STYX HISTORY

  • Styx was the first group to ever have four consecutive triple-platinum albums. You would think that their saga started in some high-tech recording studio or on stage in some exotic city, but it didn't. It started in a tiny basement on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960's, where two 12 year-old brothers practiced their music. A neighboring kid, a few years older, heard them from the street and asked if he could join in. And so, Chuck Panozzo, playing electric bass, John Panozzo, playing drums, and Dennis DeYoung, playing keyboards, formed the nucleus of the band they'd be with for the next three decades.

    They played their way through high school and college, picking up two guitar players along the way, John Curulewski and James Young. They played high school dances, weddings, and bars and played under the names TRADEWINDS and TW4. Through constant gigs in and around Chicago, the group developed a strong regional following, attracting the attention of Wooden Nickel Records, and in 1972 signed them to a record deal and recommended a name change. After pondering hundreds of names, they settled on STYX as being the only name no one hated.

     STYX quickly learned that having a record deal doesn't mean you can quit your day job. Dennis and Chuck continued to teach in the public school system. Dennis taught music, Chuck taught art. To make ends meet, and despite his Mechanical and Aerospace Technology degree, James Young (JY) drove a city cab. STYX put out a total of four albums with Wooden Nickel Records, STYX, STYX II, SERPENT IS RISING and MAN OF MIRACLES, each generating less airplay and fewer record sales than the previous. But still STYX performed constantly throughout the Midwest, sometimes to crowds of a thousand or more. The one song that produced the greatest crowd response was the song "Lady", from STYX II, written by Dennis DeYoung for his wife, Suzanne. A radio station in Chicago, WLS, received constant requests for "Lady", and the program director vowed to play the song every night until it became a hit. Finally, in January 1975, two years after its first release, "Lady" entered the Billboard Top 40, where it peaked at #6 and propelled STYX II to gold record status.

    With the success of "Lady", STYX signed a record deal with A & M Records and released their 5th album, EQUINOX. This was their first self-produced album. Less than a week before the start of their tour in support of EQUINOX, guitarist John Curulewski left the band which sent STYX scrambling for a new guitarist. They found their niche in 23-year-old Tommy Shaw, a native of Alabama. Tommy's bluesy/country playing was the perfect counterpoint to JY's screaming guitar licks, just as his friendly good looks complimented JY's towering and imposing onstage persona. And his songwriting seemed to bridge the gap between Dennis' mainstretch pop/rock and JY's more metallic tendencies. By the time their 6th album, CRYSTAL BALL, was released, Tommy had written four of the tracks on the album, including the title cut.

    It was on 7/7/77 with the release of their 7th album, THE GRAND ILLUSION, that STYX finally broke from the ranks of supporting band and became superstars in their own right. With Dennis DeYoung's top 10 hit, "Come Sail Away", and Tommy Shaw's "Fooling Yourself", THE GRAND ILLUSION stayed on the Billboard's album charts for 2 years, becoming the first in STYX's string of triple platinum albums. 1978 saw the release of PIECES OF EIGHT, with Tommy Shaw's two hits, "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man", and 1979 was the year of CORNERSTONE. STYX's 9th album was a major departure for the band. Featuring a ballad "Babe" and the mandolin-driven folk song "Boat on the River", this record had a much more softer and melodic sound. It was a risk that could have cost them fans, but instead it gained them a whole new audience. "Babe" became STYX's first and only #1 hit in the U.S. and "Boat on the River" went Top 10 in nearly every country in Europe. STYX won over fans throughout the world, and their fans rewarded them in 1979 by voting "Babe" the People's Choice Song of the Year and in 1980 voted STYX the Most Popular Band in America in a Gallup poll.

    In 1981 the American people were looking for a little paradise, and paradise they got! The triple-platinum Paradise Theatre album spawned two Top 10 singles - Dennis DeYoung's "The Best of Times" and Tommy Shaw's "Too Much Time on my Hands" - but it was an album about more than just hit records. Thematically linked to the closing of the majestic Paradise movie palace in Chicago, Paradise Theatre was the band's statement, through music, on the condition of the country, the human condition, and the condition of the heart. It was a bold and innovative piece of work. The tour that accompanied it was an artistic as well as commercial success, and STYX was rewarded with their only #1 album.

    1983 was the year KILROY WAS HERE. There's more to this album than what I could write in this history section. It needs a section of it's own. For that, go to KILROY WAS HERE.

    After 15 years of nearly constant touring, STYX decided to take a break, so in 1984, after the release of their double-live album CAUGHT IN THE ACT, they did. The three principal singer/songwriters developed solo projects of their own, while Chuck and John Panozzo went into semi-retirement. The next 11 years saw STYX as three separate entities. Though there was a brief reunion of STYX, minus Tommy Shaw, which resulted in a 1990 album EDGE OF THE CENTURY, the STYX family was not complete. Dennis DeYoung released three solo albums and for a yearlong stint, played Pontius Pilate in the national company of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1991. He cut an album of show tunes, 10 ON BROADWAY, and wrote an original musical "Q-Modo", based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Tommy Shaw also released three solo albums and then teamed up with veteran rockers Ted Nugent and Jack Blades to form DAMN YANKEES. James JY Young released two solo projects, then formed THE JY GROUP with some of the best and brightest Chicago-area musicians. By the mid 1990's, things looked bleak for the future of STYX. But then...

    In 1995 STYX re-recorded "Lady", this time including Tommy Shaw who wasn't on the original. The vibe in the studio was so positive and so strong that it was only a matter of time before plans were underway to take the show out on the road for everyone to enjoy. In the summer of 1996, the members of STYX reunited for the first time in 13 years to tour the United States, much to the delight of their loyal fans who flocked to the shows making the "Return To The Paradise Theatre" tour one of that summer's most successful. Though the tour was a great success, sadness filled the hearts of STYX as they buried one of their own. John Panozzo, longtime drummer and original member of STYX, passed away just as the band was getting back together. Another drummer, younger and energetic, was brought in and STYX found a new member in Todd Sucherman.

    In 1997, STYX took a short break as Dennis DeYoung focused on his "Hunchback" project and Tommy Shaw took some time for another solo effort. The future was bright for STYX fans. Unfortunately, Dennis DeYoung lost his father later on that year and in January of 1998, fell ill. Initially thought of as a flu, Dennis' condition became unclear. A combination of depression and the flu resulted in a condition in which Dennis was constantly fatigued, and the nerves in his face were hypersensitive to heat and light. Plans for future STYX projects were indefinitely placed on hold. It was a year later that STYX finally returned to the studio and BRAVE NEW WORLD was released in June of 1999. Due to his lingering illness, Dennis announced during the recording process that he would not be able to tour in support of the album. In what had to be an agonizing situation, Tommy Shaw and James Young decided to take STYX on the road anyway, enlisting Canadian star Lawrence Gowan to fill Dennis' shoes on stage and one-time-STYXer Glen Burtnik to fill in for the again semi-retired Chuck Panozzo.

    In the fall of 1999 and throughout 2000, 2001 and 2002, STYX has been criss-crossing the country, performing for smaller venues, packed with enthusiastic fans. Although, arguable without its heart and soul, STYX is a thriving entity, touring the world with a high-energy, rock and roll based set list. The subject of STYX's tour without Dennis has been an extremely volatile one, especially amongst the fans. Lending to a lawsuit between the members of the band, a reunion doesn't seem forthcoming in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, there is one undeniable fact, regardless of where you stand on the issue: It is on the strength of STYX's music that the current line-up has flourished on stage. It's all about the music. Who's playing it doesn't matter much to who it came from. The magic of STYX will live on!!

    CREDITS

    Arrington, C., 1980, "STYX rates #1 with Fans", Circus Magazine, July 22, p. 18 - 22

    STYXworld.com History, 2000, Retrieved 10/19/2002 from www.styxworld.com

    Crystal Ball - STYX/Damn Yankees, 2000, Retrieved 10/20/2002 from http://www3.sympatico.ca/tommy.shaw/

    Bollenberg, J., 2002, Progressive World.net, Retrieved 10/22/2002 from http://www.progressiveworld.net/styx5.html

    Rivadavia, E., (n.d.), All Music Guide, Retrieved 10/22/2003 from http://music.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?userid=6WR1PCNGX7&sourceid=&ean=75021324022&bfinfo=75021324022

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  • Maryjean Zieman
    Last revised: 12/1/02