Earlier this month, Rolling Stone interviewed Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw – and he told us that there was virtually no scenario in which he'd allow former frontman Dennis DeYoung to rejoin the band. "In retrospect, we weren't even happy working with each other in our heyday," Shaw said. "We're just different people with different desires and different vision of how things should be. God, it was such an unhappy place. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
When we decided to get DeYoung himself on the phone to hear his side of the story, his representative said he'd be more than happy to chat, but he couldn't be sure when DeYoung would have a chance to call. A few days later I answered my phone and heard somebody whistling the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show. (I share a first name with Sheriff Taylor). After asking me a few questions about Opie and Aunt Bee, he finally confessed to being Dennis DeYoung.
Thanks for calling.
Am I getting you at a bad moment? You having sex or something? You're in the office, right?
Ha, yeah. I can talk.
Where are you calling from?
I'm calling from a telephone.
Gotcha. How's your tour going?
Well, Andy, whenever they want a middle-aged white guy to sing high, I raise my hand. We do about 50 to 60 shows a year, depending on my prostate.
So how's that doing these days?
Well, actually for man my age – I've seen worse.
So, I was reading . . .
I deny it! I deny all allegations, your honor! That maid is a liar!
Ha. I've read that you're now doing the Tommy Shaw-sung Styx songs on your new solo tour.
Yeah, that's absolutely true. I don't sing sing 'em. I've got a friend named August Zadra. You wanna hear that story?
I'm not telling ya! You're not to be trusted. Are you from Rolling Stone?
Finally they called me! That last time Rolling Stone called to interview me, you know when it was?
1975. "Lady" had just become a hit record by accident. Anyway, what was the question?
About the songs by Tommy you're doing on the tour.
For last 10 or 11 years, the Styx fans – if they came to see my show or if they came to see Styx – they never really got what they wanted, which was really all their favorite songs. I was just doing songs I wrote, and conversely Tommy and J.Y. were leaving out a lot of songs I had written.
The truth of the matter is that my bass player quit about a year and a half ago to be the bass player in the pit orchestra for 101 Dalmatians. So I started to look for a new bass player. One night at 12:30 my son called me up. He told me to look at this, and it was this kid August Zadra in a Styx tribute band called the Grand Illusion doing "Man In The Wilderness," "Too Much Time" and "Renegade." It was remarkable.
So I completely changed my philosophy and my band. I never really wanted to do those songs because they mean so much to me. I gave my life for Styx and I'm really very proud of it and I didn't want to perform that music and screw it up. I believed after watching this kid that we could honor that music the proper way.
The band reunited around 1996. What do you think went wrong?
Uhh . . . I blame the IRS.
Um, nothing went wrong in '96. We had a wildly successful tour. We were doing almost 10,000 people a night. I never thought I'd see that again.
So why didn't things last?
Well, we weren't supposed to tour again in '97. We were supposed to make our first studio album, but I got a call from our manager at the end of '96 . . . See, here's what I believe: My dad taught me years ago you don't shit where you eat.
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