Monthly Archives: March 2010

Come Sail Away With Styx At House Of Blues April 9

Styx (LR): Lawrence Gowan, James Young, Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, Ricky Phillips and Chuck Panozzo.

By Brian M. Howle

The year was 1974, the place was The Copper Door on the Rosewood Strip in Columbia, SC, and the band that made me forget about my beer (and friends for about half an hour before I could speak) had a killer keyboard/guitar sound, and one song in particular that I couldn’t believe wasn’t on the radio. The band was comprised of hippies from Chicago who became my best friends during the smoke breaks.

I should have made a video of that. Oh wait, there were no video cameras yet. Probably best, anyway though … have to check the statute of limitations before I share that story. But for the record, the band was Styx, the song was “Lady”, and I got to scoop all of my friends – and the world – for nearly three years before they broke out nationwide with “Lady”.

And now you can join me in hearing it – and all the others – again as Styx brings a long list of hits to House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Friday, April 9, 2010.

Spawned from a suburban Chicago basement in the early ‘70s, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, due to a fondness for big rockers and soaring power ballads. The band – founded by brothers Chuck and John Panozzo – was heavily influenced by lead vocalist and keyboard wiz Dennis DeYoung, who wrote almost all of the lyrics along with most of the music. James Young’s distinctive guitar style complimented the style, along with guitarist John Curulewski.

Early on, Styx’s music reflected such then-current progressive rockers as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues, as evidenced by such releases as 1972’s self-titled debut, 1973’s Styx II, 1974’s The Serpent Is Rising, and 1975’s Man of Miracles. While the albums (as well as non-stop touring) helped the group build a substantial following locally, Styx failed to break through to the mainstream, until a track originally from their second album, “Lady” started to get substantial airplay in late ‘74 on the Chicago radio station WLS-FM. The song was soon issued as a single nationwide, and quickly shot to number six on the singles chart, as Styx II was certified gold.

By this time, however, the group had grown disenchanted with their record label, and opted to sign on with A&M for their fifth release overall, 1975’s Equinox (their former label would issue countless compilations over the years, culled from tracks off their early releases). On the eve of the tour in support of the album, original guitarist John Curulewski abruptly left the band, and was replaced by Tommy Shaw. Shaw proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Styx, as most of their subsequent releases throughout the late ‘70s earned at least platinum certification (1976’s Crystal Ball, 1977’s The Grand Illusion, 1978’s Pieces of Eight, and 1979’s Cornerstone), and spawned such hit singles and classic rock radio standards as “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” “Blue Collar Man” and “Fooling Yourself.”

The band decided that their first release of the ‘80s would be a concept album, 1981’s Paradise Theater, which was loosely based on the rise and fall of a once-beautiful theater (which was supposedly used as a metaphor for the state of the U.S. at the time — the Iranian hostage situation, the Cold War, Reagan, etc.). Paradise Theater became Styx’s biggest hit of their career (selling over three million copies in a three-year period), as they became one of the U.S. top rock acts due to such big hit singles as “Too Much Time on My Hands”. It also marked the first time in history that a band released four consecutive triple-platinum albums.

A career-encompassing live album, Caught in the Act, was issued in 1984, before Styx went on hiatus, and the majority of its members pursued solo projects throughout the remainder of the decade. A re-recording of their early hit, “Lady” (titled “Lady” ‘95”), for a Greatest Hits compilation, finally united Shaw with his former Styx bandmates, which led to a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time (due to a long struggle with alcoholism), which prevented him from joining the proceedings — as he passed away in July of the same year.

Although grief-stricken, Styx persevered with new drummer Todd Sucherman taking the place of Panozzo, as the Styx reunion tour became a surprise sold-out success, resulting in the release of a live album/video, 1997’s Return to Paradise, while a whole new generation of rock fans were introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx.

However, a long-simmering riff over “creative differences” between DeYoung and the rest of the band came to a head. The band was united in not wanting to pursue a more theatrical-laden stage show (after the critically-panned live reviews of their Kilroy Was Here tour in support of that album). 1999’s Brave New World was rife with personality conflicts that drove the band members apart, as well as illness issues, and as a result DeYoung was essentially fired by the band and replaced by Lawrence Gowan. Gowan’s dead-on vocals and keyboard expertise made the transition surprisingly acceptable, except for some pro-DeYoung diehards out there. But the music is always the star of the show, and as anyone who has had the good fortune to attend a recent Styx concert at HOB can attest, this incarnation cranks out that legendary Styx sound with ease.

Now comprised of original members Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young on guitars/vocals, along with Lawrence Gowan on keys and lead vocals, Todd Sucherman on drums and Ricky Phillips on bass (along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo), Styx continues to conquer the planet, one venue at a time.

The stage at House Of Blues at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, SC, was made for a show like this, as Styx will be rocking out our own Paradise on Friday, April 9, 2010. Doors open 7:00 p.m. For info call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit .
This article also appears in Alternatives NewsMagazine, March 25-April 8, 2010, Page 25; and online at


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Local Musicians Rocky Fretz, Tom Yoder Win 9th Annual Independent Music Awards

Further Proof That The Grand Strand Is Home To Some Of The Best In Music
Rocky Fretz
By Brian M. Howle

The winners of the 9th annual Independent Music Awards have been revealed – and residents of the Grand Strand have once again been represented by two of the best local musicians to ever grace a stage or produce an album.

Local keyboard/songwriter phenom Rocky Fretz won the New Age Album award for his release, The Path Ahead … And Steps Then Taken, which was produced by Grammy Award winning guitarist and producer (and founder of Windham Hill Records) Will Ackerman.

Other players on The Path Ahead CD include Tbone Wolk, Michael Manring, Patrick Oleary and Dan Greenspan, all on different basses; Eugene Friesen – cello; Steve Shuch – violin; Derrik Jordan – percussion; Jeff Oster – horns; and Will Ackerman, David Cullen – guitar; plus Noah Wilding’s beautiful vocals.

You can buy the award-winning CD – as well as others by Rocky – by linking to his website, .

And to further the claim that our area truly is a hotbed for great music and great musicians, longtime local guitar wizard/songwriter Tom Yoder also won for the New Age Song category, for his composition “Locked In”.
Tom Yoder

A legend along the Strand for years (and mentor to more guitarists than you can shake a tuner at), Tom now lives in Cary, N.C., just outside of Chapel Hill. And here’s proof that lightning can strike twice – this is the second time he has won an Independent Music Award. Tom won in 2004 for his tune, “The Moment The Apple Falls”. Both winning compositions were in the New Age category. You can catch up on Tom – and also find out how to get his CDs – at his website, .

The Independent Music Awards is a prestigious international program that gets top-ranked independent artists & releases the recognition they need to reach millions of fans worldwide.

Now in its 10th year, the IMAs honor artists who broaden the definition of commercial success & represent the diversity of the global Indie scene.
Adding to an already broad spectrum of music and design categories, awards added to this year’s program include: Adult Contemporary, Reissue Album, and EP.

The IMAs Gets Major Results For Indie Releases
The program creates opportunities and fan bases for artists & releases traditionally ignored by mainstream gatekeepers, mass media & big box retailers.

Unlike contests or battle of the band programs that focus on cash & prizes, The IMAs deliver yearlong marketing & sales support plus performance opportunities that places winners & nominees in front of millions of music fans.

ima logo

That’s why artists previously on major labels as well as notable indie label and self-released talent from around the globe submit in more than 50 music genre song, album, music video & design categories.

The IMAs celebrates the meritocracy of talent and democratization of creativity; winners & nominees are determined solely by artistic merit.
Past winners & nominees credit their IMA honors with elevating their profile with talent buyers, programmers, press, music supervisors and fans.
Some notable IMA winners and nominees include: Koko Taylor, Martin Sexton,The Matches, Miquel Migs, Speech, Denque Fever, Jamie Lidell, Selasee, The Apples in stereo, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Mary Gauthier, Lacuna Coil, Joan As Police Woman, Girl In A Coma, Darrell Scott, Richard Julian, The Mooney Suzuki, Dan Bern, Kristy Krüger, Jeff Healey, Sugarcult, Eleni Mandell; Supagroup, Ike Turner, Jonah Smith, Hoots & Hellmouth, Unkown Hinson, Chris Whitley and many, many more.

The IMAs Leads The New Music Industry
Created by Music Resource Group, publisher of the music industry’s trusted print & online contact databases, The Musician’s Atlas & AtlasOnline, The IMAs has unrivaled access to industry gatekeepers, performance, promotion & distribution opportunities.

Program partners including eMusic, PureVolume, Pump Audio, The Planetary Group, NACA, Rock The Vote,, Venus Zine,, HIP Video Promo, HM Magazine and CMJ Music Marathon help IMA winners and nominees reach more than 50 million music fans.

In addition to IMA sponsored showcases throughout the year, a full-day celebration of IMA artists is scheduled for 2010 in New York City.

Judges confirmed for The 9th annual IMAs included: Aimee Mann, Zooey Deschanel, Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy/Decaydance Records), M. Ward, Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone), Shelby Lynne, Lee Ritenour, Jonatha Brooke, Mike Viola, Arturo O’Farrill (Director Afro-Jazz Orchestra), Tim Pagnotta (Sugarcult), Rob Wasserman, Aubin Paul (, Kevin Lyman (Warped Tour), Alex Springer (Head of Licensing, ABC Networks), Tommy Merrill (Booking Director, Rockwood Music Hall), Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady of Peace), Evan Schlansky (American Songwriter), Richard Reines (Drive-Thru Records), Dalis Allen (Director, Kerriville Folk Festival).

The IMAs Unites Bands & Fans
Music fans also have a voice at the Independent Music Awards. Last year more than 37,000 fans from around the globe discovered new talent and cast their votes at the IMA Vox Pop Jukebox. The winners of the “Peoples Voice” component of the IMAs also benefit from print, online, broadcast, live performance and event promotions alongside formal IMA Winners.

You can get in on the action too: music fans have until June 25 to champion their favorite Nominees at The IMA Vox Pop Jukebox to determine the 9th Independent Music Awards ‘People’s Voice’ Winners by visiting the site:
Link to the “Vote” section at the top of the homepage.

Submissions for The 10th Independent Music Awards program are currently being accepted here. This year’s Album category winners are currently being featured on the iTunes Indie Spotlight page.

Congratulations to Rocky and Tom for their well-deserved awards, and remember to support your local live music scene by attending the shows and buying local artists’ recordings of original material.
The article also appears in the Nightlife & Entertainment section of Alternatives NewsMagazine, March 11-25, 2010 Issue, and at .


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