Twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo first got together with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung in 1961 in the Roseland section of the south side of Chicago when Dennis walked by the Panozzo's house and heard John and Chuck rehearsing with another accordion player. Dennis asked John and Chuck to come over to his house to practice and Dennis replaced their accordion player. Over the next several years, Dennis, Chuck and John played weddings, bar mitzvas and the like doing covers of the day eventually taking the band name "The Tradewinds".
Chuck Panozzo left to attend seminary school for a year but returned to the group by 1964. Tom Nardini was brought in to replace Chuck on guitar and Chuck decided to play bass guitar when he returned to the band. John Panozzo was the drummer, and Dennis DeYoung switched from accordion to organ and piano. In 1965, the name "Tradewinds" was changed to TW4 (There Were 4) after another band called The Trade Winds broke through nationally. By 1966, the Panozzo brothers had joined DeYoung at Chicago State College and kept the group together doing gigs at high schools and frat parties while studying to be teachers. In 1969 they added a college buddy, John Curulewski, on guitar after Tom Nardini departed. Looking to expand their musical repetoire, guitarist James "JY" Young brought a Hendrix influenced guitar in 1970 to the band.
In 1972 with the signing to Wooden Nickel Records,the band once again changed their name, this time to Styx after the river in Greek mythology between Earth and the Underworld. When asked why Styx, Dennis DeYoung commented " it was the only one that none of us hated".
Styx recorded four albums with Wooden Nickel: Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent Is Rising (1973), and Man of Miracles (1974). These albums contained a mixture of straight-ahead rock with prog-rock flourishes. The albums showcased the diversity of the band's talents but never really caught on with the public at large. However, hardcore fans will point out what you do see is a band discovering who they are as they refined their craft in preparation for the next step in their career. Styx's strength was with their live performances and they capitalized this by playing local clubs and schools as they established a fan base in the Chicago area, but was unable to break into the mainstream. Their break came in the Spring of 1975 when an earlier song, the power ballad "Lady" from Styx II, began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago and then nationwide nearly two years after the album had been released. "Lady" hit #6 in the U.S., and Styx II went gold soon after.
With a hit single under their belt, Styx signed with A&M Records and released Equinox in 1975. With the freedom to write the songs they wanted, they yielded a lesser hit in "Lorelei" reaching #27 in the U.S. More importantly, it contained the rock anthem "Suite Madame Blue", which gained the band considerable recognition and airplay on FM radio in the new Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. However, following the move to A&M, John Curulewski suddenly decided to leave the band in December 1975 to spend more time with his family just as they were to embark on a nationwide tour in support of the new album. The band's road manger Jim Vose told the band of a guitar player he had heard earlier that he believed would be an appropriate replacement and reached out to Tommy Shaw, with the band's permission, to be Curulewski's replacement. After a brief interview with the band and proving he could hit the high notes in Lady, Tommy officially became a member of Styx.
Crystal Ball (1976) was moderately successful with Shaw's title track, "Mademoiselle" (#36), and DeYoung's "This Old Man".
Styx' seventh Album, The Grand Illusion became Styx' breakthrough album, reaching Triple Platinum certification Released on July 7, 1977 (7/7/77) it spawned a top-ten hit and AOR radio staple in the DeYoung-written "Come Sail Away," (#8) and Shaw's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"(#29). The title track also received significant airplay.
Their 1978 album Pieces of Eight found the group moving in a more straight-ahead pop-rock direction and spawned the singles "Renegade" (#16 in the U.S.) and "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" (#21 in the U.S.), plus a minor hit "Sing for the Day" that stopped short of the Top Forty at #41.
Styx' 1979 album Cornerstone yielded the band's only #1 hit, the DeYoung ballad "Babe." By early 1980, "Babe" had become the band's biggest international hit and first million-selling single, reaching number six in the United Kingdom.The album also included the #26 DeYoung hit "Why Me" and "Borrowed Time," which was co-written with Shaw, plus Shaw's "Boat on the River", a hit in most of Europe. The popularity of the album helped win the band a People's Choice Award for Best New Song in 1980. At the 22nd Grammy Awards, Styx received a nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group,and Cornerstone's engineers Gary Loizzo and Rob Kingsland were nominated for a Grammy for Best Engineered Recording.
On the success of "Babe", DeYoung began pushing for a more theatrical direction, while Shaw and Young favored a harder-edged approach. This difference over musical direction led to tension between members in early 1980. After JY and Shaw objected to the ballad "First Time" released as the second single from Cornerstone, DeYoung was fired from the band. However, with no replacement available Dennis returned to the band.
In January 1981, Styx released Paradise Theatre, a concept album that became their most successful album, reaching #1 on the Billboard pop albums chart and yielding five singles, including the top ten hits "The Best of Times" by DeYoung (#3) and "Too Much Time on My Hands" by Shaw (#9). Paradise Theater became the band's fourth consecutive Multi-Platinum album.
With growing success comes criticism and Styx was not imune. The band was accused by a California religious group and later the P.M.R.C of backmasking Satanic messages in their anti-cocaine anthem, "Snowblind." James Young has denied this charge during his introduction for "Snowblind" when played live. Dennis DeYoung has denied the accusation as well, joking on the In the Studio with Redbeard program "we had enough trouble to make the music sound right forward." Also, James Young quotes,"If we were going to put something "Satanic" in our songs, we would have put it so it was in the song forward. Not so you would have to buy some $400 tape recorder to hear it."
Kilroy Was Here (1983) was the next project for Styx, another concept album addressing issues around censorship and set in the future where Rock and Roll had been outlawed. The live show embraced the rock opera form and integrated a 30 minute video, band members acting as characters in the futuristic setting, and the standard concert setting. Kilroy went Platinum in 1983, boasting two Top Ten hits, the synthesizer-based "Mr. Roboto" (#3 U.S.) and power ballad "Don't Let It End. (#6 U.S.)" The album earned a nomination as Best Engineered Recording for engineer and long-time friend Gary Loizzo, and fellow engineers on the album Will Rascati and Rob Kingsland, for the twenty-sixth Grammy Awards (1983). "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" a lyrical line from Mr. Roboto has become a long standing line in pop-culture.
Kilroy renewed the creative and competitive tensions within the band. At the end of the tour the band went on hiatus while Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw and James Young pursued solo careers.
In 1984, the band released its first live album, Caught in the Act from the Kilroy tour. The project featured one new studio track, "Music Time", which became a Top 40 hit. The concert was also filmed and released on VHS under the same title (and on DVD in 2007).
In 1989, with Shaw's commitment to Damn Yankees, Styx reformed, with Glen Burtnik to take Shaw's vacated position.
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 Three smash to include the voices of children whose parents were deployed in Saudi Arabia between 1990 and 1991. This contributed to the song's longevity at Adult Contemporary radio, where the song also peaked at #3 and notably remained in the top 40 for 23 weeks.With the huge success of "Show Me The Way," Styx joined a handful of musical acts to have top 10 singles in 3 different decades and under 4 different presidential administrations.
Burtnik's songwriting also helped buoy Edge of the Century, contributing to the moderate hits "Love at First Sight" (#25 Billboard Hot 100 Charts, #13 Adult Contemporary) and "Love Is the Ritual" (#80 Billboard Hot 100, #9 Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks). On the strength of the singles, particularly "Show Me the Way", Edge of the Century peaked at #63 on the Billboard album chart and was certified Gold. But with Grunge dominating the rock press, video channels, and airwaves, and with singles being phased out, there was little interest in a follow-up record and Styx was dropped from A& M Records. Styx disbanded again in 1992.
The band reunited once again in 1995, with Tommy Shaw returning to re-record "Lady" for the Styx Greatest Hits album and consequent tour named "Return to Paradise". The Return to Paradise tour kicked off in 1996, but this time it was John Panozzo who was unable to participatedue to declining health issues.
The band continued with Todd Sucherman replacing Panozzo. The 1996 "Return to Paradise" tour resulted in a two-disc live cd and dvd set. Return to Paradise also featured three new studio tracks: "On My Way", "Paradise" and "Dear John", a tribute to the late Styx drummer John Panozzo that passed away during the tour. Return to Paradise was a surprise hit in 1997, achieving gold status, with the single "Paradise" peaking at twenty-seven on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
During the 1997 leg of the tour, Dennis was playing double duty touring with Styx and launching his self written musical of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the process, Dennis became run down with the root cause being unable to be diagnosed. The end result was Dennis became sensitive to light.
During work on Brave New World, Styx's last album with the classic lineup, long standing issues between band members resurfaced and drove the members apart. While Tommy Shaw and James Young's material attempted to convey a hard rock vein while Dennis DeYoung's desires for other styles resulted in major differences in the material on Brave New World.
As the band prepared the tour for Brave New World in 1999, Dennis asked for more time to recover from his illness. At that point, Tommy and JY were unwilling to wait with the new album coming out and made the decision to go on tour without Dennis.
In 1999, Styx released its first new studio album in almost a decade: Brave New World.
On June 5, 1999, Styx played their final show with Dennis DeYoung for the Children's Miracle Network Telethon before embarking on the post DeYoung era.
As the new Styx prepared to hit the road again, it replaced Dennis with keyboardist Lawrence Gowan from Canada. But it was also evident that Chuck Panozzo would be unable to tour due to health issues of his own with HIV/AIDS. Tommy and JY reached back to a familiar face in Glen Burtnik. This time Glen would play bass instead of guitar that he played when filling in for Tommy.
As a result of the replacement, Dennis filed a lawsuit charging the remaining members of the band were using the Styx name without his consent, and he in turn was eventually countersued by Shaw and Young for using the billing of "Dennis DeYoung, the voice of Styx" in his solo concerts. The suit was eventually settled with the agreement that DeYoung could bill himself as "performing the music of Styx" or "formerly of Styx", but not as "the voice of Styx", and Styx continued on with Shaw and Young at the helm.
Styx's new lineup released several live albums and released the studio album Cyclorama in February 2003, which reached #127 on the Billboard 200 album charts failing to make much of an impact. Although the single "Waiting for Our Time" reached #37 on the Billboard mainstream rock chart, it charted for 1 week and failed to make much, if any, impact. Styx toured extensively during this period and released additional live albums.
Burtnik left Styx in September 2003 to spend more time with his family and was replaced by Ricky Phillips, formerly of The Babys and Bad English. Burtnik would go on to join Dennis DeYoung for a number of tour dates over the next several years.
In 2005 Styx released an album of cover tunes, Big Bang Theory, which reached the Billboard Top 50 on the album charts, their highest charting album since 1990. Their version of The Beatles song "I am the Walrus" received some radio play and a video was made for the song, which was subsequently featured in their live shows.
Styx teamed up with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra in May of 2006 to integrate their music with a live symphony. Later that year,Styx released the cd and dvd of One With Everything: Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra from that show.
Today Styx plays to thousands of fans at more than 100 performances a year including what has become their annual 3 band summer tour.
The music of Styx lives on...