James “JY” Young (born November 14, 1949) is an American musician who is best known for playing lead guitar in the American rock band Styx, having served as the only continuous original member of the band. Young began playing keyboard and piano at the age of five. He attended Calumet High in Chicago and learned to play clarinet and guitar during those years. He was nicknamed by Styx members & long time fans as "J.Y." and is often referred to as "The Godfather of Styx".
JY & the rest of Styx, along with REO Speedwagon and Loverboy, are performing on the road now with their tour called “Live and Unzoomed”. Several gold & multiplatinum albums. 16 singles in the top 40 of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and 8 top 10 hits. Last year they released the album “Crash of the Crown” and EP “The Same Stardust”.
JY joins me today on the road to discuss the tour and his amazing music.
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CRASH OF THE CROWN buy link:
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Interview with James JY Young from Styx! (transcript)
Listen to the full interview at https://www.15minuteswithchuck.com/styx-interview-with-james-jy-young-the-godfather
Chuck (host) (00:00):
Hello. Thanks so much for joining me today. It’s my pleasure to introduce my special guest James J Y young of sticks, J Y and the rest of sticks along with AO Speedwagon and Loverboy are performing on the road now with their tour called live and on zoom with several gold and multi-platinum albums. Their successes are incredible. They’ve had 16 singles in the top 40 of the us billboard hot 108 top 10 hits. Last year, they released the album crash of the crown and the EP the same Stardust. Jay lead guitar sticks joins me today on the road to discuss the tour and his amazing music.
James “JY” Young (01:08):
Chuck (host) (01:10):
<Laugh> professor fields. I love it. Thanks so much for joining me, man. Pleasure to have you here.
James “JY” Young (01:16):
Chuck (host) (01:18):
Hey, listen. This is so cool. You’re finally back on tour, live and UN zoomed –loving the name. You’re out there with the RSB wagon lover, boy, how’s it going?
James “JY” Young (01:27):
Going phenomenally well, much better than I even, I thought it, it might go how’s that, you know, post pandemic, I think nobody really truly knows what to expect and, and how to predict these things, but we’re our audiences act like people that have been cooped up for a few years and are ready to let it loose because we’re, we’re drawing in a way as good as we ever have and some nights even better.
Chuck (host) (01:54):
Oh, I, I think that’s fantastic. I didn’t want to go back and I, I think it’s great. You’ve got tours all over and I know they’ve added a few dates here and there, which is fantastic. So I highly encourage our audience to check you guys out, but I wanna go back to cuz I, I heard this, I love this. I heard that some, some other members of band of the band call you the godfather of sticks. I love that. Why is that? Why do they call
James “JY” Young (02:13):
You that <laugh> well, it, it well, I’m the only one that’s regularly. I’m the only one that’s still alive. That’s, you know, basically been at every show except for one or two when my wife was on a ventilator, which she had a stroke back 15 years ago. Oh wow. And and I just refused to leave her side, but otherwise I’m a man that’s a, <laugh> healthy, big and dumb and blonde and eat my Wheaties and take my vitamins and love what I do. And been here from the beginning and this was always what I wanted to do. So yeah, I guess because nobody, I mean, me, Todd, Todd is maybe the term on the planet, but he’s a recent addition. Lawrence Gowan is you know, he’s been around about 15 years here with us. Ricky Phillips was there cuz Chuck had medical issues for a period of time and was right. Was not with us there. And and then just as a backup, we’ve got will a Banovich and and Tommys of course has, has been there since John Luki left was about 25 years ago. Yeah.
Chuck (host) (03:27):
Wow. It it’s been a while. See, I love that though. I mean, cuz you’re right. You know, you’re taking care of yourself and you’re following your passion, which is great. I wanna talk about that kind of real quick. I, you know, your music journey I’m think you grew up in Chicago, which is cool. Not, not just as stones throw away from where I am in Annapolis here. And you started taking piano lessons, age five, which eventually led to guitar, you know, can you tell me more about that and sort of where your passion to, to music began?
James “JY” Young (03:50):
Well, actually <laugh> we were forced everyone in my family was forced to take piano lessons at age five. My ah, there you go. We were my, my dad was actually quite a great penis by ear and his sister. She was a church organist, so she was already very skilled and but my dad really does not good at reading amusing, but he could hear it tune and sit down and play it. And so in my family, we’re sort of divided between my, my oldest sister who unfortunately passed away recently, but she’s sorry, 10 years older than me, but, but she could sight re like crazy. Whereas I was very poor at it. But we all started on piano and then at age 14 I mean the Beatles for me, I was born to 49. So the Beatles kind of were a new thing.
James “JY” Young (04:34):
And I was a young in my young teens and I bought a scene, those Beatles songbook, and learned how to play guitar from that. And then kind of went on from there, just playing by ear and learning things and saw Jimmy Hendrix play five times when he was alive. Oh wow. In person. You know, I saw the cream, the who you know, all kinds of people, you know, from, from, from the very early from the sixties and seventies and the eighties I saw most of them. And then in the band I had actually, we had a very successful, it was the year after Woodstock. The first there was Irving AOF, who was the manager of the Eagles now and is, is a very well known guy from Illinois that is done extremely well for himself in management, in, in the record and, and entertainment business Irving put on a rock festival back in 1970 of the year after Woodstock and, and the band I had with my brother and, and my buddies at that point in time got a standing ovation, but then two of the guys in the band said, huh, they were going to Jehovah’s witnesses.
Chuck (host) (05:37):
James “JY” Young (05:38):
<Laugh>. And so with that I tried putting the band met together with my younger brother who was still in college. I was out at that point and and then another, you know, but we could, could just not get people interested. I, I, you know, I thought so then Dennis and the pinao brothers, Dennis Young, and then John Chuck, pinao had a, had a band called T w four and yeah, they were looking for another guitar player that could sing so they could have two, two guitars. And so I joined up with ’em and and pretty soon actually we started writing and got, got a chance to get a recording contract. And it was 70, 71 I guess probably is when we presented the demo to them. And then we recorded the first six album, 1972.
Chuck (host) (06:26):
Wow. See, I think that’s great. And one thing that I also was very impressed JY is you also, simultaneously, as you were career in the band you were working, you got your bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the Illinois Institute technology. So, you know, what treated aerospace?
James “JY” Young (06:44):
Well, that was my dad was in the construction business and, and he had inherited along with two of his brothers, the business from his father who came from Sweden back around like 1897 or something like that way back when. And and he, he himself started a construction business. And actually, if you look, there’s a young construction company plaque in a number of Chicago public schools where they did the carpentry work, that goes way back, obviously over a hundred years ago. Yeah. And but then you know, so my fallback position was really to the family construction business that I would maybe be the next guy to take over for the next generation. That’s why engineering was engineering degree was closest to that. And, and the aerospace version, the aerospace angle mechanical and aerospace aerospace was in its complete infancy at that point.
James “JY” Young (07:41):
Yeah, it really was. You’re talking about 6 19 65, 66 67. I graduated at the beginning of 67 cuz it still had February graduating classes. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and so that was just something, but the mechanical engineering side would’ve prepared me to be involved in, in the construction business on many levels, if that was indeed gonna have to happen. And, and ultimately my, my second brother who was only about a year and a half younger than me, he was extremely talented as well. But he just didn’t find the right group of people to be with and they didn’t quite get a recording contract and whatever. And so he was, he was kind of took over the family business from there. And my youngest brother actually has a degree from university of Illinois champagne in theater. Yeah. Although trying to make a buck in theater is harder to make a buck rock and rollback. Oh yeah. Yeah. So see I I’m family rockstar.
Chuck (host) (08:45):
See, I, I think it’s awesome. And I think it’s neat too, and it shouldn’t be surprising. I mean, there’s a lot of very smart musicians out there and I think it’s neat that you’re drawn to engineering. I am a total space enthusiast space nerd, whatever you call it. So, I mean, I was fascinated by your aerospace linkage and I, I noticed of course, you know, a lot of songs by sticks seem to have a strong space focus, you know, last year you released that EP called the same star dust. And before that was the mission. Yeah. Which is great album for our listeners to, haven’t heard it a Chronicles, the first man mission of Mars, I think you’re 2033. So are we seeing that passion for space and aerospace coming through in some of these,
James “JY” Young (09:20):
You know, honestly, <laugh> the crazy thing is, is that, you know, if, if I had come up with that idea, I think Tommy would’ve said, is that all, is that the only thing you okay, get aerospace interview? That’s the only thing you can come up with to write a new song <laugh> but the fact that Tommy came up with it, Tommy is much better at finding the humanity in something you know, I can, I can dissect it and tell you precisely how this happened and how the other thing happened. But, but Tommy’s, Tommy is, you know, has a high school education, but he’s extremely bright. I don’t think his parents had the money or he did have the motivation. He was, he enjoyed playing music and, and he just has a as his, a lyrical sense about him. And so it was his idea. I think he, he found the humanity in the whole thing that I wouldn’t have been able to find. And I mean, I, I collaborated on, on the musical side of the whole thing certainly. And of course perhaps have suggested a lyric there, but that was really Tommy Shaw’s deal.
Chuck (host) (10:21):
Okay. Well then I sense, cuz you guys have been very active with music. You know, you also released the album last year called crush of the crown, which is doing phenomenal. Are you performing any of those songs on the tour right now?
James “JY” Young (10:34):
Yeah, we actually are playing tonight in where we Kansas city and we’re out on the road with it’s a three act three act, bill ourselves on AO speed wagon, our Colin, we flip, we close one night, they close the next night and, and we got lover boy you know, which is kind of from our similar era, although a little bit more recent as the opening actually there’s a three act bill and where people are coming out and drove. I think it’s, it’s a post pandemic. I can finally get, go back out to a concert kind of a response to it, but it it’s it’s very good and people are, you know, real, really into it and, and everybody’s having a blast.
Chuck (host) (11:14):
See, I that’s great. Now do you have personally any, any songs that, any favorite songs that you like to perform?
James “JY” Young (11:21):
Oh, you know, there’s a song that, that Dennis wrote called sweet men and blue. That, that that’s a great song. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and we do it from time to time depending. I mean, come sailaway is a great song then. Yeah, Dennis, actually it was started out, you know, about just basically in a song about escaping, you know, what was bothering you here at, at home, in, in town or whatever. But it was wrote about obviously being on a, on a ship. And I just said, cause right at that time in the, in the in the seventies when we did it, I just said, why, why don’t, why don’t we have this thing turned into a spaceship at, at the very end and, and Dennis found the lyric that kind of, you know, painted that picture. And so I feel I contributed to the success of that song, cuz it kind of resonated with what people are interested in, you know, space travel and, and going beyond what we know on, on the earth, cuz we’ve it’s, it’s here and <laugh> and you know, it’s exciting to think about other things it might be out there.
Chuck (host) (12:24):
Oh it is. Oh, you’re hitting my note with that one. Cause I love music. I love space and man, I love you guys. I, I think six is great. I, I just Joe, I just wanna wrap up here. I just wanna wish you and the, the rest of the, the band, just the best for this tour. And hopefully we, we got some new, new music on the way we’re hoping.
James “JY” Young (12:41):
Well, I mean, we’re we have a very ambitious tour out there, but Tommy always keeps writing. Lawrence keeps writing Tommy’s collaborator will, who’s become part of the band and the creditor with producing the last couple of records. Those guys those guys are constantly working on new stuff and I’m I’m a little bit lazier. So
Chuck (host) (13:02):
<Laugh>, you’ve earned it. The godfather of sticks right here.
James “JY” Young (13:07):
Well, I’m, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve taken I’ve I’ve always been I’m I’m the guy that takes care of all the, the business details. I deal with the lawyers. I deal with the accountants and that cuz my I’m, I come from a family of business owners, whereas everyone else in the band, I believe their parents were employees of some other company. Whereas my family came from Europe and started a company. And so I’m the El Presidente of the six group companies as
Chuck (host) (13:33):
Well. Well, I, if you’re gonna
James “JY” Young (13:34):
Have to deal I to deal with the accounts and the lawyers, so there
Chuck (host) (13:36):
You go. If you’re gonna have someone dealing with the accounts and lawyers, I’d rather have it be the godfather J Y again, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us today.
James “JY” Young (13:47):
Really? Hey, I’m glad we got this done
Chuck (host) (13:53):
Well, I really enjoyed my conversation with J Y today and I hope you did too, really enjoying their new music as well as the old music, but the newest album crash of the crown is incredible. Highly encourage you to check it out. We’ll let you learn more about them or the tour. Just go to their website at sticks, world.com. I wanna thank Jay Y for joining me today. I wanna thank you for joining us as well. If you can do me a small favor and share this episode or like it, or give us a comment, that would be great. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’ll see you next time. God bless.