Styx

  • Biography:

    One of the leading exemplars of the FM radio-oriented hard pop known as "pomp rock," Styx also claims the distinction of having been named (in a 1979 Gallup Poll) the most popular rock band among American fans aged 13 to 18. At the height of its commercial powers, Styx released a string of five platinum albums, including the Number One triple-platinum Paradise Theatre (1981).

    Twins Chuck and John Panozzo, along with Dennis DeYoung and Tom Nardini, worked the Chicago-area bar circuit from 1963 until 1969, when Nardini left the group and the Panozzos and DeYoung entered Chicago State University. There they met John Curulewski, with whom they formed TW4. James Young joined a year later, and they changed their name to Styx (after the river that flows through Hades in Greek mythology).

    After incessant touring, their national break came in 1975 with the #6 single "Lady," featuring the blaring vocal triads that are a Styx trademark. From 1977 until their breakup in 1984, every one of their releases sold platinum or better: The Grand Illusion (#6, 1977, 3 million sold), Pieces of Eight (#6, 1978, 3 million sold), Cornerstone (#2, 1979, 2 million sold), Paradise Theatre, and Kilroy Was Here (#3, 1983, 1 million sold). Their concerts were invariably sold out. Their hit singles included "Come Sail Away" (#8, 1977); "Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)" (#29) and "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" (#21), 1978; "Babe" (#1, 1979); and "The Best of Times" (#3) and "Too Much Time on My Hands" (#9), both 1981.

    In 1983 the group toured 3,000-seat halls with a theatrical presentation of Kilroy Was Here, an anticensorship concept album that included the hit singles "Mr. Roboto" (#3) and "Don't Let It End" (#6). In 1984 the group members went their separate ways for a while. DeYoung and Shaw, who had written most of Styx's music, each embarked on initially auspicious solo careers. DeYoung's Desert Moon (#29, 1984) featured the #10 title single, while Shaw's Girls With Guns (#50, 1984) had a #33 title track. Subsequent releases were not as successful, and in 1990 Shaw joined Ted Nugent's Damn Yankees [see entry].

    Four members of Styx, with newcomer Glen Burtnik, released the comeback Edge of the Century in the fall of 1990. Its "Show Me the Way" (#3, 1990) became something of a theme song during the Gulf War, and "Love at First Sight" was a Top 30 single later that next spring. In 1995 DeYoung played Pilate in the 1995 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. He later completed his own musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Shaw returned to the band when he helped rerecord "Lady" for 1995's Greatest Hits; Styx's initial label, Wooden Nickel, had refused to license the original version for the A&M compilation. By 1990, drummer John Panozzo had developed a debilitating drinking problem. In 1996 Styx was forced to hire a temporary touring replacement, Todd Sucherman. In July of that year Panozzo died, the result of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and Sucherman became a permanent addition. The live Return to Paradise was the first-ever gold record for Styx's new label, CMC International. During the sessions for 1999's Brave New World, DeYoung developed an acute case of photosensitivity. Styx acrimoniously replaced him for the ensuing tour. Burtnik also returned, this time on bass, to replace Chuck Panozzo, who had also left the band.

    This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).