Hitmakers bring arena rock to Interlochen
By Rick Coates 8/10/09
Interlochen Center for the Arts has been enjoying a very successful concert season. For all practical purposes their concert season ends this Saturday with Styx (next week there is the Interlochen Guitar Festival to officially close things out) taking the stage at Kresge Auditorium. The band that dominated the rock music world in the late 70s and early 80s has their work cut out for them as Willie Nelson, Steve Miller and Kenny Loggins all blew the roof this summer.
But if any band can raise the roof to close out a concert season Styx is up to the task. Loaded with rock ballads and anthems Come Sail Away, Babe, Lady, Renegade, The Best of Times, Blue Collar Man, Show Me The Way, and Mr. Roboto, these classic rockers strung together eight consecutive albums that went platinum and have sold close to 60 million copies.
The bands roots go back to 1961 in Chicago with founding members evolving the Tradewinds (TW4) into Styx in 1972. While the group was enjoying success in the Midwest, it was when guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tommy Shaw joined the band in 1975 that the band finally became an international sensation.
Personality struggles would lead Shaw to leave the band at the height of their success in 1983. He went on to pursue a solo career and eventually formed Damn Yankees with Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Ted Nugent. The group had two big hits and sold five million CDs before Nugent departed to pursue his solo career again.
Today, Shaw and Blades have continued as a duo; they record and tour in between Styx and Night Ranger gigs.
RETURN TO STYX
Shaw returned to Styx in 1994. In 1999, in a much-publicized firing Dennis DeYoung, a founding member and writer of several big hits, was released from the band. A lawsuit followed with parties agreeing to terms with Shaw and band mates allowed to tour and record using the name Styx.
While there has been speculation in recent years that DeYoung might return for one tour, nothing has been confirmed. For Shaw and his band mates, the focus right now is simply giving the fans what they want: Styx music live.
I think that the music of Styx goes beyond those of us in the band, said Shaw. There have been several lineup changes since the inception of the band and I think the group has done an excellent job in selecting members over the years and I believe I was one of those good choices.
As for that good choice of being added to the band, Shaw joined in 1975 just after their first major label Equinox, was released (with the hit Lady) and just a couple of weeks before the group went on tour.
I was in another band and the manager of Styx at the time had heard me sing so he called me and said they were looking for a singer and guitar player. When I hit the high note on Lady, they told me I was in, said Shaw. I was just 23 and they handed me a couple of records and told me I had a week to learn the songs. I came back in a week and we rehearsed one night and hit the road.
They basically never left the road and from 1975 until Shaw left the group in 1983 the band found itself constantly at the top of the charts and the box office. His partnering with Ted Nugent in 1989 to form the Damn Yankees on the surface seemed like an odd pairing.
I had been working with Michael Cartellone (current drummer with Lynyrd Skynyrd) for a few years. Well, during Styxs heyday we constantly crossed paths with Ted as he was enjoying a lot of success at that time as well. This business is all about timing and so Nugent joined us and we hit it off right away in fact we wrote Come Again, the first day we were together.
Born in Alabama, Shaw moved to Chicago as a teenager to pursue a musical career and even lived in Michigan for awhile. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
I love Michigan. it is a great music state, said Shaw. I lived on a farm in Niles for awhile and loved it. The Midwest is a great place musically. From Seger to Nugent to Illinois bands like us, Cheap Trick and REO, a lot of great music was made in that region. I remember when I first came to Chicago touring small clubs around Michigan and as Styx. we love touring Michigan and the Midwest. after all, it was our fans there that stuck with us.
Apparently their fans in Northern Michigan have stuck with them as well with tickets nearly sold out for their show this Saturday at Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. For additional information or to purchase tickets visit www.interlochen.org or call the box office at 231.276.7800.