Gary Loizzo, the lead singer and guitarist for the American Breed and a very successful producer and studio owner, has died after a two-and-a-half year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 70.
The Shadows of Knight posted the following on their Facebook page on Sunday afternoon:
Im deeply saddened by the news that my longtime friend Gary Loizzo of the American Breed has passed away…we’ve lost another great one…Gary was a good friend, a great singer…and I worked with him in the studio as an engineer and a producer on many projects..his work with Styx is legendary…he will truly be missed and remembered fondly…Bend Me Shape Me any way you want me will live on in our hearts.
Todd Sucherman, drummer for Styx with whom Loizzo had worked extensively, said:
Gary Loizzo, RIP my dear friend. This is a hard one to write as it’s one of our own. Gary Loizzo has been our front of house engineer since I joined the band 20 years ago but before that he was the (Grammy nominated) recording engineer on many of the Styx records of the 70s and 80s (and 90s and 00s.) And before that he was the lead singer of The American Breed, most famous for the song “Bend Me, Shape Me.” He was a man of exceptional taste, wonderful musicianship, eagle sharp ears, but most of all he was a shining example as how to conduct yourself as a man, a professional, a husband and father. In 20 years I never saw him lose his cool or raise his voice to anyone, and believe me, the road can be frustrating at times. He just made everyone feel good. He was a magical person and I know everyone in our organization feels they are a better human being having had the privilege to wok along his side.
Can we please cure cancer? Enough already.
Gary stopped touring with us in early summer 2015. When we played Chicago on September 5th, Gary and his amazing wife, Diane and the whole family came out to the gig for a party before show time. We had worked up “Bend Me Shape Me” and brought him on stage to sing it mid set. The large screen behind us displayed an image of Gary from the late 60s as he came out on stage with the energy of a teenager, all smiles, and sang the hell out of his hit song in front of 20,000 people in his home town. What a send off my dear, dear friend! I love you, and you will continue to be an inspiration and a shining example of how to live life.
Loizzo was one of the founding members of The American Breed (originally known as Gary & the Knight Lites) in Cicero, IL. The group played around the Chicago album until, during a snowstorm in January 1967, Mercury Records VP Kenny Myers was stranded at a Universal Recording in Chicago where he met with producer Bill Traut who had worked with the American Breed on their initial recordings. Myers signed them to the new subsidiary Acta where they released their first single, I Don’t Think You Know Me, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
The American Breed with Loizzo on lead hit the charts the first time in early 1967 with Step Out of Your Mind (1967 / #24) but it was two singles later that they hit it big with Bend Me, Shape Me (1967 / #5 U.S. / #24 U.K.). Overall, the band charted five singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
When the band’s singles stopped charting, members began to break off even though Loizzo tried to keep them going into 1970.
Loizzo moved forward in business by opening his own Chicago studio, Pumpkin, where he produced many local artists. Over the years, he worked with REO Speedwagon, Bad Company, Slash, Survivor and a number of Styx and Dennis DeYoung albums. As mentioned above, he was also Styx sound engineer for over twenty years.
Loizzo and the other original members of the American Breed also reunited to record an album in 1986. They continued to reform over the ensuing years for special events around the Chicago area.
Among Loizzo’s engineering and production credits:
You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tune a Fish – REO Speedwagon (engineer)
Cornerstone – Styx (engineer)
Premonition – Survivor (engineer, producer)
Paradise Theatre – Styx (engineer)
Kilroy Was Here – Styx (engineer)
Caught in the Act – Styx (engineer)
Desert Moon – Dennis DeYoung (engineer, vocals)
Return to Paradise – Styx (engineer)
Brave New World – Styx (engineer)
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