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
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
"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
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.