Alto Reed, Longtime Bob Seger Saxophonist, Dies at 72
Alto Reed, longtime saxophonist for Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band, has passed away from colon cancer. He was 72.
"Our hearts are deeply broken by this enormous loss, but also filled with gratitude as we reflect on his legacy and how incredibly lucky we've been to get to call such a special guy, dad," Seger and Reed's daughters said in an official statement provided by Seger's publicist. "He led an extraordinary life, marked by passion, determination, and dreams come true – an action-packed adventure filled top to bottom with love, magic, dear friends, family, and unspeakable joys. The stuff of legends, really."
Chelsea and Victoria continued: "His skillfulness, dedication and brilliance as an artist and performer made him a hero not only to us, but to thousands of others – if not millions. He lived for the stage and most importantly, his role for nearly 50 years in the Silver Bullet Band with his musical family: Bob, Craig, Chris, and so many other talented musicians who played alongside him. We are truly comforted in knowing that his spirit will shine brightly on through the music that he has left behind, and the impression that he’s had on so many souls in concert."
Seger said their musical connection dated back to 1971, in a tribute post on Facebook. "He was amazing. He could play just about anything," Seger added. "He was funky, could scat, and play tenor sax and alto sax at the same time."
Reed became a full-time member after Seger's first headlining shows at Detroit's Cobo Hall, where "his iconic performance on 'Turn the Page' helped lift us to another level," Seger said. "He has been with us on that stage virtually every show, ever since. And whether it was 'Turn the Page,' 'Mainstreet' or 'Old Time Rock and Roll,' audiences roared every time he played his part. In our band, Alto was the rock star."
Seger also recalled his offstage friendship with Reed, particularly his love of sailing and ability to discover great local restaurants while on the road.
Reed was born Thomas Neal Cartmell on May 16, 1948, in Detroit, and was inspired to begin making music by a teacher. His first sessions with Seger were for 1973's Back in '72, the record which first featured "Turn the Page." By 1974, Seger had formed the Silver Bullet Band, and the saxophonist – whom Seger rechristened "Alto Reed" around the time of 1976's Live Bullet – was one of only two members who never left the band. (The other was bassist Chris Campbell.)
Reed also performed with such notables as Grand Funk Railroad, Steven Tyler, Ted Nugent, Little Feat and Alice Cooper. He put out a solo album, Cool Breeze, in 1997 and was co-credited on a record with singer-songwriter Steve Dickinson on 2009's Tonight We Ride. Reed also composed the scores for a pair of movies written by actor Jeff Daniels, Escanaba in Da Moonlight and Super Sucker.
In lieu of flowers, Seger and Reed's daughters are asking that donations be made to the Detroit Symphony's Detroit Harmony Fund, which looks to put a musical instrument in the hand of every child in the city. Chelsea and Victoria also encouraged people to get regular screenings for colon cancer.
In Memoriam: 2020 Deaths