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Styx and Band Dynamics

Dennis DeYoung is the former keyboardist and vocalist for Styx, with whom he had five top-ten albums in the 1970s and early 1980s. DeYoung was the writer of some of the band’s most enduring hits, including “Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” “Lady” and “Mr. Roboto.” Since leaving Styx in the mid-1980s, he has released several successful solo albums, and continues to write, record and tour regularly.

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Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer of the rock group Styx, talks about his days with the band and what it takes to keep a band together.

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DY: Styx and Band Dynamics

We grew up on the same street. We brought a guitar player, James Young, in 1970. John Terleski was first in 1968, then James Young in ‘70. That was the original five guys. We made five albums that way, Lady and Equinox, which were really very successful albums. Then our guitar player, JC, John Cerlseki, quit, and Tommy Shaw came in, in 1976. That was the band that most people know as Styx.

Being in a band is like being in a kitchen with your mother, your aunt, and your mother-in-law, and they're all going to try to make Thanksgiving dinner. Need I say more? That's what it's like. Or it's like being in your father's workshop, and your uncle and his two best friends are going to come over and build a birdhouse. And they have to agree how big the whole is where the bird goes in. This is what a rock band is. It's just that simple.

Or it's you, and how many brothers did you have? You and your three brothers are going to sit down and try to figure out anything and agree on it. Can you do it? You would agree on one thing— we want more money from our parents— but other than that— See what I'm saying? That's what a rock band is like. Generally speaking, you've got a couple guys who are more responsible for the success than others. Maybe it's one, maybe it's two. You have to figure out how to keep those balls in the air. That's why bands break up. Don't they all? All of them break up. Some of them get back together again. How many bands have there been that haven't broken up? I don't know. I started to think who are they that haven't broken up? I don't even know. Is there any? That's just it.

And the more success you have, the harder, because everybody wants to feel—it's human nature to feel—that they're responsible in a major way for the success of the band. What's lost in the whole thing is all boats rise with the tide. If you could just keep that in mind, you'd be better off, but sometimes, people can't keep that in mind. Everyone wants to feel that they're the most special and the most important member, even if they know they're not. It becomes a balancing act. It just does.

But really great bands, of which I think Styx qualifies as one of the really better bands, were dependent on those guys together. Those records were not made by me or any other individual. They were made by all of us. Everybody contributed to those records in a major way. That's what makes bands good. They are able to come together at some point creatively and make something happen.

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