‘That was a terribly sad tragedy’: How Styx overcame difficult loss of founder John Panozzo

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If there was a lesson in founder John Panozzo’s death while Styx was out on the road celebrating a reunion tour, James “J.Y.” Young says, it’s that sooner or later, you have to give up the excesses of youth.

“When you watch people dropping around you,” Young says in the attached clip, “that’s the wake up call that most of us can’t ignore.”

Panozzo saw years of heavy drinking catch up with him in the mid-1990s, when he was replaced on tour by Todd Sucherman — who continues today as Styx’s drummer. Panozzo eventually passed in the summer of 1996, after a battle with cirrhosis of the liver. He was just 47.

“That was a terribly sad tragedy,” Young says. “It was our reunion tour; we hadn’t worked together in 13 years with Tommy (Shaw), Dennis (DeYoung) and myself. Unfortunately, John was not ready to meet the call. He was really not strong enough to be out there in his condition.”

Styx dedicated the rest of its “Return to Paradise” tour to Panozzo, and Shaw later composed the song “Dear John” in his honor. Young and the band have three concert dates this week, beginning at Fort McCoy, WI, on Wednesday.

“For him, that was kind of the last nail in the coffin, and he just kind of gave up,” Young says of Panozzo. “We tried. We had three, four five interventions with him, but ultimately his best friend is the thing that got him.”

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