Paul O'Neill (rock producer)

Paul O'Neill
O'Neill in 2011
Background information
Born (1956-02-23)February 23, 1956
Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died April 5, 2017(2017-04-05) (aged 61)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Genres Rock, rock opera, progressive metal
Occupation(s) Composer, lyricist, producer, songwriter
Associated acts Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Badlands

Paul O'Neill (February 23, 1956 – April 5, 2017) was an American music composer, lyricist, producer, and songwriter.


Early years

O'Neill was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City,[1][2] the second of his parents' ten children, O'Neill's music and literary influences, as well as his own artistic visions were well established before he began working full-time in the industry in his late teens. O'Neill began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. O'Neill took his first serious musical steps in the mid 1970s when he took his first progressive rock band, Slowburn, into Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in New York City.[3] It was there that he first met engineer Dave Wittman[4] who had the ability to capture on tape the sounds O'Neill was hearing in his head. O'Neill ended up shelving the project because he was not happy with final results. (A habit O'Neill would repeat over the decades much to the frustration of his accountants.) However he credited Slowburn's initial failure as one of the luckiest things that could have ever happened to him, for it gave him the opportunity to learn the recording and concert business from the inside out. In addition, touring with some of the world's biggest bands gave him an insight not only into how the music industry differed from country to country but also a better sense of history, peoples and finance than he could learn from books alone.[5]

He landed a position at Leber-Krebs Inc., the management company that launched the careers of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, New York Dolls, Scorpions and Joan Jett among others. Specifically, he worked as the personal assistant of manager David Krebs.[6][7][8] In the 1980s, O'Neill became a large rock promoter in Japan, promoting every tour of Madonna and Sting done in that decade, as well the largest rock festivals done in Japan until that time, with such acts as Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio.[9]

Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Among other bands, O'Neill helmed Aerosmith's Classics Live I and Classics Live II[10] albums before beginning a fortuitous relationship with the band Savatage that led to conceptual pieces such as Hall of the Mountain King, Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera and Dead Winter Dead. It also introduced him to Jon Oliva,[11] Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli, as well as reconnecting him with studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became original collaborators in O'Neill's next group, Trans-Siberian Orchestra.[12][13]

"I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style," O'Neill said in 2011. "Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd... I always wanted to do a full rock opera with a full progressive band and at least 24 lead singers.[14][15]

O'Neill took the idea to Atlantic Records which, to his surprise, went for it and financed the creation of Romanov which was initially to be TSO’s first release. "We were very fortunate," he says. "It was one of the only labels left that still did an “old school” kind of artist development." My original concept was; "We were going to do six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums."

However, when Romanov got temporarily put on the back burner, the first installment of the Christmas trilogy, Christmas Eve and Other Stories became TSO’s debut album. Fueled by the single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", the album went double platinum. More platinum certifications followed with 1998’s The Christmas Attic, and the final installment of the Christmas trilogy, The Lost Christmas Eve in 2004. In the midst of completing the trilogy, TSO released their first non-holiday rock opera, Beethoven's Last Night.[1]


O'Neill's body was discovered in an Embassy Suites hotel room in Tampa, Florida.[16][17][18][19][20][21][18] O'Neill's death was announced in a brief note posted on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra website on April 5, 2017, which cited chronic illness. The Hillsborough, Florida medical examiner’s office determined the official cause of Paul O’Neill’s death as accidental, resulting from an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications to treat his numerous chronic illnesses (including bone augmentation surgery, complications from spinal fusion surgery, heart disease, and hypertension).[22] Found along with O'Neill's body were more than 30 prescription pill bottles in his name.[23]

O'Neill was in the midst of a number of projects, and their continuation was in doubt.[18] On June 24, 2017, TSO announced on their Facebook page that the band would continue the 2017 Winter Tour of "The Ghost of Christmas Eve" in O'Neill's legacy and honor. During the tour, the band honored O'Neill while playing "The Safest Way Into Tomorrow", with images of sunglasses and motorcycle gloves (both trademarks of O'Neill's) projected on the stage's video display.[24]






  • 1985 – Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Metal Church


Trans-Siberian Orchestra


  1. 1 2 Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  2. Paul O'NeillObituary accessdate December 21, 2017
  3. Something Else Reviews, February 16, 2012
  5. The Aquarian Weekly Magazine April, 06,2011
  6. Kudlow, Steve; Reiner, Robb (March 13, 2009). Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Bantam Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-593-06364-3.
  7. The Pure Rock Shop,
  8. The Tale of Artful Dodger, Goldmine, The Music Collectors Magazine, April 13, 2010
  9. Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tour Program 2005 publisher Bravado
  10. Aerosmith Classics Live I & Classics Live II back cover credits.
  11. Something Else Reviews February 16, 2012
  12. Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tour Program. Bravado Merchandise. 2008. p. 22.
  13. Guitar World Staff (May 11, 2009). "Criss Oliva: Mountain King". Guitar World. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  14. Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  15. The Aquarian Weekly Magazine, April 6, 2011
  16. "Paul O'Neill". Trans-Siberian Orchestra. April 5, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  17. "MUSIC Paul O'Neill, Founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dies at 61". New York Times. Associated Press. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  18. 1 2 3 Graff, Gary (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dies at 61". Billboard. Retrieved April 7, 2017. O'Neill was working on several projects at the time of his death, both intended for Broadway – Romanov: What Kings Must Whisper, a rock opera about the Russia's Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, and an expanded, rewritten version of Savatage's Gutter Ballet. There's no word yet on how work will proceed on them without O'Neill.
  19. Grow, Kory (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dead at 61". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  20. Cridlin, Jay (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill, 61, found dead in Tampa hotel". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  21. Ahern, Sarah (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dies at 61". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  22. "Report: Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Died From Prescription Drug Intoxication [Updated]". Loudwire. May 30, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  23. Cridlin, Jay (December 17, 2017). "Music without the Maestro". Tampa Bay Times. pp. 1A, 12A. Also published online under the title "Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas without leader Paul O'Neill."
  24. "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Emerges Triumphant on First Holiday Tour Following Founder's Death". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
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