Alto Reed, Bob Seger Sax Player, Dies At 72

The Silver Bullet Band member lost a long battle with colon cancer.
Alto Reed [© Michael Weintrob]

Alto Reed, saxophone player for Bob Seger, has died. Reed passed away in his home after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 72.

Seger released a statement on his official Facebook page.

“It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of the passing of our lifelong friend and band mate, Alto Reed. Alto passed away this morning at his home with his family by his side after fighting a courageous battle with colon cancer.

Alto has been a part of our musical family, on and off stage, for nearly 50 years. I first starting playing with Alto in 1971. He was amazing – he could play just about anything…he was funky, could scat and play tenor sax and alto sax at the same time.

We worked with Alto often and when we booked our first headline arena gigs at Cobo Hall, we asked him to be a part of those shows. No doubt his iconic performance on Turn The Page helped lift us to another level. 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.

Off stage, Alto had a passion for discovering and experiencing new things. He taught me how to sail on Biscayne Bay, we swam with the sharks (unintentionally!), and he often introduced us to local foods and restaurants he had discovered. I called him Captain. He was bolder than I was. I remember visiting him in the Miami area and I found him feeding the manatees in a lagoon behind his house. Most of us feed the seagulls, Alto fed the manatees!

Alto started a family and was a fabulous father. He helped raise two talented, beautiful, intelligent young ladies. Over the years, his passion for music, life and new adventures never diminished. We loved him like a brother and will miss forever.”

Born Thomas Cartmell in Detroit, Alto Reed was an original member of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band. Seger signed Reed on in 1974. In 1976, Seger and company broke out with their hit album Night Moves.

Reed made his recording debut with Seger two years earlier, however, in what is undoubtedly his signature performance. Reed played on Seger’s album Back In ’72, and his haunting intro to “Turn The Page” helps make the track one of the greatest rock classics of all time.

Along with bassist Chris Campbell, Reed was the longest-tenured member of the Silver Bullet Band, touring with Seger all the way into 2019.

Alto Reed’s final gig came on June 21, 2019 at the sold-out DTE Energy Music Theatre.

About Matt Bishop

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