MUSIC

Bill Tillman Dead: Ex-'Blood, Sweat & Tears' Saxophonist Dies From Head Injury

08/17/2012 10:33 EDT | Updated 10/17/2012 05:12 EDT
BRAVO

Bill Tillman, a saxophonist best known for his work with Blood, Sweat & Tears, died Wednesday in Houston after hitting his head in the bathroom during an early-morning fall. He was 65.

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.

In 1973, Tillman -- an imposing figure at 6-foot, 4-inches and nearly 300 pounds -- joined Blood, Sweat & Tears in the early 1970s. 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.

"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. "At Memphis in Addison people would toss phone books up onstage and the new guys in the band didn't know why. His legacy is a joy."

No statement was found on Blood, Sweat & Tears official site nor their social media sites regarding Tillman's death.

Tillman is survived by his mother, his son Antony and five other children. A son, Barrett Alexander Tillman, passed away in 2000. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.