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Styx: a concise history

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Chicago band Styx grew to fame in the late 1970s, melding progressive rock with hard rock guitar and strong ballads. Originally, twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo joined up with neighbor Dennis DeYoung in 1961 to form “The Tradewinds.”  Chuck left the band briefly to attend seminary school, but returned to the band on the bass guitar in 1964.  During his absence, Tom Nardin stepped in to fill Chuck’s void on guitar, but left in 1969 and was replaced by John Curulewski. James “J.Y.” Young joined in 1970.

“Tradewinds” gained popularity during its early years performing at frat parties and high schools while band members attended Chicago State University.  In 1972, they signed with Wooden Nickel Records and changed their name. Styx was born.

Under the Wooden Nickel label, Styx continued to develop a strong fan base in the Chicago area.  Their early albums showcased a lot of solos, from percussion to organ.  Not until their third album, “The Serpent Is Rising,” did they hit upon the idea of a concept album, which would come to define the band and their releases in the 80’s.  A concept album is one unified by a theme, whether instrumental or lyrical.

With their seventh album, “The Grand Illusion,” Styx finally broke out, hitting Triple Platinum status. The album produced two radio hits, “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).”  After these successes, the band continued to enjoy Billboard success throughout the 70’s and into the 80’s, producing four consecutive Multi-Platinum albums.

The band, however, struggled with artistic differences among band members and accusations from Christian groups over Satanic messages in their songs.  By the time of the 1984 release of the band’s first love album, “Caught in the Act,” the band members had already split ways.

DeYoung, Young and Tommy Shaw, who had replaced Curulewski on guitar, found moderate success in their solo careers. Shaw eventually formed Damn Yankees in 1989, despite the remaining members of Styx making plans for a reunion.

The newly reunited band had some success in their reunion, embarking on a nation-wide tour in 1991.  This was, however, the era of grunge, and Styx received little interest from record labels.  In 1992, they broke up again.

The band experienced a few reunions and breakups throughout the years, with various band members making returns or dropping out.  Styx has been touring with bands like Kansas and Foreigner in the past five years to rave reviews.  In 2010, they announced the forthcoming release of “Regeneration: Volume 1,” an album featuring re-recorded hits and one new song.

And on Friday, April 8, Styx comes to the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend, Ind.