1978 Styx – Blue Collar Man
In 1961, a band calling itself The Tradewinds began playing together in a suburb of Chicago. Chuck and John Panozzo played bass and drums while their next-door neighbor, Dennis DeYoung, played the accordion. After the group moved to college, Dennis switched to keyboards. The band changed their name to TW4 after a group using the name “Trade Winds” had a hit with New York’s A Lonely Town (which I wrote about in another article).
In 1969, guitarist/vocalist John “J.C.” Curulewski joined the group. James “J.Y.” Young joined the band in 1970, adding a more hard rock guitar to the mix.
They signed with Wooden Nickel Records in 1972 and were convinced to change the band’s name one last time: the group became known as Styx.
Four albums followed before Lady, a song from their second album, became a national hit in 1975. That top ten song is widely considered to be the first power ballad.
The hit led to plans for a nationwide tour. Rather than tour with the group, John elected to leave the band so he could spend more time with his family. Tommy Shaw replaced him in Styx, singing and playing guitar and writing songs.
The second album Tommy cut with the band in 1977 contained the song Come Sail Away, and that finally gave Styx the success they had been chasing for so long.
Their 1978 album Pieces of Eight spawned the hit singles Blue Collar Man and Renegade. Tommy wrote both songs and sang lead vocals on them as well.
One of Tommy’s friends had been laid off from his job at the railroad. His complaints about wanting a new job instead of surviving on handouts led Tommy to write Blue Collar Man. The single reached #21 on the Hot 100 in 1978.
The record company produced a small number of the singles using blue vinyl rather than the traditional black vinyl, and those have become very collectible (and difficult to find!)
It wasn’t too much longer after the release of Renegade before Styx finally had their only number one record on the Hot 100 (Babe).
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