1953 – Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw is born in Montgomery, Ala.
Tommy Roland Shaw (born September 11, 1953) is an American guitarist, best known for his work with the rock band Styx. In between his stints with Styx, he has played with the supergroup Damn Yankees and Shaw Blades, and has released several solo albums.
Early life and music career
Tommy Shaw was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1953 and played with many local bands in his early years. Shaw attended the same high school as legendary dixie youth coach Jeff Crouch. He left Montgomery after 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 with his childhood friends called Harvest, which performed at a club in a bowling alley called “Kegler’s Kove”. 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.
Styx — 1970s
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 8th album, appropriately entitled Pieces of Eight, was the breakout album for Shaw’s songwriting talent with his rock-oriented contributions “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man” being the only major hits off this release, which became `70’s rock radio staples and perennial Styx concert favorites, reaching #16 and #21 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It also featured another minor radio hit in Shaw’s tune “Sing For The Day”.
1980s — 1990s
Though the `80’s 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 9th Styx album, Cornerstone in 1979, which was written by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. However, tension mounted within the band as Shaw and other band members expressed dissatisfaction with DeYoung’s desire to pull the band into a pop radio & theatrical direction, preferring the rock direction of the songs written by Shaw and guitarist James “JY” Young. For this reason, unbeknownst to the public-at-large, Dennis DeYoung was fired from the group in early 1980 for a brief unpublicized moment and quickly rehired, but this conflict would arise again. Shaw’s ascerbation was furthered with his dissatisfaction of the theatrical-themed album Paradise Theater and brought to a boil with 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. Shortly after the tour ended, Shaw left Styx in 1983 to pursue his solo career.
Shaw released 3 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 1st album.
1990s — present
In the early 1990s, Shaw, Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (of Night Ranger), and drummer Michael Cartellone formed the band Damn Yankees. Michael Cartellone was the drummer for Tommy Shaw during his 1988 Ambition tour. Their biggest hit, “High Enough”, was co-written by Shaw. The band had a strong concert following; however, even though the 2nd album went platinum, the band went on hiatus before recording a third album in 2000 that was never released to the public due to poor production quality.
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: An All-Star Tribute to KISS”, on which he sang “Love Gun”. On the Queen tribute album Stone Cold Queen, Shaw sang a stirring rendition of the John Deacon-penned Spread Your Wings.
Tommy 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 classic Christmas 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 release “Return To Paradise” before they recorded new 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 1960’s and 1970’s rock classics.) The band continues to tour to the present day, often with Def Leppard and other classic rock bands.
In the spring of 2007, Shaw Blades went on a small, often sold out tour to promote a new CD entitled “Influence”. The shows were held in smaller venues throughout the US. The shows featured remakes of 60’s classics and several top hits from Styx and Night Ranger. At the end of a Styx tour, Shaw Blades added a 2nd tour with new dates through the end of 2007.
On New Years Eve, 2007, Shaw made a guest appearance with the Trans Siberian Orchestra in Birmingham, Alabama where they performed such songs as Blue Collar Man and Renegade, as well as TSO originals.
Currently, Shaw continues to tour with Styx throughout the US and Europe.
Hall of Fame
Tommy Shaw was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on February 22, 2008 at their awards banquet held in Tommy’s hometown of Montgomery, AL at the new Montgomery Convention Center, which was finished just prior to the ceremony.