i95 Exclusive: My Interview With Tommy Shaw From Styx
It was such a thrill to be able to speak with Tommy Shaw from Styx recently. Tommy called in to talk about his show, Styx and REO Speedwagon, the grand opening concert at the new Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater. It's happening tonight, Wednesday July 28, 2021 at 7:30 PM.
I always feel like I'm going to pull a "Chris Farley" when I interview someone of Tommy's stature. You know, terribly flustered and nervous, asking questions like "Hey Tommy... 'member when you were in Damn Yankees? That was AWESOME!" But I didn't. I was able to keep it together long enough to ask him some questions and he was very gracious with his time.
I read that in the early 70's, Tommy had personally called radio stations to ask them to play their soon-to-be unforgettable classic "Come Sail Away" and I asked if it was a true story. Here's what Tommy said -
"Well, you know what happened was, you know how when you get a song that's "A bullet", you know, on the Billboard Charts? Well, we were rising up the charts into the Top 30, we were #28 and the week before, we were further down. So we were over one of the record company guy's house and on the way out the door he says "Oh, by the way, we lost our Bullet. See you guys later" and Jim (James "JY" Young) and I were like "What??!!"
Because at this point, you lose your Bullet, you're in quicksand, you're going down. And we knew that "Come Sail Away", how could that not be a hit? So, we just decided, we were just like the Blues Brothers, on a "Mission from God" and we just went out with Styx credit cards and started just...we were like cheap hookers! Like...what do you want us to do? To bring us up the charts with your station? VCR? Television? Trip to somewhere? We even got one guy a hooker!
AND the guys stiffed us! We took him to the top of the World Trade Center for lunch and we couldn't get in because we didn't have jackets. So we said, well, we'll get him the hooker and try that. The band was like "WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING??!!" Looking at the credit cards bills, and..we're like "Just trust us" And we got the bullet back and...the rest is history."
Obviously, the world is a MUCH different place than it was in the 1970's. Tommy told me another little gem about the glory days of rock & roll, before Payola and regulations:
"The worst thing that we did, we ran out of cash and we knew this one guy wanted cocaine. So, my friend wrote a band check to a cocaine dealer in Atlanta. On our way out of town, we were just like, "we're gonna DIE" for this record."
I said to Tommy, you know that there's some dude in Atlanta with that check on his wall, and every time "Come Sail Away" comes on, he says "that's the guy!"
Tommy is in the supergroup Damn Yankees along with Jack Blades, Michael Cartellone, and the Motor City Madman himself, Ted Nugent. I asked Tommy to tell me a good Ted Nugent story, and he said this:
"We're playing in Japan and we used to do this thing where at the end of the show, we'd walk off and Ted would just not stop playing. We'd walk off stage and just like "Hello! Show's over!" and Ted would just keep playing. And then he would just fall down on the stage on his back, just writhing around on the floor. So all of us would go, just drag him off the stage, and he's a big guy!
Michael, Jack and I all about the same size, we're not big guys. So it was always awkward and funny looking. So this particular night, Jack and I have Ted's shoulders and we're like..oooof...arrrrggg..trying to pick him up, like, why is he so heavy? And Ted's screaming and trying to say something. Finally I could hear him and he was screaming "You're standing on my hair!!! Get off my hair!" We just thought he was really getting into it!
Just to remind you, Ted Nugent had glorious hair in those days - still does
Great guy, great band. Styx and REO Speedwagon have the honor of being the first bands to grace the stage at the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater tonight, Wednesday, July 28, 2021 at 7:30PM. You can get your tickets at Ticketmaster.com and Livenation.com.