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Members include Glen Burtnik (born on April 8, 1955, in Irvington, NJ; joined group, 1983), bass; John Curulewski (left group, 1975; died 1987), guitar; Dennis DeYoung (born on February 18, 1947, in Chicago, IL; left group, 1999), vocals, keyboards; Lawrence Gowan (born in Glasgow, Scotland; joined group, 1999), vocals, keyboards; Chuck Panozzo (born on September 20, 1948, in Chicago, IL), bass; John Panozzo (born on September 20, 1948, in Chicago, IL; died on July 19, 1996), drums; Tommy Shaw (born on September 11, 1953; joined group, 1975), vocals, guitar; Todd Sucherman (born on May 2, 1969, in Chicago, IL; joined group, 1996), drums; James Young (born on November 14, 1949, in Chicago, IL; joined group, 1970), vocals, guitar. Addresses: Website--Styx Official Website: http://www.styxworld.com.
Styx, one of the most successful "arena rock" groups of all time, was born on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1960s. Tradewinds, a trio formed by neighbors Dennis DeYoung and Chuck and John Panozzo, offered a distinctive blend of driving rock 'n' roll rhythms with classical-influenced melodic themes. The group, which formed while DeYoung and the twin Panozzo brothers were in high school, was transformed into TW4 with the addition of guitarist John Curulewski, a fellow student at Chicago State University. In 1970 James "JY" Young, a guitarist with a rival band, joined the group. Not long thereafter the group cut a demo tape that eventually came to the attention of Wooden Nickel Records, a regional label and subsidiary of RCA, with whom TW4 signed a recording contract in 1972; label executives insisted, however, that the group change its name. The band members eventually settled on Styx, mostly because it was the only one of the hundreds of names they'd considered that no one in the group actively hated.
For their debut album, Wooden Nickel recommended the group focus on material written by other people, not their own compositions. Much to Wooden Nickel's surprise, however, the only song from that first album to hit the top 100 was "Best Thing," a track cowritten by Young and DeYoung. Despite this success, the group's record deal didn't enable its members to focus entirely on their music. To make ends meet they still had to hold their regular jobs--DeYoung and Chuck Panozzo taught music and art in the Chicago public schools, while Young drove a cab. They recorded three more albums for Wooden Nickel--Styx II, The Serpent Is Rising, and Man of Miracles-- but grew increasingly discouraged by the label's apparent inability to promote their work. When Man of Miracles was released in 1974 Styx was on the verge of disbanding. About that time, however, "Lady," a single from their second album, Styx II, suddenly began to get intensive radio play in the greater Chicago area and soon was a hit. Before long the rest of the nation caught on, and both the single--written by DeYoung about his wife, Suzanne--and album became big hits, the single climbing to number six on the Billboard top 40.
Seizing the moment, Styx went in search of a new label. It wasn't difficult to find a taker, given the success of "Lady," and in 1975 the group was signed by A&M Records. The band's first self-produced album, Equinox, was released that same year. It revealed a maturation and refinement of the group's style, best illustrated by "Suite Madame Blue," DeYoung's allegory for the decline of the United States. It also launched the band as social commentators, a role they would relish for years to come.
Only a week before Styx was to begin its tour to support Equinox, guitarist John Curulewski left the band to spend more time with his family. Desperate for a guitarist to replace him, the band tracked down Tommy Shaw, a performer recommended by the group's road manager. He proved to be an excellent addition, his bluesy style nicely complementing Young's screaming guitar licks. More importantly, the group found that Shaw's songwriting style bridged the divide between DeYoung's mainstream pop/rock sound and Young's metallic leanings. The year after Equinox, Styx released Crystal Ball, which featured the swinging rock single, "Mademoiselle." The group's road tours in support of Equinox and Crystal Ball totaled nearly 400 concert dates; these helped the band--with the relatively recent addition of Shaw--to further refine their "arena rock" style.
With the 1977 release of The Grand Illusion, Styx acquired genuine "superstar" status. "Come Sail Away," a single from the album, quickly climbed the charts, helping take The Grand Illusion platinum. Next up was Pieces of Eight, released in 1978. This album also quickly went platinum, its sales fueled by the popularity of its "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man" tracks. The group's third platinum album in a row was Cornerstone, which was something of a departure for Styx, featuring a mellower sound. Its crowning glory was the single, "Babe," a classic ballad that quickly climbed the charts. Other hot singles off Cornerstone included "Borrowed Time" and "Why Me." To promote all three albums, the band toured virtually nonstop and was shown in a 1979 poll to be the hottest concert ticket among teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19.
Early in 1981 Styx kicked off a 110-date North American tour to lay the groundwork for the April release of Paradise Theatre, which spent three weeks at number one on the rock album charts. The album featured two hit singles in "The Best of Times" and "Too Much Time on My Hands," which helped push the album to platinum status, making Styx the first rock 'n' roll group in history to have four consecutive albums go platinum. The band followed up this success with an offbeat concept album entitled Kilroy Was Here. By far the group's most theatrical venture, Kilroy Was Here wove together a complete story through songs, an elaborate stage act featuring scripted dialogue and multiple set and costume changes, and an eleven-minute film. It told the tale of a renegade's rebellion against totalitarian control by bringing rock 'n' roll to the people. The album--and elaborate touring show--featured the techno-rock single, "Mr. Roboto," and the trademark power ballad, "Don't Let It End." To support the album Styx took its spectacular stage show on tour.
In 1984, not long after the release of the group's double live album, Caught in the Act, Styx members DeYoung and Shaw announced plans to leave the band to pursue solo projects. Although the album was well received by the public, the remaining members of the band decided it was time for a much-needed break. DeYoung and Shaw's departure provided the perfect excuse for a hiatus after more than a decade of constant touring. Young put it this way in comments included on the Don't Wait for Heroes website: "We came to a point where we had creatively exhausted ourselves. We needed a chance to refresh and reenergize, a chance to work with other people and explore new areas." Guitarist John Curulewski, who had left Styx in the mid-1970s, died tragically of an aneurysm in 1987.
A number of reunion plans failed during the late 1980s, but in 1990 four of Styx's five members did manage to get back together again. Prior obligations prevented Shaw from joining the group, so singer/guitarist Glen Burtnik was asked to take his place. The reunion album, Edge of the Century, featured the hit single, "Show Me the Way," written by DeYoung. It climbed to number three on the charts, finding a ready audience in a country preoccupied with the standoff with Iraq in the Middle East. Styx toured in support of Edge of the Century the following year, playing to standing-room-only crowds across the country. The tour was one of the most successful of 1991.
Another hiatus followed as individual group members went their separate ways. DeYoung played Pontius Pilate in the national touring company production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Young formed his own group, called simply the James Young Group, which included some of Chicago's best rock musicians. Styx members reunited briefly in the studio to record "Lady" for A&M Records' Styx compilation album Greatest Hits: Volume 1. This brief get-together not surprisingly planted the seeds for yet another tour in 1996. Drummer John Panozzo, who had struggled for some years with alcoholism and was unable to join the tour, died in July of 1996.
Although the group's appearances continued into the new millennium, with a 50-date tour scheduled for 2002, Styx members continued to pursue their individual solo careers when they weren't on the road with the band. Bassist Chuck Panozzo, diagnosed with HIV in 1990 and successfully fighting full-blown AIDS since the late 1990s, participates now and then in appearances with the group but has devoted himself to other projects in recent years. In July of 2001 he publicly disclosed his homosexuality, telling USA Today, "It's a weight off my soul." The core group today consists of James Young and Tommy Shaw on guitar and vocals, Glen Burtnik on bass and vocals, Todd Sucherman on drums, and Lawrence Gowan on keyboards and vocals.
by Don Amerman
Group formed as Tradewinds by DeYoung and Panozzo twins in Chicago, late 1960s; later added Curulewski on guitar and changed name to TW4; band renamed Styx, late 1970s; signed recording contract with Wooden Nickel Records, 1972; released four albums for the label, including Styx, Styx II, and The Serpent Is Rising; group signed recording contract with A&M Records, 1975; Equinox, first album for A&M, went gold quickly, eventually reaching platinum; "Come Sail Away," a single from The Grand Illusion, soared to number six on the charts; other big singles from the late 1970s and early 1980s included "Babe," "Why Me," "Boat on the River," and "Mr. Roboto"; band was put on hold after DeYoung and Shaw left to pursue solo projects, 1984; band reunited with Burtnik replacing Shaw, 1990.
- Selected discography
- Styx Wooden Nickel, 1972.
- Styx II Wooden Nickel, 1973.
- Equinox A&M, 1975.
- Crystal Ball A&M, 1976.
- The Grand Illusion A&M, 1977.
- Pieces of Eight A&M, 1978.
- Cornerstone A&M, 1979.
- Paradise Theatre A&M, 1981.
- Kilroy Was Here A&M, 1983.
- Edge of the Century A&M, 1990.
- (Contributor) Greatest Hits, Volume 1 A&M, 1995.
- (Contributor) Greatest Hits, Volume 2 A&M, 1996.
- Return to Paradise BMG/Sanctuary, 1997.
- Brave New World BMG/Sanctuary, 1999.
- Styxworld BMG/Sanctuary, 2001.
- Guitar Player, July 1981.
- USA Today, July 27, 2001; February 18, 2002.
- "Biography," Glen Burtnik, http://18.104.22.168/glenburtnik/bio.html (February 20, 2002).
- "Biography," Lawrence Gowan, http://www.gowan.org/biography.htm (February 20, 2002).
- "John Panozzo Press Release," Styx Web Team, http://www.tiac.net/users/Styx/panozzo-press-release.html (February 20, 2002).
- "Official Styx Press Package for 1996 Return to Paradise Tour," Styx Web Team, http://www.tiac.net/users/kat/Styx/press-package-96.html (February 20, 2002).
- "Styx History," Don't Wait for Heroes: Equal Time for Dennis DeYoung Since 1977, http://www.styxnet.com/deyoung/frontpage.html (April 29, 2002).
- Styx Official Website, http://www.styxworld.com/History.cfm (February 20, 2002).
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