than groups before them (such as the Posies, Teenage Fanclub, and Matthew Sweet) Rykodisc reissued Third/Sister Lovers and Big Star Live, and Stax did the right thing and reissued #1 Record and Radio City on one disc.
In 1993 Alex and Jody decided to get back together for a one-off show to play some Big Star songs live. They wanted Matthew Sweet to play with them for the show, but he didn't feel worthy. So the got Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies to play at the Missouri University in Columbia. The good people at Zoo Records recorded it and released it. The show and album were so successful that the reunion band has gone on tours of the United States, Europe, and Japan. They still play shows every so often too under the Big Star name. Their most recent show was on New Year's Eve 2000 in New Orleans at the Howlin' Wolf.