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Orland Park man ‘Styx’ to his love of music

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Gary Loizzo, of Orland Park, speaks the universal language of music with more than 50 years of experience in the business. | Darren Zancan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 23, 2012 8:04AM

If not for the Chicago blizzard of 1967, it’s quite possible the career of Orland Park resident Gary Loizzo never would have taken off.

Nearly 23 inches of snow made it hard for anyone to get anywhere, and that included Acta Records producer Bill Trout, who was in town checking out bands.

“Bill played three or four bands for them (Acta), but it’s not what they wanted,” Loizzo said. “They were getting ready to leave, but the snowstorm kept them in. They decided to come back to the office, so he played them a few more bands.”

One was Loizzo’s band, American Breed. The record company liked what they heard and signed them on the spot.

In four years, the band released four albums, all of which charted. Songs such as “Bend Me, Shape Me” and “Green Light” were making waves throughout the country.

But in 1970, the music scene was starting to change.

“The market was shifting to heavy rock,” said Loizzo, a singer and guitarist at the time. “Eric Clapton opened for us, and I could see the direction music was going after that.”

It was a direction American Breed wasn’t heading in, so the band dissolved.

Instead of finding a new band, Loizzo decided to work behind the scenes as a producer, helping musicians find their niche.

“I felt comfortable directing people that were talented,” he said. “I recognized that was my skill.”

It didn’t take long for Loizzo to catch on. By 1974, he was producing songs for Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx, and Kevin Cronin, of REO Speedwagon.

Loizzo, at first, produced demos for Styx.

“Some of the demos I did for them sounded as good as their records, so they decided to do their next album with me,” said Loizzo, who was nominated for two Grammy awards.

By 1995, he was going on the road as the band’s sound engineer.

“He’s got it down to a wonderful art form,” Styx guitarist James Young said. “He’s an impressive guy on many levels. Some people are gifted and brilliant, but they have things that get in the way. Gary is the opposite. Music is a universal language, and he speaks it as well as anyone.”

Styx still tours in the United States and abroad, doing about 100 shows a year, all of which Loizzo, 66, attends.

“I’m impressed every time I watch them,” he said. “They’re a very captivating, personable band.”

Yet Young is more impressed with Loizzo as a person and engineer.

“When you have Eric Clapton opening for you, Mick Jagger shooting the breeze with you and Sammy Hagar mentions something so highly of you in his book, you are doing something right,” Young said of Loizzo’s past. “Not to mention, he has the ability to get great vocals out of someone who thinks they don’t have it that day.”

Loizzo runs Pumpkin Studios, and when he’s not on the road, he’s working with musicians on their albums. He recently put the finishing touches on a Styx DVD, Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live.

“He’s a good-hearted, kind person, who if asked would give you more than the shirt off his back,” said Robert Suster, who started working with Loizzo in 2004. “He has a good ear, and he has the ability to hear what’s going to sound good even before it’s recorded.”

With more than 50 years in the music business, it would be easy to get burned out, but for Loizzo, it’s not an option.

“The love of music keeps me going,” he said.

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