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The American Breed Helped Bend, Shape Rock Group Styx

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Doug is an avid music listener and loves to share research and fun facts about popular songs and bands.

The American Breed in 1968. L-R: Gary Loizzo, Lee Graziano, Charles Colbert, Jr. & Al Ciner

The American Breed in 1968. L-R: Gary Loizzo, Lee Graziano, Charles Colbert, Jr. & Al Ciner

More Than a One Hit Wonder

Chances are that if Barry Manilow's Mandy met Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy, the two wouldn't have hit it off. The former was a soft love ballad, the former a country composition about the difficult road to stardom.

However, the two songs—or rather their writers—actually hit it off a few years before. “Mandy” writer Scott English and “Rhinestone Cowboy” writer Larry Weiss joined forces to pen “Bend Me, Shape Me,” a Top 10 hit in 1968 for the American Breed.

Although the group was short-lived, the American Breed helped give birth to a band that made music completely different than the 1968 hit. In fact, part of the American Breed headed for a different genre, and they actually enjoyed quite a run of success. After splitting from the American Breed, most of the members formed Rufus, with lead singer Chaka Khan.

However, singer-guitarist Gary Loizzo began working with some fellow rockers from Chicago, who would soon become one of the biggest bands of the Seventies.

Gary Loizzo: Man of Miracles

When Loizzo began his collaboration with Styx, the quintet from Chicago was virtually unknown. They had released three albums on a tiny record label, none of which made any dent on the music scene.

Loizzo agreed to be the engineer for the band's fourth album, Man of Miracles, and immediately Styx enjoyed success. Along with producer John Ryan, Loizzo decided to highlight the diversity of the band's songwriters.

Guitarist James Young had a knack for writing hard rock songs, a talent that had been virtually ignored on the first three Styx albums. Keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, conversely, favored softer love ballads, giving Man of Miracles a variety of sounds.

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Its musical balance is what brought critical acclaim to the album, which would be the last Styx would ever record for the tiny label. They were signed by media giant A&M after Man of Miracles, and neither the group nor the record label would ever regret that transaction.

Loizzo did not collaborate with Styx on their first albums for A&M, for his interests in the next couple of years was with another emerging band. He engineered the first Top Five album for REO Speedwagon, You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish, which would reach platinum status on the strength of the single “It's Time For Me To Fly.”

In the meantime Styx was enjoying moderate success with hits like “Lady” and “Lorelei,” but their albums failed to make much of a dent on the Billboard Charts. The Grand Illusion and follow-up Pieces of Eight, records on which original guitarist John Curulewski was replaced by Tommy Shaw, offered some excellent singles but paltry album sales.

Styx Reunites with Loizzo

It took a reunion with Loizzo to transform Styx from a singles act into an album band.

The first evidence of this transformation was Cornerstone, a musical kaleidoscope of sounds from the mandolin of Shaw's “Boat on the River” to the explosive electric guitar of “Borrowed Time” to the soft love ballad “Babe.” Its follow-up, Paradise Theater, also displayed Loizzo's influence as engineer.

Again, it is the variety of sounds that made the record a Grammy nominee, as well as Styx's first platinum album. There is the electric rock of JY's “Half Penny Two Penny”, the catchy acoustic magic of Shaw's “She Cares”, and DeYoung's piano ballad “The Best of Times.”

Moving from engineer to producer for the next Styx project, Loizzo helped enhance the sound of the concept album Kilroy Was Here. Although it was not well-received by music critics, the album did offer the huge hit “Mr. Roboto.”

Even after forty years, the verdict is still out on where Kilroy ranks on the Styx discography. What is definite about the album, as well as all of his other work, is that producer Gary Loizzo had the ability to bend and shape hits from multiple musical genres.

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