Styx Vocalist Lawrence Gowan Enjoying Long Run With Iconic Band

Native Canadian Who Enjoyed Solo Career Before Taking Over The Reins In 1998 Welcomes Brother Terry On Bass 

Jeff Walker,  Entertainment  Writer

Formed in 1972 Styx arguably have one of the most legendary song catalogs of any classic rock band. 52 years later vocalist and keyboard player Lawrence Gowan has celebrated half of the bands legacy, replacing original founding member Dennis DeYoung in 1998. aaaaaaaastyxshow6

"It's quite remarkable, I'm heading into my 26th year with the band. The original goal was to extend the life of the band another five years. But we soon realized there was a potential for longevity. Now we don't talk about when it might end, rather how can we continue. It's become more open-ended." He adds, "I'm proud of my tenure with the band. Eventually the gods of rock will let us know when it's time to call it quits."

Long before he took over as the lead singer for Styx, Gowan had built a decent resume as a solo artist in his native Canada. A gifted pianist Gowan was born in Scotland, reared in Canada, graduating from Toronto's famed Royal Conservatory of Music, in the mid 1970's before embarking on an entertainment career.

A short lived gig with the group Rhinegold paved the way for him going out on his own in 1981. His debut release under his last name garnered rave reviews but it was his follow up album 'Strange Animal' and the single 'A Criminal Mind' that caught the attention of Canadian radio. '(You're a) Strange Animal', 'Moonlight Desires', 'All The Lovers In The World', and 'When There's Time (For Love)' would become Top 10 singles, carrying his success into the 1990's earning Gowan numerous industry awards and nominations in Canada. aaaaaaaastyxshow7

Gowan was living his dream of making music. "I had a platinum selling album and a platinum single. I had established a huge following in Canada, so life was pretty good for me." Oddly with his success in Canada he never crossed over to the United States. "I was on a major label so I'm not certain why I didn't get airplay here in America. The industry is sometimes confusing. There were a lot of artists in the 70's, 80's, & 90's that you never heard here in the States."

Making headway in America isn't always a given. "Even then we'd hear bands from England that never got released in America. I had won some JUNO Awards (excellence in music handed out by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), so primarily life was good."

Ironically, how it all unfolded with Styx was due to Gowan opening for the band two nights during their 1997 Canadian tour. His larger than life stage persona caught the eye of long time Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw. "I opened for them during a couple of shows. What's weird about it, I hadn't opened for anyone in over 15 years when I did that gig with Styx at the Montreal Forum. Of course I was already well-known in Canada and had a good following, so I'm sure that's why the promoter put me on the bill."

As they say the audience went wild. "The reaction from the crowd must have reached backstage because all of a sudden the bandmembers from Styx are alongside the stage. When I came off I can remember Tommy saying to me, 'that's the first time anyone who's opened for us did two encores. I think we'll be seeing you again in the future."

A little over a year later Gowan recalls that remark coming full circle after getting a call from Shaw. "At first I immediately assumed they wanted me to tour with them and open their shows in America. I imagined that would be a great way for audiences in the States to hear my music and maybe discover what I had been doing for the past 20 years. This is still before the internet boom and YouTube, so music fans here didn't know who I was."

Gowan had no idea they were looking to part ways with DeYoung, and replace him in the band. Although he was extended a golden ticket to the big time Gowan didn't say yes immediately. "It's not like I held out for long, but I had to grasp the reality of it. They were asking me to become a member of the band and take on a key role in the band. I told Tommy I needed an hour to think about it. So right after we hung up I went and listened to 'Grand Illusion' and 'Pieces of Eight' to further immerse myself in the decision making process."

However, Gowan knew it was meant to be. "Ultimately it was an offer I couldn't turn down. I looked at it back then as I do now. It was the second chapter in my musical career. I had a good solo career and played music for a living and now I was afforded an opportunity to become a member of one of the greatest rock n' roll bands of all time. Still to this day I feel honored to be a part of the band."

There was the usual getting to know each other. "After I accepted Tommy's offer I said we need to test this out. I went down to his place and JY (guitarist James Young) and the others we all got together to see how we would fit together. It's amazing because we gelled right away. I had no reservations after we jammed together."

Replacing DeYoung, one of the voices and faces of Styx was a bit daunting, especially right away. "There's always a bit of controversy when you make a big change in a band, especially one that has had major success. No doubt there's still some fans out there that are bothered by it. I never concerned myself with that."

Gowan admits that two areas concerned him most about becoming a vocalist and keyboard player with Styx. "The spirit of the band had to stay intact. The way we all reacted with each other and just the overall camaraderie of the band. Secondly and just as important to me was the integrity of the songs. You're talking about a band that has some of the most recognizable songs in the history of rock music. The authenticity of the songs and the way they are delivered mean a lot to the fans."

67 years young, Gowan was a fan of Styx long before his solo career even took shape. "I remember when I was about 16 or 17 discovering Styx. I've always been into progressive rock, and being a keyboardist, bands that have a strong piano presence always caught my attention. I was into bands such as Genesis, ELP (Emerson Lake & Palmer), Queen, and Elton John. So when Styx hit I was drawn to them right away. I believe Styx actually gained more traction in Canada early on, with songs like 'Suite Madame Blue' and 'Lorelei'."

If you're wondering how popular Lawrence Gowan is in Canada, in 2011 he was awarded a star on the Scarborough Walk of Fame. "It's heartwarming to grow up in a part of the landscape of Canada you feel that embraces what you do. Scarborough is a district on the eastside of Toronto. A lot of talent has come out of there. Mike Meyers and the Bare Naked Ladies are from Scarborough. I'm humbled and honored to be recognized in my hometown."

Styx along with veterans Shaw and JY (James Young) are still out on the road, and their 2024 summer tour has them paired with recent Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees Foreigner and John Waite. While the 21st century Styx lineup has been consistent, long time bass player Ricky Phillips decided to hang up his bass guitar after 20 years with the band.

Phillips' replacement is no stranger to Gowan, because it just happens to be his younger brother Terry Gowan. "I had a 14 year solo career before joining Styx, and I toured extensively from 1985 to 1993, playing to sold out seven and eight thousand seat arenas. Terry was always a part of that. When I revived my solo career back in 2010 Terry was with me." 

According to Gowan it was an easy transition. "When Ricky decided to move on my brother became part of the conversation. He already had a connection with the band." Gowan's overall sense of having Terry alongside him on the Styx stage. "It's absolutely surreal. All the guys in the band are like family to me, but having my actual brother in the band is truly something special."

How does Gowan describe the legacy of Styx. "They are tied into the great musical statement of the 20th century. The songs have stood the test of time and have made a huge impression on people. With four successful platinum records Styx are firmly entrenched in the whole classic rock era."

With 15 easily recognizable rock n' roll staples including 'Come Sail Away', 'Renegade', 'Babe', 'Show Me The Way', 'Too Much Time On My Hands', and 'The Best of Times' Styx have a juggernaut of songs for fans to enjoy. So the lingering question remains, 'why aren't they among the bands represented in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.

As there is every year, fans petition to have certain bands inducted into the HOF. Lately there's been a push by fans to have Styx added to the hall. Gowan jokingly replies, "First of all I'd have to ask JY and Tommy why they are slackers." On a more serious note, "It would nice if it happened. Styx certainly deserve it. I'm not sure how that would look when it comes to the ceremony, but that's not for me to decide, but the band definitely deserves it."

During his downtime from Styx Gowan still records and tours playing his own music. "Besides being able to share the stage with great musicians and perform some of the greatest songs ever for appreciative fans, I feel fortunate to be able to do my own thing. I enjoy the best of both worlds."

Apparently it's rejuvenating for Gowan and the band. "It's very cool. I get to sing with Styx and then I can go off and do solo shows. And I do those with my brother and with Todd Sucherman (Styx drummer)." Gowan believes there is an added benefit. "It sharpens my skills. Tommy says every time I do 10 or 15 solo shows I bring something special back to Styx."

While Styx exist on their arsenal of hit songs from the 1970's and 1980's, they've continued to release albums well after 2000. Their most recent album 'Crash of the Crown' came out in 2021 during the pandemic. How would Gowan describe Styx 17th studio album. "It's kind of like a cataclysmic event." Among the 15 tracks are songs titled 'The Fight Of Our Lives', 'Save Us From Ourselves', 'Sound The Alarm', and 'Coming Out the Other Side'. aaaaaaaastyxshow8

The songs mirrored the times. "We didn't necessarily go about writing songs that reflected what was happening in the world, but with the pandemic it played into our hand." The album was well received. "Our record label Universal got it. And it was number one for a week on a rock music chart. I think listeners can relate."

Aside from founding member James Young aka JY (vocals, lead guitar), Shaw (vocals, guitar) whose been with the band since 1976, and Gowan (vocals, keyboard), the rest of the Styx lineup include Todd Sucherman (1995) on drums, Will Evankovich (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars) who joined the the band in 2021 after producing their 'Crash Of the Crown' album, with the final touring member in 2024 being Lawrence's brother Terry on bass guitar.

Bassist and founding member Chuck Panozzo is still active with the band on a part time basis. According to Gowan it's strong and seasoned lineup. "It's a well oiled machine. We're all dedicated musicians who not only want to record good music, but put on a great show every time we're on stage. Fans realize that when they see us perform live." aaaaaaaastyxlineup

52 years and counting, Gowan sees no foreseeable end to Styx. "Obviously it will end at some point, but as long as we're healthy and the touring gods allow, we will be out on the road." He does admit to seeing a generational change. "When I look out into the crowd, aside from the normal baby boomers who grew up with our music, I see a lot of fans 40 and under, so our music is reaching a new audience."

Charleston SC fans of Styx will have their opportunity to see them live when they and Foreigner bring The Renegades & Juke Box Heroes tour to Credit One Stadium on Daniel Island Monday July 15th. John Waite (The Babys & Bad English) will open the show. "This is a great line-up. Three legendary acts sharing the same stage on one night."

What can fans expect from Styx. "All the songs they have become accustom to plus a few new tracks. We know how to rock, and fans are fully satisfied when they leave."

While Gowan gets to sing Styx' familiar hit songs, the band does allow for him to include one that is closer to his vest. "I've been performing 'A Criminal Mind' in our shows for years. I appreciate having the opportunity to add a little bit of my own career in our shows." Gowan says the 2024 tour comes with a few surprises. "Of course there are some new songs, and there might be one or two Styx haven't played in a while."

Gowan welcomes being a tourist when he's out on he road. Perhaps it's the best way to catch a glimpse of him away from the stage. "I walk around every American city I can. I try to drink in as much of the cities I'm fortunate to perform in when I'm in their part of the world. I feel like I want to be a part of the community." He adds, "I live in Ontario, but I love America. Cities like Savannah and Charleston with their rich histories really have an appeal to me." aaaaaaaastyxshow2

For Charleston area fans of Styx who want to see Lawrence Gowan and the rest of the band perform their legendary hits, catch them when they perform with Foreigner and John Waite on Monday July 15th at Credit One Stadium. For more visit