Styx is an American rock and roll band, popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, and touring again in the 2000s. They were the first band to have four consecutive triple-platinum albums.
The group originally formed in the Chicago, Illinois, area in the late 1960s as The Tradewinds. This earliest line-up of the group included singer and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, and a rhythm section comprising brothers Chuck and John Panozzo. Changing their name briefly to TW4, the band added guitarists James Young and John Curulewski, and were soon signed to Wooden Nickel Records, as Styx.
The band’s Wooden Nickel recordings, Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent is Rising (1974) and Man of Miracles (also 1974) were a mixture of straight-ahead rock with some dramatic progressive-rock flourishes and art-rock aspirations. 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 until an early song, the power ballad, “Lady” (from Styx II) began to earn some radio time, first in Chicago and then nation-wide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album it came from was released, “Lady” hit the top ten, and Styx II went gold soon after.
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”. Following the move to A&M, Curulewski left the band, replaced by singer and guitarist Tommy Shaw. The first album with Shaw, Crystal Ball (1976), was moderately successful, and its follow-up, The Grand Illusion (1977) became the group’s breakthrough hit, going platinum and spawning a top-ten hit and radio staple in “Come Sail Away”.
Through the late 1970s the band enjoyed its greatest success, with the album releases Pieces of Eight (1978) finding the group moving in a more straight-ahead pop-rock direction and spawning the hit singles, “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man”, and Cornerstone (1979) yielding the group’s first number one hit, the DeYoung ballad, “Babe”, as well as their biggest international hit, “Boat on the River”.
In 1980, Styx released Paradise Theater, a loose concept album that became their biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard pop albums chart and yielding five Top 40 singles including the top 10 hits, “The Best of Times” and “Too Much Time on My Hands”.
During this period of greatest success, the band, particularly DeYoung and Shaw, began to be affected by interpersonal tensions. On the success of the ballad “Babe”, Styx-founder DeYoung had been pushing for a more theatrical and pop-oriented direction, while Shaw favored a harder-edged approach. The band followed DeYoung’s lead with their next project, Kilroy was Here: another, more fully-realized concept album, this one set in a future where music itself has been outlawed. Critics said that the concept behind the album was still very murky; several band members themselves admitted to not really getting it. Kilroy sold well and was the centerpiece of an ambitious and theatrical stage show; however, the album and tour were a critical disaster and brought the tensions within the band to a breaking point. Kilroy did contain several hits, including the synthesizer-based “Mr. Roboto” and DeYoung’s power ballad, “Don’t Let It End”.
By mid-1984, this most-successful version of Styx had disbanded and the members had moved on to moderately successful solo careers. DeYoung released several successful solo albums centered around pop ballads and soft rock tunes, and James Young attempted a solo career with limited success. Shaw formed Damn Yankees in 1989 with Ted Nugent, Jack Blades and Michael Cartellone.
In 1990, with Shaw achieving some success with Damn Yankees, the remaining elements of Styx reformed with Glen Burtnik replacing Shaw. The new line-up released one album, Edge of the Century, 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 Five smash to include the voices of children whose parents were deployed in Saudi Arabia between 1990-91. Burtnik’s songwriting also helped buoy “Edge of the Century” to gold album status, contributing to hits, “Love at First Sight” and “Love is the Ritual”. Styx toured across the U.S. with somewhat mixed reviews, before once again disbanding after A & M dropped the band. In 1994, DeYoung recorded 10 on Broadway, revealing his unexpected talent for singing popular showtunes.
The band reunited in 1995 to re-record “Lady” for Styx Greatest Hits (1995) and a 1996 tour, but John Panozzo was unable to participate due to declining health caused by problems with alcohol that killed him soon after. Continuing with Todd Sucherman replacing Panozzo, Styx's 1997 Return to Paradise tour was also a success and the band soon released its first new album in almost a decade, Brave New World (1999). Once again, though, personality conflicts drove the band members apart. While Tommy Shaw and James Young’s material followed a hard rock vein, Dennis DeYoung’s penchant for Broadway styles infuriated his bandmates. DeYoung was further hindered due to a viral illness which made him excessively sensitive to light. In 1999, before he had a chance to return to the group DeYoung found himself replaced by Lawrence Gowan on the record company’s insistence that the band begin touring again as soon as possible. Chuck Panozzo also left at this time and later revealed that he was battling HIV. Glen Burtnik returned to fill Chuck’s bass duties. In 2004, Burtnik left Styx to spend more time at home, and was replaced by Ricky Philips, formerly of the Babys and Bad English. Chuck Panozzo still sits in with the band occasionally.
Meanwhile, DeYoung continued his solo career by re-arranging his Styx hits and performing with a symphony orchestra, and also filed a lawsuit against his former band members charging that they had used the band’s name without his consent. The suit was eventually settled on the grounds that DeYoung could bill himself as “performing the music of Styx” or “formerly of Styx”, but not “the voice of Styx”. A new version of Styx, featuring Shaw, Gowan, and sole remaining original member James Young, released an album called Cyclorama in February 2003. This edition of the band also toured extensively through the first half of the decade. In 2005, DeYoung released a CD of re-recorded Styx’ hits from a solo concert with a symphony orchestra (titled “Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx”), while the remaining members of Styx recorded a new album made entirely of rock covers. The new CD, Big Bang Theory, was released on May 10, 2005, and had ten tracks that charted in the Media Base Classic Rock Chart’s top 75, with “I Don’t Need No Doctor” leading the way at number six. June 2005 brought the band to Europe, touring in support of Big Bang Theory, for their first visit in 24 years.
Tommy Shaw said, “We have found our audience still there for us, and there for us with bells on. There is daily discussion as to when, how, where and every other aspect of returning as soon as we can.”