The Grand Delusion of Styx
What's so unique about Styx, those Chi-town prog-rockers, that makes them irresistible to book writers? (Remember, bassist Chuck Panozzo penned his own version of the Styx story last year.)
For starters, the band has a back-story more dramatic than any band of its generation. And until they manage to put differences aside and reunite with Dennis DeYoung, expect more written dissection of the band.
The latest book on Styx is called "The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx" by Sterling Whitaker. The author allows minimal personal commentary and lets the band members and those in the inside circle tell the story of their highly dysfunctional history.
The result: A compelling and often sad tale of a group of vastly different personalities who formed an unlikely alliance and became a superstar act for the decades.
Whitaker, who lives in Nashville, wrote "Unsung Heroes of Rock Guitar" in 2003. He recently took time out to answer some questions from Stuck in the 80s on his latest book:
Why the attraction to Styx for a biography? You must be a super-fan.
"Absolutely. When I was in kindergarten, I won a huge stack of 45s at a cakewalk at the school fair at the gym. This was in 1975, and one of the songs was 'Lady,' which was new at that time, with B-side 'Children of the Land.' I was warped for life. Later on, 'The Grand Illusion' was the first album I ever bought with my own money, and it is still my favorite record ever recorded. When I became a freelance writer, Tommy Shaw was the first major interview I ever did."
It's an unauthorized biography. What sort of cooperation did you get from band members?
"I had been warned repeatedly by various insiders to tread lightly through the minefield of potential litigation that is the career of Styx, so I was not too surprised when I did not get cooperation from many of the principals. ... In the end I got to interview Tommy (Shaw), Glen Burtnik (who briefly replaced Shaw) and Todd Sucherman (who took over drumming after John Panozzo) from the band, as well as many insiders such as managers, record company executives, crew members, PR people, journalists, fans and friends."
Did any of the band members surprise you with their personalities when dealing with them one on one?
"My contact with Dennis was limited to a phone call a long time ago, but for what it's worth, he was cordial, polite, and very funny, and he also seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say."
"Tommy surprised me a bit in that he is much more intelligent and insightful than he sometimes comes across. Sometimes I think he plays that 'Aww shucks, I'm just a simple country boy' shtick out of habit, but it's not who he is; not entirely, at least. Tommy is not dumb at all. Many Styx insiders have told me that he is 'dumb like a fox,' and that although he may not have the formal education of the other guys, in street smarts he trumps them all."
-- For more information on Whitaker's book, visit his website.