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 the Damn Yankees and Shaw Blades and has released several solo albums.
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 with his childhood friends called Harvest, 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, 23 years old, got the call to audition for Styx and was quickly hired.
Styx -- 1970s
Tommy 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 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 '70s rock-radio staples and perennial Styx concert favorites.Pieces of Eight also featured another minor radio hit in Shaw's tune "Sing for the Day".
1980s -- 1990s
Though the '80s eventually brought the decline of Styx, the decade began with Styx riding a wave of commercial success with the #1 pop ballad "Babe" from the ninth Styx 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 and theatrical direction. For this reason, unbeknownst to the public, DeYoung was fired from the group in early 1980 for a brief moment and quickly rehired, but this conflict would arise again. Shaw's dissatisfaction was exacerbated by the theatrical-themed album Paradise Theatre and brought to a boil by the tour for the next album Kilroy Was Here, which featured a progressive stage show combined with an 11-minute movie intro and theatrical performances by the band. In 1983, shortly after the tour ended, Shaw left Styx to pursue his solo career.
Shaw released three solo albums in the 1980s: Girls with Guns (1984), What If (1985), and Ambition (1987), scoring a Top 40 hit with the title track 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. Tommy 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. 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 a stirring rendition of 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 famed 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 song-writing team for such artists as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Vince Neil and Cher (to name a few.)
Shaw currently leads a version of Styx along with James "JY" Young, the only remaining members from Styx's heyday. 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 with 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 US. The shows featured remakes of '60s 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.
Shaw made his bluegrass debut on at the Grand Ole Opry on March 26, 2011 after the March 22 release of his highly anticipated bluegrass album "The Great Divide."
Hall of Fame
Tommy Shaw was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on February 22, 2009 at their awards banquet held in Tommy's hometown of Montgomery, Alabama at the new Montgomery Convention Center, which was finished just prior to the ceremony.
Fascination with Sea of Tranquility
Shaw is associated with a number of references to the Sea of Tranquility (lunar mare and landing site of Apollo 11). Tranquility Base Songs is his publishing company. He called his farm Tranquility Base Farms. A number of his songs mention Tranquility Base or simply "tranquility." Examples include: Boat On The River - "And all roads lead to Tranquility Base" (from the 1979 album Cornerstone), Everything Is Cool - "We are a Sea of Tranquillity" (from the 1999 album Brave New World), and These Are the Times - "We know the end will bring tranquility" (from the 2003 album Cyclorama).
Shaw married his second wife, actress Pamela Donnelly, on February 15, 1986. Later, on December 28, 2000, he married Jeanne Mason, to whom he is still married.