Behind the Band Name: Styx

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The rock band, Styx, began like any other, as an outfit of brothers and their neighbor with prog-rock aspirations and a different name entirely.

Styx didn’t morph into the radio-dominating computerized arena rockers we know them as today until they took the name, Styx. The name seemed to give them the power to sell out stadiums, produce multi-platinum albums, withstand various lineup changes, and last for 50 years, albeit off and on, but 50 years nonetheless. So it begs the question, what’s in a name?

Behind the Name

In Chicago, Illinois, in 1961, twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo, who played bass and drum respectively, began playing music with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung, a budding accordion player. They called themselves The Tradewinds.

The trio became a quartet not long after, adding guitarist Tom Nardini to the mix and changing their name to TW4, which stood for There Were 4.

Over the years, DeYoung ditched the accordion and took up the keyboard; Nardini departed and was replaced by guitarist John Curulewski; and another guitarist, James “J.Y.” Young, came on board, rounding out TW4 as a fivesome.

They spent the early 1970s playing fraternity parties and performing at high schools, but in 1972, after being spotted by a talent scout, TW4 landed a recording contract with Wooden Nickel Records. With their musical futures in sight, the band decided TW4 wouldn’t cut it, so they opted for one last name change.

“It was one of the hundred names we tried,” explained Young to Circus Magazine in 1979. “And it turned out to be the only one that none of us hated.”

But what’s a Styx?

In mythology, Styx is a river, but not like the scenic kind where you can splash around and have a nice time. The river Styx, in Greek mythology, is a river that borders earth and the underworld, a channel where the ferryman, Charon, can transport the souls of the dead into the hereafter.

The river Styx is said to have power in its waters, making one invulnerable with a single bath. It’s what made the great warrior Achilles invincible … except for that pesky heel. When his mother submerged him in the river’s waters as an infant, she held him by one of his heels.

Maybe the name Styx alone also had the power to make the band untouchable.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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