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the first 25+ years - by clay marshall

 

1981

As Avatar, brothers Jon and Criss Oliva, drummer Steve Wacholz and bassist Keith Collins build an underground following in the band's home state, Florida.

 

1982

Avatar records two tracks for a compilation LP by Florida radio station WYNF.

 

1983

Avatar releases the City Beneath The Surface EP, now a collector's item. For legal reasons, Avatar changes its name to Savatage and releases its debut album, Sirens.

 

1984

The Dungeons Are Calling is released. Savatage then signs to Atlantic Records.

 

1985

Power of the Night, Savatage's Atlantic debut, is released. The band embarks on its first tour.

 

1986

Bassist Johnny Lee Middleton joins the group. Fight For The Rock is released. In addition to the U.S. shows with Ted Nugent and Blue Oyster Cult, , the band tours Europe for the first time, opening for Motorhead.

 

1987

Atlantic sends producer Paul O'Neill to see Savatage perform in Florida. The label then hires O'Neill to produce the band's new record, beginning a long-term relationship. Hall of the Mountain King, which includes the group's first symphonic instrumental, "Prelude to Madness," is released. A music video - the group's first - is filmed for the title track. Upon the album's release, Savatage tours American arenas with Dio and Megadeth. Rhythm guitarist Chris Caffery joins the band as a touring member. 

 

1988

The Dio/Megadeth tour continues. A video for "24 Hours Ago" is filmed. The band guest-hosts MTV's "Headbanger's Ball." 

 

1989

Caffery officially joins Savatage. Gutter Ballet, Savatage's sixth album, is issued.

 

1990

Savatage embarks on a nine-month world tour, headlining and supporting artists such as Testament and King Diamond. At tour's end, Caffery leaves the band. Two videos - "Gutter Ballet" and "When The Crowds Are Gone" - are filmed.

 

1991

With O'Neill, Savatage - again a quartet - writes and records its first rock opera, Streets. Videos for "Jesus Saves" and "New York City Don't Mean Nothing" are filmed, but only "Jesus Saves" is ever released. Another world tour begins.

 

1992

Due to increasing vocal problems, Jon Oliva steps down as lead singer of Savatage, although he continues to write and record with the band. Zachary Stevens becomes the group's new vocalist.

 

1993

Savatage's eighth album, Edge of Thorns, is released. A world tour commences, but Wacholz and Jon Oliva decide not participate. Music videos for "Edge of Thorns" and "Sleep" are filmed. In October, Criss Oliva is killed by a drunk driver; the last song he records is "Shotgun Innocence."

 

1994

Deciding that continuing the band is the best way to keep Criss' memory alive, Jon Oliva and O'Neill write and record Handful of Rain, with additional contributions from Stevens (vocals) and Alex Skolnick (lead guitars). A video for the title track is filmed. Another song on the album, "Chance," sees the group experiment with counterpoint vocals for the first time. Although he does not perform on the album, Wacholz officially leaves the band after its release and is replaced by Jeff Plate. Oliva then joins Plate, Skolnick, Middleton and Stevens on a two-month tour. A show in Tokyo is filmed for a live album and video. Meanwhile, the debut album from Doctor Butcher, a side project of Jon Oliva and Caffery, is released in Europe.

 

1995

With Skolnick pursuing other interests, Caffery and guitarist Al Pitrelli join the group. Savatage's second rock opera, Dead Winter Dead, is released. A video for "One Child" is shot. The instrumental "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" becomes an unexpected radio hit. Also, the live album Final Bell - later released elsewhere as Ghost In The Ruins - is issued in Japan.

 

1996

Savatage tours Europe (where the compilation From The Gutter To The Stage is released) and Japan. Instead of touring America, the group's members - inspired by the success of "Christmas Eve" - write and record the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra album, Christmas Eve & Other Stories. A "Christmas Eve" video is shot; it's re-released as a TSO song. 

 

1997

Savatage's The Wake of Magellan is released in Europe and debuts at #11 on the German pop charts. A European tour commences. The compilation The Best and The Rest is released in Japan. 

 

1998

The Wake of Magellan is released in America. Savatage tours in the U.S., Europe and South America. In Japan, the compilation Believe is released. Also, TSO writes and releases its second album, The Christmas Attic, while Christmas Eve & Other Stories is certified gold.

 

1999

TSO writes and records its first non-Christmas album, Beethoven's Last Night, and embarks on its first tour, which features Caffery, Pitrelli, Plate and Middleton. A TSO television special, "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve," is filmed and is broadcast nationally.

 

2000

Beethoven's Last Night is released. For its second tour, TSO splits into two touring companies, with Skolnick joining Caffery on TSO East. On the Savatage front, Pitrelli and Stevens leave the band. With O'Neill, Savatage records a new album as a quartet. The group amicably parts ways with Atlantic Records and signs with Nuclear Blast in America and SPV in Europe. 

 

2001

Poets & Madmen, featuring Jon Oliva's return as lead vocalist, is released worldwide; it debuts at #7 on the German pop charts. A world tour commences with additional touring members Damond Jiniya (vocals) and Jack Frost (guitars). Meanwhile, TSO's "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve" is released on VHS and DVD, Christmas Eve & Other Stories goes platinum and the group embarks on its third tour (and second with two touring companies). 

 

2002

Pitrelli rejoins Savatage, replacing Frost, but does not accompany the band on its summer European tour. Jeff Waters (Annihilator) fills in instead. The Christmas Attic is certified gold shortly before TSO's fourth tour. 

 

2003

Stevens resurfaces with a new band, Circle II Circle, which features guest appearances by Oliva and Caffery. Oliva begins work on a solo project, which makes its live debut at the Criss Oliva Memorial Concert (which commemorates the 10th Anniversary of the guitarist's passing). The Tampa concert, which also features performances by Circle II Circle and Doctor Butcher, is headlined by Oliva, Wacholz, Middleton and Caffery. Soon after, Caffery and Middleton join TSO for its fifth annual tour. 

 

2004

Caffery releases his solo debut, the double album Faces/God Damn War. He reteams with Oliva (whose own debut solo album, 'Tage Mahal, is also released) and Wacholz for a headlining performance of Savatage classics at the ProgPower USA festival. Before its sixth holiday tour, TSO releases The Lost Christmas Eve, which is quickly certified gold; also that year, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve goes gold, The Christmas Attic goes platinum and Christmas Eve & Other Stories goes double-platinum. 

 

2005
Circle II Circle releases its second album, The Middle of Nowhere. Jon Oliva's Pain and Chris Caffery embark on a brief U.S. tour together. Another successful TSO tour takes place.

 

2006

Plate joins Metal Church and performs on the group's album A Light In The Dark. Circle II Circle releases its third album, Burden of Truth, and Jon Oliva's Pain issues its second, Maniacal Renderings. In the midst of its eighth holiday tour, TSO's The Lost Christmas Eve is certified platinum. 

 

2007
Caffery's second solo album, Pins and Needles, is released. Caffery, Circle II Circle and Jon Oliva's Pain all perform on the same day at Belgium's Pestpop Festival. Plate and Stevens announce plans to resurrect their pre-Savatage band, Wickedwitch. During TSO's ninth holiday tour, Beethoven's Last Night is certified gold. 

 

2008

Circle II Circle releases its fourth album, Delusions of Grandeur; Jon Oliva's Pain releases its third album, Global Warning; Caffery releases his third solo album, House of Insanity; and Plate's second album with Metal Church, This Present Wasteland, is released. Circle II Circle and Jon Oliva's Pain embark on a brief American tour shortly before TSO kicks off its 10th Anniversary tour.