'Daddy Dennis' all business with Styx tours
In early January, Sun-Times' reporter Rick Kogan spent three days on the road with the rock group Styx as they traveled through the Southwest. In the last of four articles, he writes about Styx returning home after completing a successful series of concerts.
'Too much at stake' for drugs, trouble
Dennis DeYoung, the "protector" of Styx, is keeping his group atop that massive heap known as the rock 'n' roll pile. (Sun-Times Photo by Kevin Horan)
by Rick Kogan
TUCSON, Ariz.—Shortly before 9 a.m., four limousines, still glistening with morning dew, pull up to the TWA terminal and some haggard musicians drag into Tucson International Airport.
Styx is returning to Chicago, a five-day rest only hours ahead of them. Behind them lies a nine-day stretch of their Grand Decathlon tour and a wild, raucous, sleepless night. For most of last evening, the hallways of the Sheraton Pueblo Hotel resembled the set of a Marx Brothers' movie, with doors opening and closing, young women coming and going. Some of the roadies had spent the night in the hotel, you see, and with five days ahead in which to rest, they decided to overindulge in all manner of prurient pursuits.
"Was it wild, was it wild?" asks Tommy Shaw, his eyes mere slits. "Where can I get a cup of coffee? Am I awake?"
J. Y. (James Young) missed out on the "fun." After last night's concert he had taken the band's plane back to San Francisco to be with his ailing wife.
AS SOON AS he distributes airline tickets to the band, Pat Quinn will be heading back to his home in Los Angeles.
The roadies ("Rock 'n' roll travels on beer -- beer and roadies") are still asleep at the hotel. When they awake they will pile into their trucks and buses and make the long drive from Tucson to Seattle, site of Styx's next concert. And in a few hours, Tommy Shaw, Chuck and John Panozzo and Dennis DeYoung will be tucked safely in their homes.
For a time, at least, the road will be no more.
One week after the Grand Decathlon had come to a halt on Feb. 8 in New York City, DeYoung sat in a downtown Chicago restaurant and said, "It's weird, not being on the road. This is the first time in eight years that we haven't had anything to do. I'm going nut
Dennis DeYoung is going nutty in south suburban Frankfort, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Any day now his wife is expecting a second child.
But the rock 'n' roll star sits here with a new haircut—it is neatly trimmed though still liberally sprinkled with gray—and wearing some very contemporary clothes. He looks downright Chicago-gigolo-dashing in a wool sports coat, burgundy shirt, light wool slacks and a dark tie.
HE CONTINUES TO keep tabs, to varying degrees, on the other members of the band.
He knows that J. Y. is in Maui with his wife and that Tommy is in Jamaica. He sees John frequently since he and his wife also live in Frankfort. He sees Chuck less often, though he visited him quite a bit during Chuck's recent hospitalization for a stomach illness, since he lives in a lakeshore high-rise.
He keeps tabs on the band members not merely because they are friends and coworkers. He is, in so many ways, the father of the band—protector, spokesman, songwriter— and the person most responsible for their success and, notably, the way they behave on the rock 'n' roll road.
For instance, riding in a limousine in San Diego with members of the horn section that traveled with Styx on the Grand Decathlon, one of the horn players lit a marijuana cigarette. "Don't do that," said another, very seriously. "Dennis is in the next car."
No one begrudges DeYoung this role, a role for which he seems ideally suited—usually quite serious and, at 33, the oldest member of the band.
"He's the daddy," J. Y. has said, with a touch of fondness. "He enjoys doing that, and as a daddy, he's not too bad."
And DeYoung's personality leaves its imprint on the band. He is a serious musician (not to say that the other band members are not) and is prone to take every tiny aspect of band life seriously. While other band members appear able to let loose at a minute's notice (though Chuck and John, those longtime cohorts from Roseland, seem less so than J. Y. and Tommy) DeYoung is serious to the point of being reserved.
THEREFORE, LIFE on the road with Styx was not one long party, one long drugs groupies orgy. It was a well-oiled, smoothly run operation, and the reason, to hear DeYoung tell it, is simple: "There is simply too much at stake."
Styx is sitting atop that massive heap known as the rock roll pile. They are superstars and as such must take their next steps carefully. "I'm writing songs right now," DeYoung says, biting into a rare hamburger. "And they are good songs: I'm on a creative spurt. They'll be for a new album we'll start to rehearse in late summer [after a month long tour of Europe ends in July].
"This next one is real important. We're kicking it out with the big boys now, but the only pressure I feel is external, trying to put aside the current trends as reflected on radio and do what comes naturally—write music."
DeYoung talks for a while about the future of the band: He doesn't see the group lasting for more than another five years. He talks about the lack of recognition the band receives in Chicago: "It's hard for us to be big shots in our hometown. Most of the people at our Chicago concerts are relatives." He laughs. "But I'm very protective of my privacy so I don't mind. At least I can still go in McDonald's." He laughs again.
"I REALLY AM going crazy," he says. "I'm writing a lot, like I said, but this is really the first time in eight years that I've had a long vacation. I'm sure after a while I'll really en joy the peace, but now it's very hard to fill up the time."
He finishes his meal and his third tomato juice. The conversation turns to theater and art. The waiter comes and DeYoung lets me pick up the check.
Outside, a light snow has started falling. DeYoung walks gingerly to a parking lot.
There he will get in his Honda. Then he will drive himself home.
Last edited by Kristi Wachter, Racer Records, December 11, 1999.