Styx Inducted Into the Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame
The Scorpions put up a good fight, but their sting wasn’t enough to defeat the blue-collar might of Chicago’s veteran rock renegades. With nearly 66 percent of the vote, Styx have officially been inducted into the Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame.
The band’s roots go back to the early ’60s, when keyboard player and singer Dennis DeYoung joined up with his friends and neighbors Chuck and John Panozzo to form a group they called the Tradewinds. With DeYoung on accordion, John on drums and Chuck on bass, the Tradewinds gigged steadily throughout the decade, picking up guitarists John Curulewski and James ‘JY’ Young along the way. A pair of name changes later, the Tradewinds became Styx — and in 1972, they released their self-titled debut album.
Like a number of subsequently successful rock bands during the decade, Styx struggled to find a mainstream audience at first. While their debut sold respectably, 1973’s ‘Styx II’ failed to build on its momentum, and by the time they entered the studio for 1974’s ‘Man of Miracles’ LP, DeYoung confessed, “I felt it was a rotten industry three months after ‘Styx II’ was released. I listened to that album over and over again and compared it with other albums, and I knew it was good. But it was just ignored. I had taken it upon myself to study the charts, and I knew that we weren’t getting any real promotion at the time.”
That all started to change in 1974 — first due to more sympathetic executives being hired at the band’s parent label, and then because of a chance introduction during Styx’s promotional rounds for ‘Man of Miracles.’ While visiting Chicago AM station WLS, DeYoung later recalled, they realized that the ‘Styx II’ track ‘Lady’ “had been the most requested song . . . for the past year, but they never played it. The station had a format of 15 hit singles which they played and they never went outside that. . . . The music director there, a guy called Jim Smith, told us he’d had these requests for ‘Lady’ and we got real friendly. He told us he’d keep playing it until it was a hit.”
The rise of ‘Lady’ kicked off a period of immense success for Styx that lasted through the mid-’80s. Curulewski’s 1975 departure resulted in the arrival of new guitarist Tommy Shaw, cementing the lineup responsible for the multi-platinum records ‘The Grand Illusion’ (1977), ‘Pieces of Eight’ (1978), ‘Cornerstone’ (1979), ‘Paradise Theater’ (1981) and ‘Kilroy Was Here’ (1983), as well as a string of radio hits demonstrating the band’s broadly eclectic sound, which incorporated elements of prog, classical and hard rock. DeYoung’s fondness for theatrical pop eventually drove a wedge between him and other members of the group, but for years, that diversity helped broaden their fan base in a big way.
“Everybody in this band has a different character,” explained Shaw in 1980 interview with Sounds. “It’s like a TV series — there may be some guy in the cast who you hate, but you’ll watch it every week because the show’s good.”
Change came eventually, of course — first with the prolonged hiatus that followed the ‘Kilroy’ record and saw the band re-emerging without Shaw for 1990’s ‘Edge of the Century’ album, and then again in the late ’90s, when DeYoung was forced out after a brief reunion of the classic Styx lineup. Sadly, the band also lost both Panozzo brothers — John’s years of drinking contributed to the liver problems that led to his death in 1996, and Chuck has been a part-time member since the ’90s. These days, they’re more of a live act, with only one album of original material (2003’s ‘Cyclorama’) released over the past decade, but if they aren’t busy in the studio, they’re impressively active on the road, where they’ve remained one of classic rock’s steadiest, hardest-working bands.