Part Two: Broken Relationships
DDY Talk: How hard was it for you to see Dennis and Styx go their separate ways? Did you talk with Dennis about this at any time or was it not something you wanted to be involved in?
—Charlie, Houston, TX
Chuck: This is a very insightful question Dennis’s whole being was dedicated to the creation and success of Styx. Not only for himself and his family but I know he wanted to see the other members succeed. At one time I remember JY wanted to get rid of Chuck P. and replace him with another bass player. I remember talking about this with Dennis and admiring him for standing by my cousin. Another little known fact is that for a time, Dennis shared his song writing royalties with all the members of the band including those who never wrote anything. He did this freely with no reservations. I believe he really felt close to the guys and was totally blind sided when they voted him out of the group. Knowing Dennis, I believe it hurt him more personally than professionally.
As I stated, in addition to Dennis being my closest friend, John was and Chuck P. is my first cousin and I was always happy for their success. They are not only my first cousins but we were very close growing up. We were constantly at each other’s homes, spent almost every holiday together and would take family vacations together. Although they are one year older than I am we attended the same grammar school and same high school. John and Chuck both stood up for my wedding and I was a pall bearer at John’s funeral. I saw the depressing effect the break up had on Dennis and was surprised when I learned early on that it was Chuck P.’s deciding vote that ousted Dennis. (Chuck P. verified this in his recent book). My feelings for him and Dennis, as well as always being personally well treated by the other members of the band, is why I have remained silent for so long. I have been a die hard fan and some of my fondest memories are attending Styx concerts, listening to their music and attending their practices before they went on a tour. I was not only saddened for what I believe was an injustice done to Dennis but the end of the Styx era.
DDY Talk: JY tends to look back on his thirty years with Dennis in a primarily negative light. Why do you think that is, and did Dennis realize prior to them breaking up how deeply JY's resentment ran toward him? What is your view of JY?
Chuck: (See reference to JY above)
DDY Talk: Has the relationship between Dennis and JY always been strained (though kept under wraps) or did it just become so in the mid to late 90s? It is obvious how JY feels now, but I wonder has there always been this animosity? What was the depth of their friendship?
—Todd, Ashland, KY
Chuck: (See reference to JY above)
DDY Talk: Dennis, along with his Suzanne, wound up being the odd man out in Styx, the one everyone else seems to resent the most and blame the most. Why do you think that is?
Chuck: This is a question that has always puzzled me. No matter what criticism you may read about Dennis, it is usually acknowledged, often in the same statement of those critics that he was the premier talent and creative force of the group. In other words, he was the “Rain Maker” the “Founder of the Feast”. I’m no psychologist or mind reader but the only thing I can think of is that there is always jealousy and resentment of those who truly are visionaries. For instance, in the business world I heard a lot of resentment of Bill Gates. Some resented his wealth, success and even attempted to destroy the reputation of Microsoft. However, rational people understood that Gates provided great wealth to this country, the world and individual people by marketing and distributing a standard software operating system that fueled the PC and networking revolution. Once again, he couldn’t have done it without surrounding himself with talented people but it was his leadership that made it happen. Another reason could be that it’s been said, to be remembered in history you must be the king or the one who kills the king.
As far as Suzanne is concerned, the only thing I have seen her do over the past 37 years of being married to Dennis is support him over good times and bad. She kept her family together in an industry that most odds makers would consider to be an impossible bet. We’ve all heard Dennis pay his respects to her on stage and I’ve never seen her interfere with his business decisions. Dennis is always the first to admit that his life would have been very different without her love and support. The only thing I can think of is that some people resent a strong and supportive relationship because they don’t have one.
DDY Talk: What do you think of the Brave New World album?
Chuck: The thing I remember about brave New World is that the recordings by the different members were done in separate studios. I think the jewel of the album was the homage to Roseland.
DDY Talk: Were you surprised in 1999 when things turned out the way they did? Or was that kind of falling out inevitable between such different people?
Chuck: I think by that time the writing was on the wall. They lasted as a group longer than some marriages and had to deal with more than just two different personalities.
DDY Talk: What is the real deal with Styx and Dennis? Dennis is such a class act, and Tommy Shaw and James Young seem like such lowlifes. Will they ever re-unite again? Thanks. By the way, Dennis' latest CD is his best work to date! Better than any Styx work even.
Chuck: First let me say that Dennis and I do not agree 100% with what I’m about to say but I believe it’s true. After the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show most teen age boys in America wished they were in a Rock Band. Garage bands sprung up all over the country. Some individuals developed into good singers, some into great musicians and even some into prolific song writers but the question remained, why did very few make it to super stardom while the vast majority did not?
Although he doesn’t agree 100% with me the fact is I came to my conclusions after watching him throughout the years and through my own experiences. In the music business as in sales organizations, corporate America, politics and even on the battlefield there must be one person who has the vision to create the template for a successful course of action. These people are called leaders and they are somewhat rare in life. Only in those institutions where decisions are not critical is there room for consensus by committee.
Dennis created the sound of Styx. He planned the direction of the group. He created the concepts of the albums and wrote the songs that most people recognize as Styx classics. Like all leaders he knew that “Success has many parents but failure is an orphan”. He knew that since the ideas were his if the group failed he would be blamed for it. That’s a heavy burden to bear but it did not deter him. He encouraged others in the band to contribute songs and ideas and, yes, he was a perfectionist and only wanted songs that he felt would credit the band and move them all forward .When Tommy joined the group Dennis pushed him out front because he realized that young girls would like him, he had talent and this would credit the band and move them all forward.
Over the years there has been unjustified criticism of Dennis. Unfortunately, some of it has come from some members of Styx who Dennis has made very wealthy and who, in my opinion, ultimately betrayed him. The biggest criticism I hear is that he insisted on doing things his way. Well, they’re right. It’s that “leadership” thing that separates the winners from the losers. They say that they hated Dennis’ music and wanted to be hard rockers. I think the answer to that is maybe they should have left Styx and taken their own path. And, by the way, they could always re-name themselves and get rid of those DeYoung songs. Of course that would have been difficult because the majority of people who came to see them did so because of the music of the man they betrayed and so cravenly criticize not to hear a self indulgent remake of “I am the Walrus” .Now I know there are fans who prefer the new incarnation of Styx and I respect their opinion. People have different tastes and that’s what makes the world go round but when the lead singer of the band “Creed” left his group, the remaining band members had the courage, talent and confidence to change their name to “Alter Bridge”.
All of this does not denigrate the talent of the other members. They are good musicians and Tommy is a great song writer who has proven he can succeed in other venues. When a visionary such as Dennis attempts to create his dream, part of his ability is to draw talented people to him to accomplish that dream. Like a corporate CEO he picks talented people who will use their skills to further his aims .But make no mistake, the visionary, the CEO, the battlefield commander, will take in ideas and suggestions, select the good, disregard the bad and tweak the unsure to come up with what he thinks will work. He doesn’t have time for back biting, hurt feelings or jealous sniping that may occur. Those are the qualities of lesser men who wish to enhance their own importance.
You’re probably wondering what I mean by referring to a betrayal. Well, at one time Styx incorporated themselves and gave each member a one fifth share of power. You may be surprised to know that the other members used this power to vote Dennis out of the band, twice. Can you imagine that? If Dennis had been voted out of Styx in the beginning, there would not have been a Styx! If something like this had happened in Vietnam those who had committed this betrayal most likely would have found a live hand grenade rolling in under their tent. Rather than become bitter, Dennis went on to perform to huge crowds in America, Canada and Mexico. He’s had solo top ten hits and has scored gold and platinum CD’s and a triple platinum DVD in Canada.
DDY Talk: Dennis has said that he felt that Behind The Music portrayed him unfairly. What do you think the most common misconception is about Dennis, and how do you think he differs from his public persona?
Chuck: I have to agree with Dennis and here’s why. If you saw the show you would have seen practically all the people on it portraying Dennis in a negative way. What you didn’t see was the interviews of me and Tim Orchard, Dennis’s friend and business associate. I was interviewed for about one and a half hours as was Tim and Rick Kogan, a friend and respected author and editor for the Chicago Tribune. Tim and my interviews were totally eliminated and only a very small portion of what Rick had to say was portrayed. I know I’m not the most fascinating or photogenic guy in the world but I think I’d be good for a minute or two of tape. What was VH1’s agenda? I can only guess.
I think for the most part his personal persona is pretty much the same as what you see on stage. He’s warm, passionate about his beliefs and has a great sense of humor. Most of the time we spend together with our families is filled with laughter. He is totally disciplined with a strong work ethic we learned from our fathers who worked the factories and mills on the far south side of Chicago.
DDY Talk: Glen Burtnik has said some very disparaging things about Dennis in public, yet they seem to have a degree of mututal respect and even affection. Were you surprised when Dennis invited Glen to play with him again, and was there any trepidation that it might go poorly between them?
Chuck: I don’t know Glen that well. I think when a band breaks up in some ways it’s like a divorce. In a divorce there is usually a taking sides by what were once mutual friends. I’m sure Glen can speak for himself but in my opinion I think he was originally influenced by the other members constant dissing of Dennis. As I’ve said before, Dennis’ leadership style might offend someone who doesn’t immediately see the long term benefits. Maybe it took a while for Glen to work it out. This is just my opinion. I know Dennis has always liked Glen and has always respected his talent.
DDY Talk: Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview session for this site.
My question deals with your Cousin Chuck. When was the last time that Chuck and Dennis actually talked or even saw each other? It is hard to believe that as close as Dennis and his family were with Chuck and John that Dennis and Chuck P. are so far away now. If not a for a reunion, I hope that one day they can settle their differences.
—Max, Atlanta, GA
Chuck: You’re welcome Max. I believe the last time they talked was when Dennis and Suzanne offered their sympathy when Chuck P. was diagnosed with his illness. It’s harder to believe than you can imagine. Some of my fondest memories are the backyard barbecues, parties and holidays we all shared. Add to that the closeness of the road that they experienced and it is truly sad.
DDY Talk: First off...Unfinished Song is a great song, definitely a Styx 'Lost Treasure'.
Am I wishfully thinking or does Dennis' new album 'One Hundred Years From Now' contain songs that portend a possible reunion with Styx? I understand he wrote songs in the style he would for Styx. However, there is so much introspection and shades of reconciliation either with the past, with himself or maybe, just maybe, the other guys in the band. Not only that, some songs sound as if Tommy Shaw and James Young are actually there vocally and instrumentally!
Lastly what are the chances that the vocalist on the English version of 'One Hundred Years From Now' will be Tommy or JY??
—Joe, Trenton, NJ
Chuck: Thanks for your kind words about Unfinished Song. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. It’s very perceptive of you to point out the similarity of some of the songs on One Hundred Years From Now to the earlier songs that Dennis wrote for Styx. When the band first broke up Dennis consciously wrote in a different style than he had for Styx. I believe he wanted to not only show that he could do it but also to establish a new direction. Similarly I think that some of the new songs show that since he was the one who created the sound and harmonies in the first place, he can recreate that same sound that had become the trademark of the original band.
DDY Talk: What do you think Dennis' biggest challenge was in working with his bandmates in Styx?
—Ken (Boomchild), Wilmington, DE
Chuck: I imagine working with the individual egos of rock musicians can be a daunting task. Taking the responsibility in making decisions that affect the other members and their families is also challenging. I would think that the hardest thing would be to steer the group to the top and then be criticized by them for the way he did it.
DDY Talk: If the situation would occur for Dennis to rejoin Styx do you feel he would strongly consider it or do you feel that is a closed chapter in his life?
—Ken (Boomchild), Wilmington, DE
Chuck: Well Ken there’s that old saying, “Never say Never”, but who knows?
DDY Talk: What single word would you use to describe the following band members when you met them the first time back then, ond one word to describe them now:
—Melina, Montreal, QC
Chuck: Very interesting. You know I do have to go back quite a ways. Let’s see, I was about 13 or 14 when I first met Dennis. I think the word I would use to describe him would be “Cool” I grew up with Chuck P. but I’d say the word would be “Quiet”. As far as JY is concerned I think that first impression of him would be, “Confident” Today, the word for Dennis would be “Visionary”. I would characterize Chuck as “Activist” and JY probably as finally ‘Happy” This is a guess as I haven’t seen Chuck or JY in years but read about them in published interviews and books.
DDY Talk: If the members of Styx agreed to a non-disparagement clause as a part of the settlement of the lawsuit that resulted from Dennis being removed from the band, why has Dennis not filed suit against some of these former members that seem to break this agreement with every interview that they give?
Chuck: No Comment
DDY Talk: I remember some of the early concerts that Dennis performed solo in 2001. He mentioned from the stage that he was surprised that there were “this many people that still care about Dennis DeYoung”, clearly a sign of some sort of depression as a result of his removal from the band he was a part of for so long. The on stage energy was also subdued compared with the past several years. How did you and the rest of the family help support him and help motivate him “to carry on”?
Chuck: You must remember that contrary to the denials of some members of the group, Dennis had been sick for some time and his energy level was sapped. To this day Dennis is humbled by the outpouring of affection and support he receives from his fans and truly believes that he is blessed by his good fortune. His self deprecating humor is not an act. When he mentions that he can’t believe the good things that are still happening to him he is not displaying false modesty. He was very hurt by what the band did to him but as I mentioned previously it was more of a personal hurt than a professional one. He considered the band members to be his friends and always made decisions that he felt would further the band and benefit them all. Also think of what he faced. You guys are pretty savvy as to the names and roles of your favorite groups. The millions of people who are needed to buy albums/CD’s to ensure rock star status usually don’t have a clue and couldn’t tell you the names of the lead singers in a band. Dennis had to literally go out and create a second career. Early on I had argued with Dennis for years that he should change the name of the group to “Dennis DeYoung and Styx”. He obviously resisted me which proves the old adage that, “No good deed goes unpunished”. Dennis brought himself out of it by writing, performing and creating a second successful chapter in his life.
Edited by Ron