Organizers of Ashland’s annual Summer Motion festival have landed the first of the musical headliners for this year’s event.
Midwestern rockers Styx, who rose to prominence in the 1970s with hits like “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade” and “Lady,” will perform at Veterans Riverfront Park on July 5, closing out the three-night concert series, Summer Motion President Cade Mahan said Monday.
Mahan said he was extremely pleased to have booked a musical act with the name recognition of Styx for the 25th anniversary edition of the festival.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had some really good acts this year. Styx is a big-name group everyone’s going to want to see. They’re still packing venues even at this stage of their career.”
Based on information in the group’s rider, Mahan said it was clear Styx “is coming here to put on a show.” Summer Motion will be better able to accommodate that sort of thing this year, too, thanks to a new portable stage and upgraded sound system, he said.
Styx was formed in Chicago in 1961 by twin brothers John and Chuck Panozzo, who played drums and bass, respectively, and their neighbor, keyboardist/singer Dennis DeYoung. The group was originally known as Tradewinds, but changed it name to TW4 after another group called the Trade Winds broke through nationally. In 1969 it added a college buddy, John Curulewski, on guitar. Guitarist James “J.Y.” Young came aboard in 1970 making TW4 a quintet.
The group changed its name to Styx — after the river that runs between Earth and the underworld in Greek mythology — in 1972 after signing a deal with Wooden Nickel Records, which released its first four albums. The group’s sophomore album, “Styx II,” produced its first major hit, “Lady,” but the song didn’t catch on nationally until 1975, nearly two years after the album’s release.
Guitarist Tommy Shaw, an Alabama native, joined the group in 1975 after it signed with A&M, a major record label. Styx’s seventh album, “The Grand Illusion,” was released in 1977, and became Styx’s breakthrough album, reaching Triple Platinum certification. It spawned a top-10 hit and album-rock radio radio staple in the DeYoung-written “Come Sail Away.” Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” was a second radio hit, and reached No. 29 the same year. The title track also received significant airplay.
The band’s 1978 album, “Pieces of Eight,” found it moving in a more straight-ahead pop-rock direction and spawned the signature songs “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” The 1979 followup, “Cornerstone,” produced Styx’s only No. 1 U.S. hit single, the ballad “Babe.”
The group followed “Cornerstone” with a pair of concept albums, “Paradise Theater” in 1981 and “Kilroy Was Here” in 1983. The group broke up, then reformed in the 1990s, but subsequently parted ways with DeYoung over differences in musical direction. John Panozzo died in 1996 of complications from alcoholism. Chuck Panozzo, who revealed in 2001 he was living with HIV/AIDS, still performs with the group as a guest musician.
Shaw, the voice of “Renegade,” along with hits such as “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)” and “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and Young are still members of the band. Other current members are Lawrence Gowan, who took DeYoung’s place on keyboards and vocals, Todd Sucherman (drums), and Ricky Phillips (bass). Phillips is also a former member of the groups the Babys and Bad English.
Mahan, who’s in his first year as Summer Motion president, said the festival committee’s next task would be to book a big-name country act to kick off the riverfront concert series. After that, “We’ll toss around another group of names and see what’s going to work best for the Fourth of July,” he said.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.