Styx's 'new guy' has long musical history

 

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CHAMPAIGN — The classic Chicago band Styx has a Candaian on lead vocals and keyboards, Toronto's Lawrence Gowan.

He came on in 1999 to replace co-founder Dennis DeYoung.

So you might know DeYoung's voice, or you might know Gowan's — they both have spent about the same amount of time in the band.

You'll be able to hear the difference Saturday at State Farm Center.

The classic influences: "When I was kid, I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, 7 years old then, I learned a little bit of guitar, piano," he said.

John Candy was on the student council in his Toronto school.

"The guys were always laughing," Gowan said.

But Gowan, classically trained on the piano, was headed in a different direction.

"Around 13 or 14, I starting looking at the guys in bands, thinking this is pretty phenomenal. By Elton in the early '70s, I said I have to do this."

At the same time, Styx was putting out its first records.

Gowan had his own successful band, called ... Gowan, for years.

His "Strange Animal" album went to No. 5 in Canada in 1985.

Gowan was doing a solo piano performance in Montreal before Styx hit the same stage, and he found himself hanging with the band, and then invited in.

Gowan was moving into an established act.

Styx had four multi-platinum albums in a row.

The south side Chicago band has always gone after the blue collar man, as the song goes.

Chuck and John Panozzo first played music together with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung, who played accordion and sang, all of them in the junior high range at the time.

One of the band's incarnations, There Were 4, added John Curulewski; then James "J.Y." Young came aboard in 1970, two years before the first album as Styx (the only name nobody hated).

Tommy Shaw was Curulewski's replacement. He wrote a hit almost immediately, "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)." But it was DeYoung who wrote the first No. 1 hit, "Babe."

With some band tensions, members went on to solo careers, but Styx reformed in 1990. In 1999, DeYoung was replaced by Gowan.

"I think I may have played more shows," Gowan estimates, based on a heavy touring schedule, often with other Midwest bands like Cheap Trick or Champaign's REO Speedwagon.

"We do 100 shows a year; I do 10 solo maybe," Gowan said.

It took him a little while to fit in with this Second City crew, but now he can't remember any other way of life.

"When you join a band, well, I had to learn to play with them — not just my opinion, but one of five or six opinions," Gowan said. "I had to kind of learn how it works."

He learned.

"With a trajectory of 50 years, every single member of the band is part of the collaboration," "the new guy" said. "We carry the torch forward."

He said, "There's no reason to change the brew."

"There's plenty of room in the show for each guy to show off his musicianship," Gowan said. "A lot of Styx faithful show up for my solo shows, same as for Tommy's solo shows."

If you go

What: Styx

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: State Farm Center, 1800 S. First St., C

Tickets: $36 to $116.50

Box office: 217-333-2923 or statefarmcenter.com/events/detail/styx

Reporter

Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is pwood@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).