Tommy Shaw

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Tommy Shaw
Tommy Shaw of Styx.JPG
Tommy Shaw performing with Styx on July 2, 2010 at Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska
Background information
Birth name Tommy Roland Shaw
Born (1953-09-11) September 11, 1953 (age 61)
Montgomery, Alabama
Genres Hard rock, progressive rock, bluegrass
Occupations Musician, songwriter, vocalist
Instruments Guitar, vocals, keyboards, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, vibraslap, autoharp, vocoder
Years active 1975–present
Associated acts Styx, Damn Yankees, Shaw Blades, MSFunk, The Smoke Ring
Website www.tommyshaw.com
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Explorer

Tommy Roland Shaw (born September 11, 1953) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, and performer best known for his work with the rock band Styx. In between his stints with Styx, he has played with other groups including Damn Yankees and Shaw Blades and has released several solo albums.

Early life and music career[edit]

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 Harmony 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 in Chicago. Shaw said: "I got on the plane and went up there the next day, and they didn't ask me to play the guitar at all. The guitar never came out of the case." Once Styx had listened to Shaw's demo tape and Shaw had proven he could sing high notes in "Lady", he was hired.[1]

Styx - 1970s[edit]

Shaw 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 due in part to a lot of Shaw's doing, Shaw personally went from studio to studio, coast to coast and pleaded with the stations to play the band's single "Come Sail Away" 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.[2][3] Pieces of Eight also featured another minor radio hit in Shaw's tune "Sing for the Day".

1980s - 1990s[edit]

Though the '80s eventually brought the decline of Styx, the decade began with the band riding a wave of commercial success with the #1 pop ballad "Babe" from their 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 briefly fired from the group in early 1980 but quickly rehired,[4] and the conflict would arise again. Shaw's dissatisfaction was exacerbated by the theatrically-themed album Paradise Theatre in which was the band's only #1 album and featured a billboard top 100 #3 hit by Shaw, "Too Much Time On My Hands" however DeYoung's theatrical path was 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.[5] 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.[6]

1990s - present[edit]

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,[7] but the band went on hiatus until 2000, when they recorded an album that, because of poor production quality, was never released.[8]

Shaw returned to a reunited Styx in 1995 and embarked on a subsequent tour with them in 1996.[9] Shaw 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 Queen tribute album Stone Cold Queen, Shaw sang 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 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.[10] A second collaboration entitled Influence was released in early March 2007 and the duo appeared live on VH1 Classic backed up by 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 songwriting team for such artists as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Vince Neil and Cher.

Shaw currently leads a version of Styx along with James "JY" Young, the only remaining members from Styx's heyday (although original bassist Chuck Panozzo appears as a guest musician for most of their concerts). Upon their reformation in 1996, Styx released the live album Return 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.

In the spring of 2007, Shaw Blades went on a small, often sold out tour to promote Influence. The shows were held in smaller venues throughout the United States. The shows featured remakes of '60s classics and several top hits from Styx and Night Ranger. At the end of a Styx tour, Shaw Blades added a second tour with new dates through the end of 2007.

On New Year's 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.

Shaw made his bluegrass debut on at the Grand Ole Opry on March 26, 2011 after the March 22 release of his bluegrass album "The Great Divide."

Tommy Shaw performing with Styx on August 15, 2009 at Interlochen Fine Arts Camp.

Hall of Fame[edit]

Tommy Shaw was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on February 22, 2008 at their awards banquet held in Shaw's hometown of Montgomery, Alabama at the new Montgomery Convention Center, the construction of which was completed just prior to the ceremony.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Shaw married his second wife, actress Pamela Donnelly, on February 15, 1986. Their daughter, Hannah, was born July 9, 1987. Pamela and Tommy were divorced December 22, 1993. He married his current wife, Jeanne Mason, on December 28, 2000.[12] Tommy and Jeanne's home was featured on Flipping Out season 5 as Jeff Lewis remodeled it as a rental property.

Discography[edit]

For albums with Styx, see Styx discography.

Albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart
positions
US US Grass
1984 Girls with Guns 50
1985 Live in Japan
1985 What If 87
1987 Ambition
1998 7 Deadly Zens
2011 The Great Divide 2

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart
positions
Album
US US Main. Rock
1984 "Girls with Guns" 33 6 Girls with Guns
"Lonely School" 60
"Free to Love You"
1986 "Remo's Theme (What If?)" 81 18 What If
"Jealousy"
1987 "No Such Thing" 41 Ambition
"Ever Since the World Began" 75
1995 "My Hallucination" (Shaw & Blades) 26 Single only

Gear[edit]

Shaw mainly uses Fender and Gibson guitars including:

Shaw also plays Hamer guitars, including a Hamer 6/12-string double-neck, from the early to mid-1990s. He was instrumental in the development of Hamer's Duotone guitar. He can be seen playing a Hamer Talladega in the second picture in this article.

For effects he uses:

  • Dunlop Crybaby Wah
  • Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
  • Boss OD-3 Overdrive
  • DigiTech Delay Modeler

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fox, Doug (August 4, 2001). "After 30 Years, Styx's Success Is No Illusion, As The Band Returns To Paradise". Billboard 113 (31): 51. 
  2. ^ "List of Billboard Top 40 hits for 1978". Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  3. ^ "List of Billboard Top 40 hits for 1979". Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  4. ^ "Hard Rock bio on Styx". Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  5. ^ Clark, Dick (March 29, 1983). "Styx and stones...". Times-News. 
  6. ^ "Rush Tour Dates and Setlists from Power Windows". 2112.net. Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  7. ^ "Wikipedia entry for Damn Yankees' second album, Don't Tread". Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  8. ^ Whitaker, Sterling (2007). The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx. BookSurge Publishing. p. 342. ISBN 1419653539. 
  9. ^ "Wikipedia entry for Styx". Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  10. ^ "Album Revue of A Classic Rock Christmas". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  11. ^ "Rocker Tommy Shaw receives hometown welcome". Montgomery Advertiser. February 22, 2008. 
  12. ^ Wallace, Ann (February 15, 2004). "Love at First Sight". The Leaf Chronicle. 

External links[edit]