Styx Bassist Begins a New Journey...
Written By Michele Morkis
Thanks to Mary Jean Lelek

Flashback, it's the 60's. The Chicago born Panozzo brothers, Chuck and John, are jamming at home. As fate would have it, their neighbor Dennis Deyoung, liked what he heard. Dennis asked if he could join them. The brothers agreed. After adding a guitarist (Tom Nardini), the Tradewinds were born. Like any new band, they honed their skills by rocking the local club circuit, even playing weddings and school dances. Within five years the Tradewinds underwent several changes. Nardini left the group and was replaced by John Curulewski. They shortened their name to TW4 after another band with the same name broke with a hit song. They then added another guitarist by the name of James "JY" Young.

While performing one night, a local record company representative at Wooden Nickel Records, an RCA affiliate, caught the show. He offered them a deal and they accepted. They changed their name to Styx because "that was the name no one hated" says JY.

In 1972 Styx released their first album. Styx II hit the stores in 1973. Although the album featured the legendary song "Lady", the album didn't sell very well. In 1974, with the help of a local DJ, "Lady" gets its much deserved airplay and the song hits the charts. This gives Styx, who at this point are unhappy with their record label and management, the option to shop. They signed with A&M records and began work on their eighth album Equinox. More changes were on the way when guitarist John Curulewski left the band. But luck was on their side, they auditioned Tommy Shaw and Styx was now complete.

Crystal Ball was released in 1976. But it wasn't until 1977 that the band released it's first multi-platinum album, Grand Illusion. The album contained the hits "Come Sail Away" and "Fooling Yourself". Styx was on it's way up.

Three more triple platinum albums followed: Pieces of Eight, Cornerstone, and Paradise Theatre. The Gallup Poll voted Styx the most popular band and the People's Choice Awards honors them for Song Of The Year for "Babe".

1982 sent Styx in a new direction. They released Kilroy Was Here, a concept album, that included the hit "Mr. Roboto". But success doesn't equal happiness, and Tommy Shaw quit the band after the tour. A&M released a live album (Caught in the Act) and Styx went on hiatus.

In 1989, Styx had a new line up (Glen Burtnik in place of Tommy Shaw) and they released Edge Of The Century. The year 1997 brought on Brave New World.

Fast forward to 1999.....Chuck is on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton. This is his first concert since his recovery from HIV related illness. You see in 1991, Chuck was diagnosed with HIV. He didn't seek treatment and was symptom free for years. Then in 1997 the disease struck hard. "I had every condition that comes with having advanced HIV. I lost fifty pounds and I had terrible anemia" said Chuck.

As Chuck lay at home while seriously ill, he made himself some promises. One was to get well and out himself. The other was to perform on stage with Styx once again. He kept all of those promises.

In July of 2001, Chuck came out at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in Chicago. He also announced he was HIV positive. He is now a spokesperson for the HRC's Coming Out Project.

Chuck's new role may be his most important. "With HRC I feel I can help with equal rights, stand against hate and violence, and do everything I can to make this a better world for the next generation" says Chuck. In addition, Chuck is bravely using himself as a test subject by taking experimental medications so that other gay/lesbian/straight people living with HIV/AIDS can live a longer and healthier life.

The end of 2001 brought Chuck to a familiar place. The stage. He joined his bandmates in Styx for the last four shows of the year. Rock on Chuck!

I recently had the opportunity to ask Chuck a few questions.

Buffalo Outlook: First of all, I'd like to thank you for granting my request for a cyber interview.

Buffalo Outlook: How did you become a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project?

Chuck Panozzo: It was when I decided to Out myself. I thought about what bothered me most about what the gay community deals with. It was the discrimination. I made contacts through a former agent of Styx and slowly the process began. I then invited Candace Gingrich to a Styx concert. It was that evening that I was offered to be a spokesperson for HRC's National Coming Out Day.

Buffalo Outlook: What is involved with being a spokesperson for the HRC?

Chuck Panozzo: Basically, it's giving personal testimony that coming to terms with my sexual orientation and coming out to others. I touched my soul and set my spirit free.

Buffalo Outlook: Do you have any plans for commercials, magazine ads, etc to promote your involvement with HRC?

Chuck Panozzo: Well, I've done numerous newspaper interviews with both national gay and straight publications. Among them are POZ, OUT, and of course the Buffalo Outlook.

Buffalo Outlook: I know you feel being tested for HIV is extremely important, but some people just don't want to know. What would you say to them?

Chuck Panozzo: Anyone gay or straight who has multiple partners and has unprotected sex needs to get tested. There are many medications that are now available for those who have HIV to live a better quality of life. Better than even just a few years ago.

Buffalo Outlook: In addition to your medications, can you tell me about your daily regimen?

Chuck Panozzo: Meditation helps me a lot. The support I get from friends, family, and health care workers all factor in how well I deal with HIV.

Buffalo Outlook: Do you feel the media, television in particular, accurately portrays gay people?

Chuck Panozzo: The media has come a long way since the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, (which began the modern gay rights movement) but it still has a long way to go.

Buffalo Outlook: Have you seen a change in people attitudes regarding AIDS?

Chuck Panozzo: Yes. People of good will realize that AIDS is a human disease, not just a gay disease. Many straight people have been impacted by the loss of family, friends, and co-workers.

Buffalo Outlook: Can you tell me about the first time you took the stage after recovering from being seriously ill?

Chuck Panozzo: It was a milestone for me and my recovery process from full blown HIV. The ovation that I received after stepping onto the stage that night at the Las Vegas Hilton was as powerful as the meds I was taking. I decided to use that date because Elvis, The King of Rock-n-Roll, performed on that very stage during his comeback.

Buffalo Outlook: Any new plans to join Styx in the Studio for a new CD?

Chuck Panozzo: Yes, I will be joining Styx for a few CD tracks.

Buffalo Outlook: When not performing with Styx, or involved with HRC activities, what do you like to do in your free time?

Chuck Panozzo: In my spare time I'm involved with up and coming gay talent. Hopefully, I give them the in's and out's of the business of making music. I'm also the "King of Adult Education"

Buffalo Outlook: Chuck, I want to thank you once again.

Chuck Panozzo: My best to you and my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Chuck's website is loaded with resources for learning more about HIV/AIDS. He speaks candidly of coming out and dealing with HIV. It's the perfect place to get to know more about this incredible bassist.

You can visit Chuck's website at: www.ChuckPanozzo.Com

Source: Buffalo Outlook