The Box Tops are a highly acclaimed and veteran pop/blue-eyed soul group that became hugely popular during the late 1960s and remain among oldies music radio's most widely played acts. Their best known songs include the original version of "The Letter" (1967), the remorseful "Cry Like A Baby" (1968), and the more upbeat "Soul Deep" (1969), all of which showcase the powerful, gritty vocals of lead singer Alex Chilton (December 28, 1950 - March 17, 2010).
Formed in early 1967 in Memphis, Tennessee while all members were still in their late teens and led by Chilton, the original lineup also consisted of drummer Danny Smythe (August 25, 1948 - July 6, 2016), Bill Cunningham (bass), John Evans (keyboards), and Gary Talley (lead guitar), who shared background vocals. First known as The Devilles, they signed with Mala Records soon after and, to avoid confusion with the same-named group in New York, changed their name to The Box Tops. Evans and Smythe left the group in 1968 and were replaced by bassist Rick Allen and drummer Thomas Boggs, respectively. Cunningham left in 1969 and was replaced by bassist Harold Cloud.
The Box Tops debuted in 1967 with what would become their greatest hit and signature song, "The Letter." Written by Wayne Carson Thompson, this era-defining oldies classic topped the Pop/Rock charts in both Canada and the U.S., made the R&B Top 40, went gold, and received a Grammy nomination. Their second greatest hit came in 1968 with the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham-penned "Cry Like A Baby," which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became a million-seller. The group's long string of hits, which continued to 1970, also includes "Neon Rainbow" (1967), "Choo Choo Train" (1968), "I Met Her In Church" (1968), "Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March" (1968), "I Shall Be Released" (1969), "Soul Deep" (1969), "Turn On A Dream" (1969), and "You Keep Tightening Up On Me" (1970).
After they disbanded in 1970, The Box Tops reunited in 1996 with all five original members and continued up to Chilton's passing in 2010. Cunningham and Gary reformed The Box Tops in 2015 with several new members in response to repeated requests by longtime fans, and they have continued to record and perform actively to the present day. The Box Tops were inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2018. "The Letter" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011 and is also included in Rolling Stone's list of "500 Greatest Songs Of All Time" and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll."
- For more info about The Box Tops and their current projects, visit boxtops.com.
- The New York Times remembers Box Tops co-founder and frontman Alex Chilton.
- Ultimate Classic Rock remembers Box Tops founding drummer Danny Smythe.
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The Box Tops
- Choo Choo Train 1968
- Cry Like A Baby 1968
(This song later also became a hit for Kim Carnes (1980).)
- I Met Her In Church 1968
- The Letter 1967
(This song topped the charts and later also became a hit for the Arbors (1969) and Joe Cocker & Leon Russell (1970).)
- Neon Rainbow 1967
- Soul Deep 1969
- Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March 1968
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