TOMMY SHAW

Country USA

Style Hard Rock/AOR

Tommy Shaw was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and played with many local bands in his early years. He left Montgomery after attending Robert E. Lee High School to join The Smoke Ring and then MSFunk, a Chicago-managed outfit that he played with for 3 years, which gave him a chance to be noticed by Styx during a 2-week club gig in Chicago. After MSFunk disbanded, he went back to Montgomery to join a local group called Harvest with his childhood friends, which performed at the club Keglers Kove in a bowling alley called Bama Lanes.

Following Styx’s move to A&M, guitarist and vocalist John Curulewski suddenly left the band shortly before they were to embark on a nationwide tour and a frantic search to find a last-minute replacement was launched. While playing at the bowling alley bar, as a result of his previous experience with MSFunk in Chicago, Shaw got the call to audition for Styx and was quickly hired.

Tommy joined Styx in December 1975. His first album with Styx, Crystal Ball (1976), was titled after his own composition and also includes his songs “Mademoiselle” and “Shooz”. Its follow-up, The Grand Illusion (1977), became the group’s breakthrough album, which went platinum and also featured a radio hit by Shaw, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”.

Styx’s eighth album, Pieces of Eight, was the breakout album for Shaw’s songwriting talent. His rock-oriented contributions “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man” were the only major hits from this release, reaching #16 and #21 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, and they became ’70s rock-radio staples and perennial Styx concert favorites. Pieces of Eight also featured another minor radio hit in Shaw’s tune “Sing for the Day”.

Though the ’80s eventually brought the decline of Styx, the decade began with Styx riding a wave of commercial success with the #1 pop ballad “Babe” from the ninth Styx album,Cornerstone (1979), which was written by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. However, tension mounted within the band as Shaw and other band members, preferring the rock direction of the songs written by Shaw and guitarist James Young, expressed dissatisfaction with DeYoung’s desire to pull the band into a pop radio and theatrical direction. For this reason, unbeknownst to the public, DeYoung was fired from the group in early 1980 for a brief moment and quickly rehired, but this conflict would arise again.

Shaw’s dissatisfaction was exacerbated by the theatrical-themed album Paradise Theatre and brought to a boil by the tour for the next album Kilroy Was Here, which featured a progressive stage show combined with an 11-minute movie intro and theatrical performances by the band. In 1983, shortly after the tour ended, Shaw left Styx to pursue his solo career.

Shaw released three solo albums in the 1980s: Girls with Guns (1984), What If (1985), and Ambition (1987), scoring a Top 40 hit with the title track from the first album. Shaw’s solo band opened concerts for The Kinks in 1984 and for Rush in 1987-88.

In the early 1990s, Shaw, Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (of Night Ranger), and drummer Michael Cartellone (Shaw’s drummer during his 1988 Ambition tour) formed the band Damn Yankees. Their biggest hit, “High Enough”, was co-written by Shaw. The band had a strong concert following, and their second album went platinum, but the band went on hiatus until 2000, when they recorded an album that, because of poor production quality, was never released.

Shaw returned to a reunited Styx in 1995 and embarked on a subsequent tour with them in 1996. Tommy would later record a fourth solo record in 1998: 7 Deadly Zens. Shaw has also worked with other artists on a Pink Floyd’s The Wall tribute album. He also worked on a KISS tribute album, Spin the Bottle, on which he sang “Love Gun”. On the Queentribute album Stone Cold Queen, Shaw sang a stirring rendition of the John Deacon-penned “Spread Your Wings”.

Shaw joined up again with Jack Blades in a duo appropriately called Shaw Blades and released an album entitled Hallucination in 1995. The duo also recorded the classicChristmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which was released in 2002 on the album A Classic Rock Christmas, a compilation of classic Christmas songs recorded by various Classic rock artists. A second collaboration entitled Influence was released in early March 2007 and the duo appeared live on VH1 Classic backed up by famed Nashville songwriter Gary Burr, then did a short tour in spring 2007. Their repertoire included songs from Night Ranger, Styx, Shaw’s solo albums and Damn Yankees. The duo also became a highly sought after song-writing team for such artists as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Vince Neil and Cher (to name a few.)

Shaw currently leads a version of Styx along with James “JY” Young, the only remaining members from Styx’s heyday. Upon their reformation in 1996, Styx released the live albumReturn to Paradise. They went on to record the studio albums Brave New World (which became the last release with co-founder Dennis DeYoung), Cyclorama (with new keyboardist Lawrence Gowan), and Big Bang Theory (an album of cover songs of 1960s and 1970s rock classics). The band continues to tour throughout the US and Europe, often with Def Leppard and other classic rock bands.

2001 is a year spent on the road for Tommy Shaw. The Styx tour ends in November in Canada. The band members also come to an agreement with DeYoung to settle the lawsuit before it went to trial.

The events of September 11th leave their mark in the history of the world, but for Tommy, it is also an occasion to do something concrete, something that will once again show his deep generosity. He organizes two benefit concerts in order to raise money to support the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, who lost over 3 per cent of their force in the World Trade Center attack. With the help of scores of friends who participate, a check for $500,000.00 is presented to the Port Authority Police Department Benevolent Fund in time to be distributed to the families of fallen officers in time for the Christmas holidays. The remainder of the net proceeds goes to other victims’ families who are known personally by participants in the benefits.

2002 is another year on the road for the band but also one to prepare a new album which they will be able to record together with Glen Burtnik and Lawrence Gowan. Thousands of fans are eager to hear the result of this lineup. And to help raise more money for September 11, STYX records Tommy’s Christmas song, “To Be With You on Christmas Day” that appears on a compilation of Christmas songs.

The brand new STYX album is released in 2003. “Cyclorama” is the first STYX album without the contribution of Dennis Deyoung. And what a great surprize! The songs are excellent and once again, Tommy takes our breath away with his songs and performances. A tour with REO Speedwagon and Journey keeps him busy for summertime. He also contributed to other projects such as singing and playing guitar on Warren Zevon’s latest CD, The Wind.

From 2004 to 2006, Tommy worked even more with STYX. In 2004, fans were able to get their hands on a compilation on songs that included material from the Wooden Nickel era (before Tommy joined the band). The double CD is entitled “Come Sail Away : The Styx Anthology”. In 2005, the band also released an album with their version of their favorite songs called “Big Bang Theory”.

On May 25, 2006, Tommy said he experienced something he had never done before. STYX associated themselves with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland for a concert. This orchestra of teenagers under 18 years old, worked for months under the direction of Lisa Grossman to prepare this event. A CD and a DVD was released the same year in order to immortalize this moment.

In 2007, the long-awaited CD from Shaw-Blades was finally released. A compilation of songs that have influenced the two artists, “Influence” did not get one bad review as soon as it hit the market. The duo went on tour in smaller venues which was truly appreciated from their fans.

Styx’ tours continue to take Tommy on the road. During this time, he also takes every opportunity to write new songs and make new projects. In 2010, it was a delight for Styx fans to enjoy the entire albums of “The Grand Illusion” and “Pieces Of Eight” live for the very first time.

2011 will be the celebration of Tommy’s new musical talents, this time in the field of blue grass. “The Great Divide” will again show another side of Tommy Shaw and may be the beginning of a whole new musical career for him.

Now 57 years old, Tommy Shaw continues his musical adventure by doing what he loves the most: writing, recording music and touring. Tommy Shaw is a great artist, an endearing person who despite his fame is very easy going and generous. His music is a delight to discover and to listen to again and again.

– Girls with Guns [1984]
– What If [1985]
– Ambition [1987]
– 7 Deadly Zens [1998]
– The Great Divide [2011]

 

 

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TOMMY SHAW, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings