The venerated keyboardist/vocalist officially joined Styx onstage for the first time as a full bandmember on July 8, 1999. Here, Lawrence and Tommy Shaw share their thoughts on this most momentous occasion, exclusively to Styxworld.
by Mike Mettler, resident Styxologist
photos by Jason Powell
It was 20 years ago today that Lawrence Gowan stepped onstage at the Grand Palace Theatre in Branson, Missouri to play his very first show as a member of Styx on July 8, 1999. Ever since the very first notes of “Everything Is Cool” rang out to mark the beginning of this new collective journey, the Canadian keyboardist/vocalist extraordinaire has performed well over a thousand-plus gigs with our favorite band and recorded a number of new studio and live albums with them to boot — including 2003’s Cyclorama, 2006’s One With Everything: Styx and The Contemporary Youth Orchestra, 2010-11’s Regeneration I & II, 2015’s Live at the Orleans Arena Las Vegas, and 2017’s The Mission among them — and there’s no end in sight!
In a Styxworld exclusive, both Lawrence and guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw tell your trusty Styxologist how the Scottish-Canadian keysman came to join the band, what it feels like to play together night after night, and how the best is yet to come. Take it away, gents. . .
LAWRENCE GOWAN (all comments with native Canadian spellings/phonetics intact): Two decades with STYX makes me a happy boy. My sense of the occasion is that this 20-year milestone is something for each member of our band to personally and collectively savour. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the whole ride thus far, and it makes my head (and my piano) spin when I see old photos of us together waaaaaaaaay back at the end of the last century.
On reflection, joining STYX onstage in 1999 feels simultaneously a very short and yet very long time ago. At that time I was acutely aware, of course, that I was intersecting with a dynamic musical legacy that stretched back to the days when the Earth was formed (or created, depending on your take of the fossil record), and that will always stand as something for which I feel both very fortunate and honoured. Since July 8, 1999, our combined hopes for a bright future have proven unstoppable to this point, and that will hopefully extend well into the years to come, should the gods-of-rock rule it to be. To all STYX musicians, both present and past, I bow in gratitude to be part of this band. And to all the faithful who continue to make this a reality, I am 20 years indebted.
Fun fact: My first show with STYX happened on July 8, 1999. That’s 7-8-99.
If you dial 7899 on your phone, it spells STYX. Believe it or not. . . !
(. . . or simply “Gowan,” to those who live north of the 49th parallel. . .)
TOMMY SHAW (guitarist/vocalist since December 1975): On 7/8/99, Lawrence Gowan performed his first live show as a member of STYX.
He’d been recommended to me by Kim Ouellette, a friend of mine from Quebec who’d created a website for me a few years earlier.
Lawrence had opened a show for us in Quebec months earlier while promoting a solo album of songs sung in French [1997’s Au Quebec] — just him alone on the stage with a Steinway grand piano. He had singlehandedly rocked the sold-out house, and I’d witnessed it along with everyone else in our camp.
I was familiar with his song “A Criminal Mind,” but had no idea what a powerful performer he was.
Time passed, and suddenly we found ourselves looking for a keyboardist who was also a frontman and lead singer. It was Kim Ouellette who brought up Lawrence Gowan. But I thought, “He’s such a huge star in Canada — would he want to join a band?”
He was, in fact, willing to come to Los Angeles and meet with JY [co-founding guitarist/vocalist James “JY” Young], our manager Charlie Brusco, and me to see if there was good chemistry. We hung out at Jeanne’s and my house in the Hollywood Hills, talked about this and that, and eventually said, “Let’s go to my studio and play some music!” I imagine he’d expected us to request a classic STYX song, but the first thing I wanted to hear was “A Criminal Mind”!
He obliged, and played his live version from top to bottom to this audience of four — and blew our minds. His voice was distinctive and confident, which overrode any concern over not sounding like what fans were used to. He was his own self, and that’s always the easiest thing to be.
Cut now to rehearsals in Chicago, a mountain of STYX songs rehearsed and ready to perform live. We were all anxious to get that first show under our belts. It was amazing! There is a photo somewhere of Lawrence reaching out from the stage that night to shake an audience member’s hand. If I recall, what you also saw was several other outstretched hands reaching up, and lots of smiling. His talent and genuine love for what he was doing had quickly put them at ease — and we knew our instincts were good!
It’s been a relationship that has been nothing but positive and inspiring ever since.
Congratulations on 20 years, my brother!!!!!!