Tommy Shaw

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Tommy Shaw
Tommy Shaw performing with Styx on July 2, 2010 at Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska
Tommy Shaw performing with Styx on July 2, 2010 at Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska
Background information
Birth nameTommy Roland Shaw
Born (1953-09-11) September 11, 1953 (age 68)
Montgomery, Alabama, United States
GenresHard rock, progressive rock, bluegrass, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, vocalist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin
Years active1967–present
Associated actsStyx, Damn Yankees, Shaw Blades, MSFunk, the Smoke Ring

Tommy Roland Shaw (born September 11, 1953) is an American guitarist and singer best known as the frontman and guitarist for the rock band Styx. In between his stints with Styx, he has played with other groups including Damn Yankees and Shaw Blades as well as releasing 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 three years, which gave him a chance to be noticed by Styx during a two-week club gig in Chicago. After MSFunk disbanded, he went back to Montgomery to join a local group called Harvest with his childhood friends. 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. 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 the high harmony 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 Shaw. He personally went from studio to studio, coast to coast and pleaded with radio stations to play the band's single "Come Sail Away" (written and sung by Dennis DeYoung). The album also featured the radio hit "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)", penned by Shaw.

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 1970s rock-radio staples and perennial Styx concert favorites.[2] The Shaw-sung ballad "Sing for the Day" also became a moderate hit, hitting number #41, making Shaw the writer and singer of all three singles pulled from the album.


Though the 1980s 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 direction. Although the band had released singles and achieved airplay on pop radio, up until this point they had done so by sticking to their progressive/hard rock roots. But the planned release of "First Time," another ballad much in the same vein as the previous single "Babe" brought things to a head within the band. Shaw threatened to quit if "First Time" was released, worried that two ballads in a row would alienate Styx's rock fan base.[3] DeYoung and the record company argued for release, but were out-voted by the band. 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 continued to grow as DeYoung took more and more control of the band and their musical direction. Shaw had a lesser role on the theatrically-themed album Paradise Theatre, than he had on previous albums with the band, even though it featured a #9 hit by Shaw, "Too Much Time on My Hands" – his only Top 10 hit with Styx. Shaw's frustration in the band ultimately boiled over with the next album Kilroy Was Here. The concept of the album, along with its accompanying tour, was entirely the brainchild of DeYoung. The live shows featured an eleven-minute movie intro and theatrical performances with dialogue by the band.[5] Shaw very much detested the whole project, and this time around vetoed one of his own compositions, "Haven't We Been Here Before" from being released as a single.[citation needed]

From the time Shaw joined Styx, up until the release of "Babe", Shaw had written and sung on six of the band's eight singles released in that period. Unfortunately none of his singles achieved the same level of success of those of Dennis DeYoung, and so starting with the Cornerstone album, there was a focused effort by both the band and record company to choose Dennis DeYoung songs as singles. This proved to be the correct decision as DeYoung would pen an additional five Top 10 singles for a total of seven of the band's eight Top 10 successes. After "Babe", Shaw would only be responsible for one of the next nine singles until his departure in 1984, following the end of the "Kilroy Was Here" tour. Shaw released three solo albums in the 1980s: Girls with Guns (1984), What If (1985), and Ambition (1987),[6] scoring a Top 30 hit with the title track and a minor hit with "Lonely School," both from the first album. Shaw's solo band opened concerts for The Kinks in 1984 and for Rush in 1987–88.[7]


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.[6] 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.[8]

Shaw returned to a reunited Styx in 1995 and embarked on a subsequent tour with them in 1996. 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 titled Back Against the Wall. 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 aptly 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.[9] 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 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 in co-bill shows with REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, 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 1960s 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.

On June 28, 2018, Shaw, along with his guitarist & musical director Will Evankovich, released an acoustic live album with CYO as Styx played with them in 2006 on the album "One with Everything: Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra" titled "Sing for the Day!", which they played his own Styx songs, Damn Yankees & solo stuff. Although it was broadcast on July 9, 2016, The concert took place at the Waetjen Auditorium on May 27, 2016. It was released on CD & Blu-Ray (without DVD).[10]

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

Alabama Music 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]

In 1975, Shaw married Cuppy Smith when he was 21 years old in Michigan. Their divorce was finalized in April 1980. Between late 1979 and mid-1981, Shaw dated actress Linda Blair. Tommy lived with horse trainer Betsy Waltman on his horse farm in Michigan around 1981-1984. He dated and shared an apartment in Chicago with news anchor Joan Esposito in 1984. 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. Shaw stated in a 1992 interview during his first tenure with Damn Yankees that he is a strict vegetarian. Subsequently, on the 10/31/2020 episode of Live from Daryl's House, Shaw regaled Daryl Hall and friends with a story of falling off the vegetarian wagon upon trying a piece of ribeye that widened his eyes.[13]


Solo albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Live in Japan (1985)
  • Sing for the Day! with Contemporary Youth Orchestra (2017)

with Styx[edit]

with Damn Yankees[edit]

with Shaw–Blades[edit]

Solo singles[edit]

Title Release Peak chart
US[14] US Main[15]
"Girls with Guns" 1984 33 6 Girls with Guns
"Lonely School" 60
"Free to Love You"
"Remo's Theme (What If?)" 1986 81 18 What If
"No Such Thing" 1987 41 Ambition
"Ever Since the World Began" 75
"My Hallucination" (Shaw–Blades) 1995 26 Hallucination
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart.


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:


  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. ^ Styx Behind the Music (TV). VH1. 13 Aug 2000. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-03. Alt URL
  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. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1999). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 397. ISBN 0-7535-0257-7.
  7. ^ "Rush Tour Dates and Setlists from Power Windows". Archived from the original on 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  8. ^ Whitaker, Sterling (2007). The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx. BookSurge Publishing. p. 342. ISBN 1419653539.
  9. ^ "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.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Tommy Shaw Chart History - Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  15. ^ "Tommy Shaw Chart History - Billboard Mainstream Rock". Billboard. Retrieved February 13, 2021.

External links[edit]