Saxophonist. Vocalist, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, The Coasters, Glady's Knight, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Passed Away Wednesday, August 15th, 2012, In Houston, Texas
Danny Piano Chesnut, Friday, August 17, 2012, Tragic to hear about Billy Tillman, Great friend, Great player, Now there’s one fewer at the top of the physical with whom one could musically correspond and of which the magic of communication created a zone of association in the timeless language of art, where we sat at a table of which position can't be bought but earned and enjoyed as other's looked at the feast perpetuated by talent, created by creativity, powered by the spirit, and of whom very, very, very few have attained such broad scope of acceptance and knowledge; Thank you to Suzanne and the rest of the family for your support for Billy and allowing him to share his talent as we pursued our goals, Sincerely, Danny,
Bill Tillman, a saxophonist best known for his work with Blood, Sweat & Tears, died yesterday, Wednesday, August 15, 2012 in Houston after hitting his head in the bathroom during an early-morning fall. He was 65.
Known for his flashy sax work and husky vocals, Tillman dominated the stage, standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at nearly 300 pounds.
With an ability to switch effortlessly from jazz to classic rock to swing and standards, Tillman eschewed the traditional horn player’s role in the background and instead preferred to front the Bill Tillman Band. He spent decades playing area clubs like Popsicle Toes, Memphis, the Village Country Club and the Arcadia Theater.
Also a gifted flutist, he recorded eight albums
with Blood, Sweat & Tears and toured nationally with acts such as Roy Orbison,
Gladys Knight and Chuck Berry. From 1978 to 1980, he was a soloist with the
Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
According to the Dallas News, the musician and resident of Plano, Texas had been waiting for a kidney transplant and was in Houston for medical treatment at the time of the accident.
"Were it not for Bill Tillman, BRAVO! Entertainment may never have existed, we mourn his loss and celebrate his mighty mighty talent," the company Tillman worked with over the years said in a statement on its site.
Tillman was named most outstanding musician in the Texas Public School Board system in 1965. Following a stint in the North Texas Lab Band he went on the road, touring with The Coasters, Chuck Berry, the late Roy Orbison and being the musical director for Gladys Knight.
A Plano resident for most of the last 30 years,
Tillman was awaiting a kidney transplant and was in Houston for medical
treatment. Staying at the home of his mother, Marilyn K. Miller, Tillman died
after hitting his head in an early-morning fall in the bathroom.
In 1973, Tillman -- an imposing figure at 6-foot, 4-inches and nearly 300 pounds -- joined Blood, Sweat & Tears. Tillman remained with the band for a string of the band's studio and live releases up to 1978's "Live in Scandinavia". From there Tillman joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a soloist and continued making music, releasing three solo albums in the 1980s. His last studio album was "Altogether" in 2000, but he continued performing with the Bill Tillman Band and playing an array of styles.
Always a showman, Tillman was known for stage antics such as tearing phonebooks in half.
“At Memphis in Addison people would toss phone books up onstage and the new guys in the band didn’t know why,” his son recalled. “His legacy is a joy.”
"He played every grand ballroom of every hotel you can name," said his son Anthony Tillman, adding his father was known to tear telephone books in half on stage as part of his schtick."
Tillman is survived by his mother Marilyn K. Miller, his son Anthony and five other children. A son, Barrett Alexander Tillman, passed away in 2000.
"Billy Tillman" Sax with Watch Blood, Sweat & Tears "And When I Die" ( 8 Albums) Video.