How I got into THAT band: Styx

Two weeks ago I was given an opportunity to interview Lawrence Gowan, one of the members of the classic-rock band Styx. The group, famous for songs like “Renegade,” “The Best of Times” and “Come Sail Away,” is on tour again this fall and is performing in Macon, Georgia on Sunday, October 5th. The Target Audience Magazine interview with Lawrence can be found here, and focuses on Styx’s seemingly non-stop tour of the world.

I’ve been a Styx fan for over 30 years and can say, without any exaggeration, that their songs were the foundation of what would become my diverse and slightly odd taste in music. My first real interest in Styx can all be traced back to a summer in the 1970’s, before I started fourth grade. A new family had just moved into a neighboring house and their daughter, Karin, was my age and about to start going to the same school. We quickly became friends and thanks to the power of the internet we still keep in touch to this day.

When Karin and I first met, I had an overwhelming obsession for all things “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Mork & Mindy,” but my musical knowledge was limited to the constraints of the local Top 40 radio station. Karin, on the other hand, was really into music and introduced me to the concept of having a record collection. After a while her bubbling enthusiasm for music, especially Styx, began to rub off on me. She seemed to have every picture of Tommy Shaw (Styx’s guitarist and vocalist) that she could find on display in her bedroom. When Kilroy Was Here was released in 1983, she managed to convince the manager of the local record store, Waxie Maxie’s, to give her the life-sized standee of Mr. Roboto they used to display the album. To say she was a Styx fan is probably the greatest understatement that I can make.

One year for my birthday, my parents gave me an all-in-one stereo system and Karin bought me my very first Styx record. Once I had that stereo I began adding to my music collection by taping my favorite songs off of the radio and saving up to buy records of my own. Of course, if Karin introduced me to a band, I became an instant fan. That said, nothing she introduced me to stuck to my heart as much as the music of Styx.

Styx during the 2013 Midwest Rock N Roll Express - photo by Michael Bradley
Styx during the 2013 Midwest Rock N Roll Express – photo by Michael Bradley


I would listen to Styx’s Paradise Theater over and over while I read books or played with my action figures. Eventually I added other Styx albums to my collection, but never delved too far back into their musical history. In fact, until I was a teenager, I preferred Styx’s later albums and didn’t listen to anything earlier than Crystal Ball. Another peculiar quirk of mine was that I had convinced myself that bands only put their good songs on the A-sides of records. I would seldom listen to the B-sides for that reason. So, even though I had a growing Styx collection, I was not listening to half of their songs. It took the release of Kilroy was Here to finally change that misconception.

When Styx was out on their Kilroy was Here tour, I failed twice at convincing my parents to let me attend the concert. My mom just did not feel comfortable with her little boy going to a loud rock and roll show, even if I had an adult with me. I remember very clearly the night that we were in Charleston, West Virginia visiting family and Styx was playing just down the road. I begged and pleaded to go, but to no avail. It was just not meant to be.

Sadly, that was the last tour that the band ever performed with that lineup of musicians. By the time I was finally able to attend a Styx concert (almost 30 years later), original drummer John Panozzo had passed away and Lawrence Gowan had replaced original keyboardist Dennis DeYoung.

I tell you that last story in order to tell you this one:

When I was done interviewing Lawrence Gowan, I told him that same tale of woe. He commiserated with me and regaled me with one of his own. The exact same thing had happened to him when he was a boy. A neighbor had an extra ticket for a rock and roll concert that he desperately wanted to attend. Like my mother, his would not let him attend a rock and roll show at a young age. Instead, she promised that the next time the band came to town, he would be a bit older and she would let him go. The name of that band was The Beatles, and he is still waiting for them to come back to town.

At least my story has a happy ending. A few years ago, when Styx was out on the road with their “Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight” theater tour, I bought a ticket to their performance at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. It had taken me almost 30 years to finally see Styx in concert and the opportunity to attend a show in which they played two of my favorite albums in their entirety just could not be missed.

There I was, 41 years old and thinking about all the things in my life that had occurred since Karin introduced me to Styx so many years ago. The lights went down, the band started playing and I suddenly realized that I was there cheering on Styx, literally “from the shadow of the 14th row.”

For more information on Styx and their tour, visit their website.

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