Longtime friend John Fry said that the Big Star founder passed away in an emergency room in New Orleans, Louisiana after suffering from heart problems, CNN reports.
Fry said: "Obviously, we are all stunned and deeply saddened at this news."
"I'm crushed. We're all just crushed," he added to Commercial Appeal. "This sudden death experience is never something that you're prepared for. And yet it occurs."
Fellow Memphis musician Van Duren said: "When some people pass, you say it was the end of an era. In this case, it's really true. It puts an end to the Big Star thing, and that's a very sad thing."
Chilton started his music career as a member of the Box Tops before founding Big Star, who released the critically-acclaimed 1970s albums #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.
Big Star released a comprehensive 98-track box-set last year titled Keep An Eye On The Sky.
The reformed band were due to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas this weekend.