Wandering around in a New Orleans graveyard for
the “Cutting Edge” cameras.
By Fred Mills
Sometime in 1985, not long after he had released the Feudalist Tarts EP, Alex Chilton was filmed
for a segment of MTV series I.R.S.
Records Presents The Cutting Edge. The show, which aired once a month on Sunday
nights (and as a result is sometimes confused with another MTV show, 120 Minutes), ran from 1983 to 1987 and was hosted by Fleshtones frontman Peter
In the segment, Zaremba introduces Chilton, who then plays a
little guitar/harp blues (“Lost My Job”) while strolling around in a New
Orleans graveyard, talks a bit about himself and about living in New Orleans, and finishes
up doing a few refrains of the Box Tops hit “The Letter.”
It’s a nice little clip, which you can view below (note that
it is mistakenly labeled “120 Minutes”) – it’s literally been 20 years or so
since I’ve seen it, but today a friend told me it was on YouTube. The reason I
mention the clip is that after Chilton passed away unexpectedly on March 17, I
wrote a brief obituary for him here at Blurt, and included this personal
One time I met him a few hours before he was to perform at a small club in Charlotte, NC,
he invited me to join him at the booth he was relaxing in and we chatted for a
little while about friends we had in common. One mutual friend in particular
was of interest to him: back in the mid ‘80s I had sold an acoustic Takamine
guitar to a friend who had moved to New Orleans,
where Chilton had relocated from Memphis
some time earlier. Turns out he had met her through the Tav Falco/Panther Burns
crowd, and not long after she bought the guitar from me he was approached by
MTV to appear on a segment of their “Cutting Edge” program. Not
having a decent acoustic guitar himself, Chilton asked her if he could borrow
hers – mine – for the taping. When I told Chilton I got a kick out of seeing
him play my guitar on national television, he shook his head and grinned.
“I remember that!” he said, laughing. “That was a damn good
guitar. I wanted to buy it from her.”
So there you have it. He was right – it was a damn good guitar. I should’ve hung on to it. But then, I wouldn’t be able to tell you this story now if I did hang on to it. I guess you
could say it had a good trajectory, too.