Styx /ˈstɪks/ is an American rock band from Chicago that became famous for its albums from the mid-1970s and early 1980s. They are best known for melding the style of pop rock with the power of hard-rock guitar, strong ballads and elements of international musical theater.
Styx is best known for the hit songs “Lady” (#6, 1973), “Come Sail Away” (#8, 1977), “Babe” (#1, 1979), “The Best of Times” (#3, 1981), “Too Much Time on My Hands” (#9, 1981) and “Mr. Roboto” (#3, 1983). Other hits include “Show Me the Way” (#3, 1990), “Don’t Let It End” (#6, 1983), “Renegade” (#16, 1979) and “Boat on the River”, a big hit in much of Europe. The band has four consecutive albums certified multi-platinum by the RIAA as well as sixteen top 40 singles in the US.
1 Early years
1.1 Wooden Nickel years
1.2 Move to A&M
2 Stardom in the 1980s
2.1 Paradise Theater (1981) and Back-masking accusation
2.2 Kilroy Was Here (1983) and breakup
3 Solo careers
4 1990s and beyond
4.1 Edge of the Century
4.2 Released by A&M Records
4.3 Reunion 1995
4.4 Brave New World (1999) and split
4.5 Cyclorama (2003) and beyond
4.6 Talks of Reunion with DeYoung
6.1 Live albums
7 Consecutive Multi-Platinum albums
8 See also
10 External links
Twin brothers Chuck (guitar) and John Panozzo (drums) first got together with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung (vocals and keyboards) in 1961 in the Roseland section of the south side of Chicago, eventually taking the band name “The Tradewinds”. Chuck Panozzo left to attend seminary school for a year but returned to the group by 1964. Tom Nardini had been brought in to replace Chuck on guitar and Chuck decided to play bass guitar when he returned to the band. John Panozzo was the drummer, while Dennis DeYoung had switched from accordion to organ and piano. In 1965, the name “Tradewinds” was changed to TW4 after another band called The Trade Winds broke through nationally. By 1966, the Panozzo brothers had joined DeYoung at Chicago State College and kept the group together doing gigs at high schools and frat parties while studying to be teachers. In 1969 they added a college buddy, John Curulewski, on guitar after Tom Nardini departed. Guitarist James “J.Y.” Young came aboard in 1970 making TW4 a quintet.
In 1972 the band members decided to choose a new name when they signed to Wooden Nickel Records after being spotted by a talent scout at a concert at St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs, Illinois, James Young’s home town. Several suggestions were made, and according to DeYoung, the name Styx (the river in Greek mythology between Earth and the Underworld) was chosen because it was “the only one that none of us hated”.
Wooden Nickel years
The band’s Wooden Nickel recordings Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent Is Rising (1973) and Man of Miracles (1974) were a mixture of straight-ahead rock with some dramatic prog-rock flourishes and art-rock aspirations. These albums showcase intricate and powerful organ, guitar, vocal and percussion solos as well. The Serpent Is Rising would foreshadow later endeavors by the group — the so-called concept album is an idiom upon which Styx would rely heavily by the 1980s.
On the strength of these releases and constant playing in local clubs and schools, the band established a fan base in the Chicago area, but was unable to break into the mainstream, though the song “Best Thing” from Styx charted on 9-16-72 and stayed on Billboard’s “Hot 100″ chart for 6 weeks, peaking at #82. Then, the power ballad “Lady” (from Styx II), began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago and then nationwide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album had been released, “Lady” hit No. 6 in the US and Styx II went gold soon after.
Move to A&M
On the heels of its belated hit single, Styx signed with A&M Records and released Equinox (1975), which sold well and yielded a minor hit in “Lorelei”, No. 27 in the US. More importantly, it contained the rock anthem “Suite Madame Blue”, which gained the band considerable recognition and airplay on FM radio in the relatively new Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. Following the move to A&M, guitarist John Curulewski suddenly left the band as they were to embark on a nationwide tour in December 1975, due to his desire to spend time with his family. Curulewski later died of a brain aneurysm in February 1988. JC, as he was known, was an excellent guitar teacher and also formed the group “Arctic Fox” playing the Chicago area clubs. After a frantic last-minute search, the band brought on guitarist Tommy Shaw as Curulewski’s replacement in 1976.
Crystal Ball (1976) was moderately successful and also included Shaw’s “Mademoiselle” (which was another minor hit, reaching No. 36) and DeYoung’s “This Old Man”.
Styx’s seventh album, The Grand Illusion, was released on July 7, 1977 (7/7/77) and became their breakthrough album, reaching Triple Platinum certification. It spawned a top-ten hit and AOR radio staple in the DeYoung-written “Come Sail Away”, which reached #8 in 1978. Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” was a second radio hit and reached #29 the same year. The title track also received significant airplay.
Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the band enjoyed its greatest success. Their 1978 album Pieces of Eight found the group moving in a more straight-ahead hard-rock direction and spawned the singles “Renegade” (#16 in the US) and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” (#21 in the US), plus a minor hit “Sing for the Day” that stopped just short of the Top Forty at #41.
Their 1979 album Cornerstone yielded their first #1 hit, the DeYoung ballad “Babe”. By early 1980, “Babe” had become the band’s biggest international hit and first million-selling single, reaching #6 in the United Kingdom. The album also included the #26 DeYoung hit “Why Me” and “Borrowed Time”, which was co-written with Shaw, plus Shaw’s “Boat on the River” (1980), which was a hit in most of Europe. The popularity of the album (#2 Billboard) helped win the band a People’s Choice Award for Best New Song in 1980. At the 22nd Grammy Awards, Styx was a nominee for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, and Cornerstone’s engineers Gary Loizzo and Rob Kingsland were nominated for a Grammy for Best Engineered Recording.
Stardom in the 1980s
Paradise Theater (1981) and Back-masking accusation
On the success of “Babe”, DeYoung began pushing for a more theatrical direction, while Shaw and Young favored a harder-edged approach. This arguing over musical direction led to a bit of tension in early 1980 after Young and Shaw objected to the ballad “First Time” released as the second single from Cornerstone (1979) album. However, things were quickly smoothed over. Moreover, this song did not chart in the U.S. but became a huge hit single in the Philippines in 1981.
In January 1981, Styx released Paradise Theater, a concept album that became their biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart and yielding five singles, including the top ten hits “The Best of Times” by DeYoung (#3) and “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Shaw (#9). Paradise Theater became the band’s fourth consecutive multi-platinum album.
The band was accused by a California religious group and later the Parents Music Resource Center of backmasking Satanic messages in their anti-cocaine anthem, “Snowblind”. James Young has denied this charge during his introduction for “Snowblind” when played live. Dennis DeYoung has denied the accusation as well, joking on the In the Studio with Redbeard program “we had enough trouble to make the music sound right forward.” Also, James Young quotes,”If we were going to put something Satanic in our songs, we would have put it so it was in the song forward. Not so you would have to buy some $400 tape recorder to hear it.”
Throughout the 1980s, the band would use the Paradise Theater (1981) album’s opening track, “Rockin’ the Paradise” (charted at No. 8 on Top Rock Tracks Chart) to open their shows.
Kilroy Was Here (1983) and breakup
The band followed DeYoung’s lead with their next project, Kilroy Was Here (1983), another more fully realized concept album, embracing the rock opera form. Set in a future where performing and playing rock music has been outlawed due to the efforts of a charismatic evangelist, Dr. Evert Righteous. Kilroy Was Here featured Dennis DeYoung in the part of Kilroy, an unjustly imprisoned rock star. Tommy Shaw played the part of Jonathan Chance, a younger rocker who fights for Kilroy’s freedom and the lifting of the ban on rock music. This future society is served by robots. Called Robotos, these automatons perform many jobs, and several serve as Kilroy’s prison guards.
Part of the impetus for the Kilroy story was the band’s reaction to the backward masking accusation. The album included James Young’s song “Heavy Metal Poisoning”, which includes lyrics sarcastically mocking the allegations against the group. Its introduction intentionally included a backward message, the Latin phrases, “annuit coeptis” and “novus ordo seclorum”, from the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. Referring to the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, these are translated, “Annuit cœptis – He (God) favors our undertakings, and Novus ordo seclorum – A new order of the ages.” Both choices also served the Kilroy story, because the villain is an evangelist that seeks to expand his Vision of Morality movement via mass demonstrations.
Kilroy Was Here album went Platinum in 1983, boasting two Top Ten hits, the synthesizer-based “Mr. Roboto” (#3 US) and power ballad “Don’t Let It End” (#6 US). The album earned a nomination as Best Engineered Recording for engineer and long-time friend Gary Loizzo and fellow engineers on the album Will Rascati and Rob Kingsland, for the 26th Grammy Awards (1983).
In 1983, the band mounted an ambitious stage show in support of Kilroy Was Here featuring theatrical presentations of three songs utilizing instrumental backing tracks, including “Mr. Roboto”, which featured DeYoung singing live while disguised as a Roboto, “Heavy Metal Poisoning” with James Young as the evangelist Dr. Righteous singing while the Panozzo brothers acted as his henchmen on stage, and “Haven’t We Been Here Before” with Tommy Shaw as Jonathan Chance and DeYoung (as Kilroy in Roboto costume) duetting. The elaborate show was expensive to produce and was not as profitable as previous tours.
Kilroy Was Here brought the creative and competitive tensions within the band beyond the breaking point. Guitarist Tommy Shaw departed the band for a solo career at the conclusion of the tour. In 1984, the band released its first live album, Caught in the Act. The project featured one studio track, “Music Time”, which became a Top 40 hit. The concert was also filmed and released on VHS under the same title (and on DVD in 2007). By the time of the album’s release, the band had already parted ways.
Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw released a string of solo albums, beginning with DeYoung’s Desert Moon and Shaw’s Girls with Guns in 1984. Both Shaw and DeYoung generated a moderate amount of interest with their first solo albums. DeYoung scored a Top 10 hit with the title track, “Desert Moon”, which was also heavily featured on MTV. Shaw also cracked the Top Forty with “Girls with Guns” and he made a cameo appearance on the NBC television series Miami Vice. DeYoung’s follow up single “Don’t Wait for Heroes” also featured a video that was heavily featured on MTV, but it failed to generate significant radio airplay, only peaking at No. 83. During the filming of the video, DeYoung injured his back, causing him to back out of opening a North American concert tour for Huey Lewis and the News. Shaw, however, did tour in the fall of 1984 as an opening act for The Kinks.
Shaw’s 1985 album What If and DeYoung’s 1986 album Back to the World also charted, along with singles from film soundtracks. Shaw’s “What If (Remo’s Theme)” from Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins entered the Billboard Hot 100, while DeYoung’s “This Is the Time” from The Karate Kid, Part II soundtrack was featured for a short while on MTV. The first single from DeYoung’s Back to the World album, “Call Me”, peaked at No. 6 on the Adult Contemporary chart and was a modest pop hit, peaking at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, by the late 1980s, both Styx members’ solo careers gradually simmered down to a modest but loyal fan base. Neither Shaw’s Ambition (1987) nor DeYoung’s Boomchild (1989) achieved nearly the same levels of earlier albums, although Shaw’s cover of Jim Peterik’s “Ever Since the World Began” charted briefly. Shaw also recorded sessions with Peterik’s group, Survivor, on 1986’s When Seconds Count, and Shaw’s solo band opened the majority of the US shows for Rush’s 1987-88 Hold Your Fire Tour.
Meanwhile, James Young recorded his own solo albums: City Slicker (1985 with Jan Hammer) and Out on a Day Pass (1988), both attracting only minimal attention. In 1995 James Young partnered with other Chicago musicians and released an album under name James Young Group titled Raised by Wolves.
In 1989, Tommy Shaw formed Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent, Jack Blades and Michael Cartellone. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Styx made plans for a comeback in the new decade.
1990s and beyond
Edge of the Century
In 1989 Styx reformed, bringing in Glen Burtnik in 1990 as guitarist to replace Shaw, who was by then committed to Damn Yankees.
The new line-up released one album, Edge of the Century (1990), featuring the Dennis DeYoung ballad “Show Me the Way”, which received an additional boost just prior to the first Persian Gulf War. Some radio stations edited the Top Three smash to include the voices of children, whose parents were deployed in Saudi Arabia between 1990 and 1991. This contributed to the song’s longevity at Adult Contemporary radio, where the song also peaked at No. 3 and notably remained in the top 40 for 23 weeks. With the huge success of the song “Show Me the Way”, Styx joined a handful of musical acts to have top 10 singles in 3 different decades and under 4 different presidential administrations.
Burtnik’s songwriting also helped buoy Edge of the Century (1990), contributing to the moderate hits “Love at First Sight” (#25 Billboard Hot 100 Charts, No. 13 Adult Contemporary) and “Love Is the Ritual” (#80 Billboard Hot 100, No. 9 Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks), as well as album tracks “All in a Day’s Work”, “World Tonite” and the title track “Edge of the Century”. On the strength of the singles, particularly “Show Me the Way”, Edge of the Century peaked at No. 63 on the Billboard album chart and was certified Gold.
Released by A&M Records
Styx toured across the US in the spring and summer of 1991, but despite the success of the album, a top 3 single and a top 25 single, the band was dropped after A&M Records was purchased by PolyGram Records, ending an over fifteen-year relationship.
A set of demos internally titled “Son of Edge” were completed and shopped to other record labels. But with Grunge now dominating the rock press, video channels and airwaves, and with singles being phased out, there was little interest from major record companies, and by 1992, Styx disbanded once again. Portions of the “Son of Edge” demos have resurfaced in various forms over the years in Styx, DeYoung and Burtnik anthologies.
In 1994, DeYoung recorded 10 on Broadway, an album of tunes from well known musicals. A single “On the Street Where You Live” received limited airplay.
The band reunited once again in 1995, with guitarist Tommy Shaw returning to the fold, to re-record “Lady” for Styx Greatest Hits. A tour was mounted in 1996, but drummer John Panozzo was unable to participate in the tour due to declining health caused by problems with alcohol, which eventually claimed his life.
The band continued with Todd Sucherman, who had actually been the drummer on the new 1995 version of Lady, replacing Panozzo in drums. The 1996 “Return to Paradise” tour was also a success. They documented the reunion tour with a two-disc live set, 1997’s Return to Paradise, which featured three new studio tracks: “On My Way”, “Paradise” (a soft rock hit that also appears in another version on Dennis DeYoung’s 1998 The Hunchback of Notre Dame album) and “Dear John”, a tribute to the late Styx drummer John Panozzo that has become a cult favorite among Styx fans. Return to Paradise was a surprise hit in 1997, achieving gold status, with the single “Paradise” peaking at number twenty-seven on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Return to Paradise was the first gold album for Styx’s new record company, CMC.
Brave New World (1999) and split
Two years later, in 1999, the band released its first new studio album in almost a decade: Brave New World. The album received a lukewarm reception, sold very slowly and the single, “Everything Is Cool”, failed to chart.
Once again, during work on the album, personality conflicts drove the band members apart. While Tommy Shaw’s material attempted to bring the band into the next century and JY’s songs attempted to convey a hard rock vein, Dennis DeYoung’s more pop and Broadway-style leanings led to divergent sounds on Brave New World. According to DeYoung, another crucial difference was the fact that he was not the overall producer on this album, as he’d been on the others.
Arguments over which songs to release as singles, the album’s artwork, the track sequencing, the slow album sales and the omission of DeYoung’s vocals and keyboards from many of the Shaw/Young tracks fueled the fire. The band was further hindered by a viral illness contracted by DeYoung, which temporarily made his eyes sensitive to light. DeYoung asked his bandmates to delay touring, but they refused and decided to go forward without him. DeYoung was replaced by Lawrence Gowan, a classically trained pianist, who had achieved platinum success as a solo act on Sony Canada. They incorporated the song “A Criminal Mind” into their tour set list, and have performed it into the 2010s.
Bassist Chuck Panozzo was sidelined in 1998 due to health issues, his battle with HIV/AIDS. His public “coming out” occurred in 2001 at the annual Human Rights Campaign banquet, with James Young in attendance for support.
On June 6, 1999, The group reunited briefly to perform for the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon (see Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals).
Also in 1999, Styx is mentioned frequently throughout the film Big Daddy (1999 film), starring Adam Sandler.
Cyclorama (2003) and beyond
With Chuck Panozzo focusing on his health concerns, Glen Burtnik returned to Styx, this time as bass player, to fill Chuck’s duties, with Chuck participating on a part-time basis, sitting in as his health permitted.
Styx’s new lineup released several live albums and released the studio album Cyclorama in February 2003, which reached No. 127 on the Billboard 200 album charts failing to make much of an impact. Although a single “Waiting for Our Time” reached No. 37 on the Billboard mainstream rock chart, it charted for 1 week and failed to make much, if any, impact. Styx toured extensively during this period and released additional live albums. Styx also was part of the Super Bowl pre game entertainment in San Diego prior to the Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they played a short set in the parking lot as well as on the field right before the game playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions”.
Burtnik left Styx in September 2003 and recorded a solo album, Welcome to Hollywood. He was replaced by Ricky Phillips, formerly of The Babys and Bad English. Burtnik would go on to join up with Dennis DeYoung for numerous tour dates over the next several years.
On June 5, 2004, Styx participated in Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival covering songs by Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and Slim Harpo with Jeff Baxter as a special guest.
In 2005 Styx released an album of cover tunes, Big Bang Theory, which reached the Billboard Top 50 on the album charts, their highest charting album since 1990. Their version of The Beatles song “I Am the Walrus” received some radio play and a video was made for the song, which was subsequently featured in their live shows. Still the album had a short life on the charts and failed to make much of a dent.
DeYoung continued his solo career by re-arranging and performing his Styx hits with a symphony orchestra. In 2005, DeYoung released a CD of re-recorded Styx hits from a solo concert with a symphony orchestra (titled The Music of Styx – Live with Symphony Orchestra). The album also contained three new DeYoung songs. DeYoung’s CD became a major hit in Canada, selling 50,000 copies there. Burtnik now often appears with DeYoung in his solo shows.
In 2009, DeYoung released One Hundred Years from Now in the US, his first full collection of new songs in some time.
As of April 21, 2006, according to the RIAA, which awards artists and groups gold/platinum status, Styx ranks number 127 with 17.5 million records sold within the United States. The blurb on Amazon.com about Chuck Panozzo’s book “The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx” states that Styx has sold over 54 million records.
On April 16, 2007, Def Leppard announced a 50-date 2007 tour, which included Styx and Foreigner as supporting acts.
On October 16, 2007 Styx received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from IEBA (International Entertainment Buyers Association) in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 2008, Styx performed on a double bill with Boston in a North American summer tour, playing 53 dates in 12 weeks.
In 2009, Styx went on tour with REO Speedwagon and .38 Special. Styx and REO Speedwagon teamed up to record a single entitled “Can’t Stop Rockin”, released April 23, 2009. That tour continued into early 2010.
On February 21, 2010 the current incarnation of the band performed before the Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 In Fontana, California.
On March 3, 2010, Tommy Shaw and Styx played in the Auditorio Nacional of Mexico City in a double concert followed by REO Speedwagon.
In a North American tour beginning in May 2010, Styx were co-headliners of United in Rock with Foreigner and special guests Kansas.
In July 2010, Styx announced the forthcoming release of Regeneration: Volume 1, a new EP featuring six re-recorded hits and a new song entitled “Difference in the World”. This coincided with “The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Tour”, on which both albums were played in their entirety.
In November 2010, Styx announced that they would be filming their concert in Memphis on November 9 for a DVD. They also announced that they’d be touring the UK with Journey and Foreigner for 5 dates in June 2011. The landmark concert was recorded at the historic Orpheum Theater, where Styx performed both of their classic albums, 1977’s The Grand Illusion and 1978’s Pieces of Eight.
As of March 18, 2011, Dennis DeYoung’s name was removed from the history section of Styx’s official website. A 2013 rewrite/redesign of the page removed the “history” section although a new writeup lists many of the past members, omitting DeYoung.
In early April 2011, it was announced that Styx would join up with Yes for a “Progressive US Tour” that began on July 4, 2011.
On December 15, 2011, they participated in the figure skating show Improv-Ice, which was broadcast on television January 15, 2012.
On January 26, 2013, the Palladia Channel premiered the concert filmed in November 2010.
On November 22, 2013, they announced a benefit concert with REO Speedwagon titled “Rock to the Rescue” to raise money for the affected families of the tornado in central Illinois.
In February 2014 drummer Kenny Aronoff stepped in for a few dates for Todd Sucherman, who was off spending time with his wife Taylor as they celebrated the birth of their new daughter.
Summer 2014 found the band back on the road in a new touring package called Soundtrack of Summer, with Foreigner and ex-Eagle Don Felder.
Talks of Reunion with DeYoung
In a July 7, 2011 interview with Rolling Stone music magazine Tommy Shaw stated that he “[doesn’t] think [a reunion with DeYoung] is realistic,” and that “what was true in 1983 was only more true in 1996″, in which his coming together with DeYoung had “a very negative effect on each other”.
DeYoung, however, has repeatedly stated that he’s open to a reunion with the other members and that what he really wants is for all of them to “come together as a band.” DeYoung also refuted the claim that Shaw and Young wanted a harder-edged rock sound in contrast to his, saying Shaw’s “Renegade” “wasn’t a rock song when he brought it in. It was my idea to make it into a rock song.”
Chuck Panozzo – bass, backing vocals, bass pedals (1972-1984, 1989-1992, 1995-present)
James “J.Y.” Young – guitar, backing and lead vocals, additional keyboards (1972-1984, 1989-1992, 1995-present)
Tommy Shaw – guitar, lead and backing vocals, mandolin, autoharp (1975-1984, 1995-present)
Todd Sucherman – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1995–present)
Lawrence Gowan – lead and backing vocals, keyboards, additional guitar (1999–present)
Ricky Phillips – bass, backing vocals, additional guitar (2003–present)
Dennis DeYoung – lead and backing vocals, keyboards, accordion (1972–1984, 1989-1992, 1995-1999)
John Panozzo – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1972–1984, 1989-1992, 1995-1996; his death)
John “J.C.” Curulewski – guitar, backing and lead vocals, additional keyboards, autoharp (1972–1975)
Glen Burtnik – guitar, backing and lead vocals (1990–1992); bass, backing and lead vocals, additional guitar (1999–2003)