Want to be a rock star, or at least look like one? You can if you purchase a ticket for, and then win, the white Fender guitar that is making its rounds in a promotion to raise money for the Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing (NATH).
But there’s more to this gleaming Squier Bullet Strat model being displayed throughout the county. It’s been autographed by all the members of the rock band Styx, who donated the guitar as a fundraiser for NATH.
This unique raffle item was the doing of Bill and Carol Miller, whose son Will is friends with Styx’s percussionist, Todd Sucherman. The Millers were instrumental in getting NATH organized and up and running. The facility on Frederick Street in Rhinelander opened in 2009 and serves homeless people coming from Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas counties. It can accommodate up to 16 residents and annually it costs $205,000 to operate.
Naturally, running a facility like this takes a continuous stream of funds, and volunteers and facilitators are always looking for ways to raise money to keep the shelter open. But the Millers never figured their friendship with Todd would result in the beautiful instrument that is making the rounds throughout Oneida County. “It was a great surprise to learn that Todd had arranged getting this guitar for us as a fund raiser,” said Carol. “We are really excited about it.”
While Carol grew up in Rhinelander, the Miller family lived in different parts of the country before coming back to Rhinelander permanently in 2005. Todd and Will’s friendship began in the mid- 1980s when the family relocated from Des Moines, Iowa, to Skokie, Ill., right before Will started his freshman year in Niles West High School there. “When Todd and I met, we became immediate friends,” said Will. “It was sort of funny though, because Todd was into being a musician and I was into athletics but we really enjoyed each other’s company. He is the kind of guy that is easy to be friends with, very nice and very down to earth.”
All through high school, Will and his friends were avid fans of Todd, who started playing drums when he was just 4 years old. “This was a group that was very close and they went to Todd’s concerts wherever he was playing,” said Carol. “I got to know Todd well because these kids would always be together and hang out at each other’s houses like teenagers do.”
Styx became popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the group broke into the rock band genre with hits like “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “The Best of Times” and “Babe,” which climbed the charts to number one in 1979. The group scored four consecutive multiplatinum albums, certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), early on.
Throughout the 1980s, the band would use the tune “Rockin the Paradise” to open their shows. They had a rigorous tour schedule and played at venues across the United States, all the while gaining more and more popularity. However, as bands often do, members would depart to strike out with solo hits. In 1992 the group eventually disbanded.
Styx reunited in 1995, with lead singer Tommy Shaw once again at the helm. A tour was planned in 1996 but drummer John Panozzo was unable to participate due to declining health. That’s when Todd Sucherman came on board. Their “Return to Paradise” tour was a success, leading to several songs that climbed Billboard’s adult contemporary charts. In 1999, Styx released its first new studio album in a decade. The group enjoyed success throughout the 1990s and by 2006 Styx had sold 17.5 million records, according to the RIAA. In October of 2007, the band received a lifetime achievement award from the International Entertainment Buyers Association.
Today, the band continues to tour rigorously and is even planning a concert in Green Bay on May 17. They have a solid fan base that crosses a couple of generations and their concerts are almost always sold out. In fact, it was one of these concerts that prompted the donation of the white Fender guitar.
Styx was scheduled to play at Lake of the Torches Casino last year and Carol and Bob wanted to go, to see if they could reconnect with Todd. They asked Will if Todd could get them stage passes. As it turned out, the Millers had to back out because of other commitments; however, that opened the door for some communication between Will and Todd. “I mentioned to Todd that my parents were really involved with a homeless shelter in Rhinelander and were always looking for ways to raise money for it,” said Will. “Todd said he would work something out and within a few weeks, the white Fender guitar came in the mail.”
Will and his parents were incredulous. “I thought maybe he would send some CDs or a pair of sticks or a drum head,” said Will. “I never imagined it would turn out to an autographed Fender guitar.”
Tammy Modic, director of Frederick Place, was also stunned and tried to find the best way to raise the most money with this unique prize. “We decided the best way to promote it would be to send it on a tour throughout Oneida County,” she said. “We made arrangements with resorts and bars to showcase the guitar and sell tickets for a raffle.”
So far, the guitar has been displayed at Bugsy’s, at Sunset Junction, at the Pine Isle Sports Bar in Three Lakes and at Moran’s, and currently it sits on display at Birch Lake Bar and Resort in Harshaw. It will be at Beachcomber from Feb. 25 to March 3; at Rummy’s March 4-10; at the Rusty Nail March 18-24; at Alpine Resort March 25-31; at Birchwood Lodge March 25-31; and on April 1 it will be delivered to the Knight Gallery.
That’s where the raffle for the guitar will be held Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. during a “Totally ‘80s Party.” The stub from purchasing a raffle ticket is good for admission to this event. There is also a $150 second prize and $100 goes to the third place winner. Tickets cost $5 each or five for $20. “This is such a great prize and we feel so fortunate that Styx decided to help us raise money for Frederick Place,” said Tammy.
Will agrees. “I was taken aback by Styx’s generosity to help Frederick Place,” he said. “What a thoughtful act and I, along with my parents, feel so fortunate to have Todd as our friend.”
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