Styx

  • Rock band formed in 1972 from Chicago Illinois. The classic lineup was Dennis DeYoung (keyboards, lead and backing vocals, songwriting), James Young (guitars, lead and backing vocals, songwriting), Tommy Shaw (guitars, lead and backing vocals, songwriting), Chuck Panozzo (bass guitar) and John Panozzo (drums).
  • The Panozzo twin brothers were neighbors with DeYoung, and they started to play music together when DeYoung was 14 and the brothers were 12 years old – Chuck on guitar, John on drums, and DeYoung on accordion. They named themselves The Tradewinds. Tom Nardini was added and Chuck moved to bass, and they performed at high schools and frat parties. In 1965, they changed their name to TW4 (There Were 4) when another band named The Trade Winds had a few hits. In 1969, John Curulewski replaced Nardini, and in 1970, Young was added – TW4 was now a five-some.
  • In 1972, they were performing at a grade school in the Chicago area when a talent scout heard them perform. They were signed to an independent record label, and they decided to give the band a new name. They chose Styx because it was the only one they considered that no one hated.
  • They released 4 albums from 1972 to 1974. The single Best Thing from their debut album barely charted, and while their music was popular in the Chicago area, they did not achieve success nationally. In 1974, a Chicago radio station started to play a track from their second album (Styx II), a power ballad called Lady. The song began to get national airplay, and by 1975, nearly 2 years after the album was released, Lady peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1975, they signed with a national record label. Their fifth album, Equinox, was released that year, with 1 minor single, Lorelei, peaking at #27. Late that year, Curulewski decided to leave the band just before their concert tour was to begin. Frantic to replace him, they auditioned Shaw, who had previously performed with a Chicago-based band called MSFunk. He was hired immediately after the band heard his demo tape, and after he proved that he could hit the high harmony notes when singing Lady.
  • The first album released with Shaw was Crystal Ball in 1976. It was a disappointment, with the single Mademoiselle reaching #36 on the Hot 100. Their breakthrough finally came with their seventh album, The Grand Illusion, released in 1977. It was certified 3x platinum, with Come Sail Away reaching #8, and Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) making it to #29. The following year, they released the Pieces of Eight album. It also was certified 3x platinum, with top 40 hits Blue Collar Man and Renegade. 
  • Their only #1 hit was in 1979, Babe from the Cornerstone album. It was a ballad by DeYoung, and while it was a huge success, it was the beginning of tension in the band – DeYoung preferred more mainstream pop music like Babe while Shaw and Young preferred edgier rock songs. They managed to work through their differences with 2 more albums – 1981’s Paradise Theater and 1983’s Kilroy Was Here. Paradise Theater became their most successful album, certified 3x platinum and topping the album chart, and featuring DeYoung’s The Best of Times (#3 on the Hot 100) and Shaw’s Too Much Time on My Hands (#9). Kilroy Was Here was a concept album, a rock opera set in a future where rock music had been outlawed. It contained 2 major hits – Mr. Roboto reached #3 on the Hot 100, and Don’t Let It End reached #6.
  • After the tour to support Kilroy, the band split up. DeYoung and Shaw launched solo careers, with moderate success. As their solo careers waned, Styx reformed in 1990, with Glen Burtnik replacing Shaw, who was committed to his new band Damn Yankees. They released 1 album that year, Edge of the Century, which included the song Show Me the Way, which peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 chart. Despite the relative success, their label dropped them – Styx music was not in vogue as grunge was becoming popular in the early 90s. In 1995, they reunited again – this time with Shaw, but without John Panozzo, who was dying of liver disease – he was replaced by Todd Sucherman.
  • They had a successful tour in 1996, and a live album was released in 1997 with 3 new studio tracks. In 1999, they released a new studio album, Brave New World. Again, conflict occurred between DeYoung’s preferences toward pop music, and Shaw/Young’s vision for the band, and in June that year, DeYoung was fired, replaced by Lawrence Gowan. Meanwhile, Chuck Panozzo had health problems of his own, limiting his involvement with the group – he was replaced by Burtnik, and later by Ricky Phillips. This lineup released albums in 2003, 2005 and 2017, and they continue to perform today. DeYoung remained active, releasing solo albums, and touring as “Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx.”
  • I loved the prog rock sound of Styx as a youngster – great combo of hard rock guitar with synth keyboards – and then I was crushed with I heard Babe for the first time. They still had some great power rock tunes, and I particularly liked the weirdness of Mr. Roboto, but I suppose they had to “sell-out” with 80s power ballads too. I’ll get over it – some day. Here’s a concert clip of the band performing Come Sail Away.

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