Tommy Shaw performing with Styx on July 2, 2010 at Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska
|Birth name||Tommy Roland Shaw|
September 11, 1953 |
|Genres||Hard rock, progressive rock, bluegrass, heavy metal|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, vocalist|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, keyboards|
|Associated acts||Styx, Damn Yankees, Shaw Blades, MSFunk, The Smoke Ring|
|Gibson Les Paul
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, Shaw Blades as well as released several solo albums and he is not just a rhythm guitarist, but also a capable lead guitarist.
Early life and music career
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.
Styx - 1970s
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. Shaw personally went from studio to studio, coast to coast and pleaded with the stations to play the band's Dennis DeYoung-written and -sung 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 1970s rock-radio staples and perennial Styx concert favorites. 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.
1980s - 1990s
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 damage Styx's rock cred. 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, 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 11-minute movie intro and theatrical performances with dialogue by the band. 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. From the time Shaw joined Styx, up until the release of "Babe", Shaw had written and sung on 6 of the band's eight singles released in that period. After "Babe", Shaw would only be responsible for one of the next nine singles in North America 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), 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.
1990s - present
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. 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 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 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.
Hall of Fame
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.
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. Tommy and Jeanne's home was featured on Flipping Out season 5 as Jeff Lewis remodeled it as a rental property.
|1984||Girls with Guns||50||—|
|1985||Live in Japan||—||—|
|1998||7 Deadly Zens||—||—|
|2011||The Great Divide||—||2|
|US||US Main. Rock|
|1984||"Girls with Guns"||33||6||Girls with Guns|
|"Free to Love You"||—||—|
|1986||"Remo's Theme (What If?)"||81||18||What If|
|1987||"No Such Thing"||—||41||Ambition|
|"Ever Since the World Began"||75||—|
|1995||"My Hallucination" (Shaw & Blades)||—||26||"Hallucination"|
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (August 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
Shaw mainly uses Fender and Gibson guitars including:
- Gibson Les Paul
- Gibson SG
- Gibson Explorer
- Gibson ES-335
- Fender Stratocaster
- PRS CE
- Taylor SolidBody Standard
- Taylor 914ce Acoustic/Electric Guitar
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
- Fox, Doug (August 4, 2001). "After 30 Years, Styx's Success Is No Illusion, As The Band Returns To Paradise". Billboard. 113 (31): 51.
- "List of Billboard Top 40 hits for 1978". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
- "List of Billboard Top 40 hits for 1979". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
- "Hard Rock bio on Styx". Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-08-31.
- Clark, Dick (March 29, 1983). "Styx and stones...". Times-News.
- "Rush Tour Dates and Setlists from Power Windows". 2112.net. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- Whitaker, Sterling (2007). The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx. BookSurge Publishing. p. 342. ISBN 1419653539.
- "Album Revue of A Classic Rock Christmas". Retrieved 2007-06-30.
- "Rocker Tommy Shaw receives hometown welcome". Montgomery Advertiser. February 22, 2008.
- Wallace, Ann (February 15, 2004). "Love at First Sight". The Leaf Chronicle.