On this episode of Phil Vassar’s Songs From the Cellar, Vassar is joined by rock ‘n’ roll legend Tommy Shaw from the iconic band Styx. The two talk about the reverberated impact and adoration for Styx music even today as well as how Shaw made his way into the group and the “true story” behind the song “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).”
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Throughout the show, Shaw performs “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” joins Vassar on “When Will I Be Loved” and allows Vassar to end the show with “Amazing Grace.”
Shaw explains that despite not having much blue collar experience, people close to him did and he saw the way it affected them so deeply.
“My father was the gas man, he worked for the Alabama gas company for 47 years. So that was my exposure to the world of blue collar, but when I lived in Michigan, I had a friend named Pete who worked for the railroad. This is right before ‘Blue Collar Man’ … One day, he got laid off from the railroad and had to go stand in the unemployment line and he was devastated by it. He likes working hard and that sort of thing. And I watched the effect that it had on him,” he explains.
Even so, it wasn’t until later during a boat ride under the influence that the guitar part of the song started coming together as Shaw listened to the sounds of the boat. On the podcast, listeners hear an imitation of the boat noise and Shaw relates that to what he eventually plays on the guitar for the song.
Shaw also goes into detail about where he got his start and how he was able to go from Montgomery, Alabama to big city Chicago and land a spot in a band that would eventually become one of the most beloved rock bands in history, even citing Printers Alley here in Nashville as one of the markers for his career.
Even today, Shaw reaps the reward of his lasting legacy by continuing to tour and sell out shows with Styx, something he attributes all to the power of great music.
“There’s something about Styx music that’s really enduring and it’s very positive and energetic where there’s no way to go out and do it half-hearted. You just have to come charging out of the gate and do it every day.”
To listen to the rest of the conversation, check out Phil Vassar’s Songs From the Cellar.