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The Box Tops Were More Than “The Letter”

The Box Tops, when it comes right down to it, are remembered for “The Letter,” which was a hit for them and for Joe Cocker and Leon Russell.

The band, according to Wikipedia, was the leading “blue-eyed” (meaning white) band of the 1960s. Other sites put them right up there, but mention The Righteous Brothers and the Rascals as others that could lay claim to that title.

The Box Tops’ roots were in Memphis. Among other songs associated with the band are “Cry Like a Baby” and “Soul Deep.” Lesser known songs by the group -– which Wikipedia said are considered “minor classics” — include “Neon Rainbow,” “I Met Her in Church” and “Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March.” Another song in the band’s act, perhaps a bit surprisingly, was “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which was written by the members of Procol Harum and of course is associated with that band.

“The Letter” was written by Wayne Carson Thompson. It was released in August, 1967 and reached Billboard’s top spot during the middle of the year. It stayed there for four months and eventually sold 4 million records, received two Grammy nominations and a gold disc.

It is a bit funny: There only are two degrees of separation between The Box Tops and Noel Coward. The Box Tops recorded “The Letter,” which was recorded by Russell and Cocker on an album “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” which takes its title from one of Coward’s most famous songs. Music is a pretty small world.

The AllMusic profile of the band focuses special attention on front man Alex Chilton, who it calls “one of rock’s most revered cult figures” due to his tenure with a subsequent band, Big Star. Chilton – who died in 2010– is called an American version of Stevie Winwood by AllMusic.

Above is “The Letter” and Below is “Cry Like a Baby.”

Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to write this profile.