Alex Chilton had left the Box Tops, spending time in 1969 in Los Angeles, where he lived with Dennis Wilson, moving back home when Manson and the girls moved into Dennis' house. After that, he spent time in New York City, meeting Bud Scoppa, and learning guitar from Roger McGuinn (this meeting may also have happened in LA, depending on whose story you believe). While in New York, he practiced guitar constantly, developing his famous and distinctive guitar style, and began to write a very serious set of songs, inspired by the Greenwich Village folk scene, and artists like Loudon Wainwright. When Icewater made an aborted trip to NYC trying to score a record deal, Bell visited his childhood friend Chilton, and made him promise to come see his new band when he got home. After seeing the band once at a VFW gig in Memphis, Chilton decided to drop folk music and become a member of Chris Bell's band, Icewater. From this point on, there was a real, cohesive group, and everyone involved and around them recognized it as such.
I came to Big Star late, after The Replacements assured me that they "never go far/without a little Big Star."