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REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon performing live at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, in 2010
REO Speedwagon performing live at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, in 2010
Background information
OriginChampaign, Illinois, U.S.
Genres
Years active1967 (1967)–present
Labels
Members
Past membersSee: Former band members
Websitereospeedwagon.com

REO Speedwagon (originally stylized as R.E.O. Speedwagon), or simply REO, is an American rock band from Champaign, Illinois. Formed in 1967, the band cultivated a following during the 1970s and achieved significant commercial success throughout the 1980s. Its best-selling album, Hi Infidelity (1980), contained four US Top 40 hits and sold more than 10 million copies.[1]

REO Speedwagon has sold more than 40 million records and charted 13 Top 40 hits, including the number ones "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling".

History

Formation

Advertisement for a Reo Speed Wagon

In the fall of 1966, Neal Doughty was just beginning an electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, as a junior. On his first night of classes, he met fellow student Alan Gratzer. Doughty had learned some Beatles songs on his parents' piano, and Gratzer had been a drummer in local bands since high school. The two held an impromptu jam session in the basement of their Illinois Street Residence Hall dormitory.[2][3]

Gratzer continued to perform with his band (which had a keyboard-playing lead singer), and Doughty began turning up at gigs. Doughty eventually began sitting in on a few songs. On the last day of the university's spring semester, guitarist Joe Matt called the band's leader and told him that he and the other members (Gratzer and bassist Mike Blair) had decided to start a new band with Doughty where everyone but Doughty would sing.

The new band made a list of songs to learn over the summer break. Doughty landed a summer job and bought his first organ. On his Farfisa organ, he learned The Doors' "Light My Fire". The members returned to school in the fall of 1967 and had their first rehearsal before classes started. They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a 1915 truck designed by Ransom Eli Olds.[4] Doughty had seen the name written on the blackboard when he walked into his History of Transportation class on the first day they had decided to look for a name. Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did ("REE-oh"), they chose to spell the word out, pronouncing each letter individually ("R-E-O"). An advertisement in the school newspaper produced their first job, a fraternity party that turned into a food fight. They continued to perform cover songs in campus bars, fraternity parties and university events.

In early 1968, Terry Luttrell became lead singer and Bob Crownover joined as the guitarist, replacing Matt after he graduated. When Mike Blair left the band in mid-1968, Gregg Philbin replaced Blair and Joe McCabe played sax until he moved on to Southern Illinois University. Marty Shepard then came aboard on trumpet, soon joined by a second trumpeter named Steve (last name unknown). Doughty joined them as a third horn player on some tunes. But Shepard left during the following year and horns were dropped from the group altogether by the summer of 1969.[5]

Bob Crownover played guitar for the group until mid-1969, when Bill Fiorio replaced him. Fiorio then departed in late 1969, eventually assuming the name Duke Tumatoe, and went on to form the All Star Frogs. Steve Scorfina (who went on to found the band Pavlov's Dog) came aboard for over a year, composing with the band and performing live, before being replaced by Gary Richrath in late 1970.

Richrath had driven 100 miles (160 km) to see the band and become a part of it, saying, "I'm going to be a part of that band whether they like it or not." He was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitarist and prolific songwriter who brought original compositions. With him on board, the band's regional popularity grew tremendously. The St. Louis-based radio station KSHE, one of America's most influential rock stations, began supporting it, elevating the band's profile outside its Midwestern stronghold.

Epic Records signed the band to a recording contract in 1971 after Paul Leka, an East Coast record producer, saw it play before an enthusiastic outdoor crowd in Peoria during a rainstorm and brought the band to his recording studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it recorded original material for its first album.[6] The lineup on the first album consisted of Richrath, Gratzer, Doughty, Philbin and Luttrell.[4]

Early years

In the early days, REO was managed by its University of Illinois classmate Irving Azoff, who later managed the Eagles and many others, becoming one of the most powerful people in the recording industry.

With its equipment hauled to gigs in a friend's station wagon, REO played bars and clubs all over the Midwest. Its debut album, R.E.O. Speedwagon, was released on Epic Records in October 1971.[4] The most popular track on this record was "157 Riverside Avenue"; it remains an in-concert favorite. The title is the address in Westport, Connecticut, where the band stayed while recording in Leka's studio in Bridgeport.

A newspaper advertisement for a concert featuring REO in Indianapolis in 1973

Although the rest of the band's lineup remained stable, REO Speedwagon switched lead vocalists three times for their first three albums. Luttrell left the band in early 1972, eventually becoming the vocalist for Starcastle. He was replaced by Kevin Cronin.[4] Cronin recorded one album with the band, 1972's R.E.O./T.W.O. but left during the recording sessions for 1973's Ridin' the Storm Out because of internal conflicts.[7] Ridin' the Storm Out was completed with Michael Bryan Murphy on lead vocal, and featured Doughty's "wailing storm siren" synthesizer intro on the title track. Murphy stayed for two more albums, Lost in a Dream (1974) and This Time We Mean It (1975), before Cronin returned in January 1976 and recorded R.E.O., released in July of that year.[4]

Cronin's return came after Greg X. Volz turned down the position for lead vocalist after becoming a Christian.[8]

In 1977, REO convinced Epic Records that its strength was live performances. Epic agreed to let them produce the band's first live album, Live: You Get What You Play For (January 1977), which was eventually certified platinum.[4] That same year, the band moved to Los Angeles.

Also in 1977, Philbin left the band,[4] either because he was disenchanted with the new corporate-structure REO where Cronin and Richrath got bigger slices of the pie instead of the equal credit they once shared as a "garage band", or because he was asked to leave as his lifestyle issues affected the music quality.[9] He was replaced by another Centennial High School alumnus, Bruce Hall,[3] to record You Can Tune a Piano but You Can't Tuna Fish.[4] The album was released in March 1978 and has received much FM radio airplay over the years, thanks to songs like "Roll with the Changes" and "Time for Me to Fly". It was REO's first to make the Top 40, peaking at No. 29. It sold over two million copies in the US, ultimately achieving double platinum status.

In July 1979 the band turned back to hard rock with the release of Nine Lives.[4]

Mainstream success

On November 21, 1980, Epic released Hi Infidelity,[4] which represented a change in sound, going from hard rock to more pop-oriented material.[10] Hi Infidelity spawned four hit singles by Richrath and Cronin, including the chart-topping "Keep On Loving You" (Cronin),[4] "Take It on the Run" (#5) (Richrath), "In Your Letter" (#20) (Richrath), and "Don't Let Him Go" (#24) (Cronin). It remained on the charts for 65 weeks, 32 of which were spent in the top ten, including 15 weeks atop the Billboard 200. Hi Infidelity sold over ten million copies.

The band's follow-up album, Good Trouble, was released in June 1982.[4] Though not as successful as its predecessor, it performed moderately well commercially and featured the hit singles "Keep the Fire Burnin'" (U.S. #7), "Sweet Time" (U.S. #26), and the Album Rock chart hit "The Key".

In November 1984, the band released Wheels Are Turnin', an album that included the No. 1 hit single "Can't Fight This Feeling" and three more hits: "I Do' Wanna Know" (U.S. #29), "One Lonely Night" (U.S. #19), and "Live Every Moment" (U.S. #34).[4]

REO Speedwagon toured the US in 1985, including a sold-out concert in Madison, Wisconsin, in May.[11] On July 13, on the way to a show in Milwaukee, the band stopped in Philadelphia to play at the US leg of Live Aid, which broke a record for number of viewers. They performed "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Roll with the Changes" with members of the Beach Boys, the band members' families, and Paul Shaffer on stage for backing vocals.

1987's Life as We Know It saw a decline in sales,[4] but still managed to provide the band with the top-20 hits "That Ain't Love" (U.S. #16) and "In My Dreams" (U.S. #19).[12]

The Hits was a 1988 compilation album[4] which contained the new tracks "I Don't Want to Lose You" and "Here with Me". These were the last songs recorded with Richrath and Gratzer. "Here with Me" cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and the top ten on the Adult Contemporary chart and was the group's final Top 40 hit.

Changes in the 1990s

By the late 1980s, the band's popularity was starting to decline.[10] Gratzer left in September 1988 after he decided to retire from music to open a restaurant. In early 1989, Richrath left the band after tensions between him and Cronin boiled over.[13] Cronin had been playing in The Strolling Dudes, a jazz ensemble that included jazz trumpet player Rick Braun (who had co-written "Here with Me" with Cronin), Miles Joseph on lead guitar, and Graham Lear on drums. Lear had already been invited to join REO in September 1988 as Gratzer's successor and Joseph was brought in as a temporary stand-in for Richrath. Backup singers Carla Day and Melanie Jackson were also added. This lineup did only one show, on January 7, 1989, in Viña del Mar, Chile, where it won the award for best group at the city's annual International Song Festival. After that, Joseph and the backup singers were dropped in favor of former Ted Nugent guitarist Dave Amato (brought aboard in May 1989) and keyboardist/songwriter/producer Jesse Harms.

The 1990 release The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken, with Bryan Hitt (formerly of Wang Chung) on drums, was a commercial disappointment.[4] The album produced only one Billboard Hot 100 single, to date the band's last, "Love Is a Rock", which peaked at No. 65. Disenchanted by the album's failure, Harms left the group in early 1991.

Shortly after his departure, Richrath assembled former members of the Midwestern band Vancouver to form a namesake band, Richrath. After touring for several years, Richrath (the band) released Only the Strong Survive in 1992 on the GNP Crescendo label. Richrath continued to perform for several years before disbanding in the late 1990s. In September 1998, Gary Richrath briefly joined REO onstage at the County Fair in Los Angeles to play on the band's encore song, "157 Riverside Avenue". He rejoined REO in Los Angeles in May 2000 for the same encore, but no serious plans for a reunion ever materialized.

Having lost its recording contract with Epic, REO Speedwagon released Building the Bridge (July 1996) on the Priority/Rhythm Safari label. When that label went bankrupt, the album was released on Castle Records, which also experienced financial troubles. REO ultimately self-financed this effort, which failed to chart, though the title track made R&R's AC Top 30 chart.

Revival of the hits

The commercial failure of the band's newer material with its revised lineup demanded a change in marketing strategy. As a consequence, Epic began rereleasing recordings from older albums with updated artwork and design. Since 1995, Epic has released over a dozen compilation albums featuring greatest hits, including 1999's The Ballads, which features two new songs: "Just for You" (Cronin and Jim Peterik) and "Till The River's Run Dry" (Cronin).

In 2000, REO teamed up with Styx for a joint tour, which included a June 9 appearance at Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis, which was released as the live concert video Arch Allies: Live at Riverport (September 2000). REO's portion of the show was released again under three separate titles: Live - Plus (2001), Live Plus 3 (2001) and Extended Versions (2001), which was certified gold by the RIAA on April 26, 2006. REO once again teamed with Styx in 2003 for the Classic Rock's Main Event tour, which included another band from their common rock era, Journey.

2000–present

The band released a self-financed album entitled Find Your Own Way Home in April 2007. Though it did not chart as an album, it produced two singles, "I Needed to Fall" and "Find Your Own Way Home", that appeared on Billboard's Adult Contemporary radio chart.

REO Speedwagon continues to tour regularly, mostly performing their classic hits.[14] It teamed up with Styx to record a new single, "Can't Stop Rockin'", released in March 2009, as well as for a full tour that included special guest .38 Special.[15]

In November 2009 REO Speedwagon released a Christmas album, Not So Silent Night...Christmas with REO Speedwagon.[16] On December 2, the band released an online video game, Find Your Own Way Home, produced by digital design agency Curious Sense. The game was the first "downloadable casual game" produced with a rock band and was cited by numerous publications as an innovative marketing product for a music act.[17] In mid-2010, the band—then touring with Pat Benatar—announced that it would release a 30th anniversary deluxe edition reissue of Hi Infidelity.[18]

Main Street in Champaign, named REO Speedwagon Way in honor of the band

REO Speedwagon headlined on the M&I Classic Rock Stage at the Milwaukee Summerfest on June 30, 2011. On March 11, 2012, Cronin appeared on the Canadian reality TV series Star Académie. He sang a sampling of REO's hits with the show's singing finalists.

On November 22, 2013, REO announced a benefit concert with Styx, "Rock to the Rescue", to raise money for families affected by the tornadoes in central Illinois. The concert was held on December 4, 2013, in Bloomington, Illinois. Richard Marx joined REO on stage for a joint performance of two of his hit songs. Gary Richrath reunited with REO one final time for a performance of "Ridin' the Storm Out" to end REO's set at the sold-out concert. He stayed on stage to help with the encore of "With a Little Help From My Friends", along with Styx, Marx, and others. Richrath was originally from East Peoria, which was damaged during the storm. Families affected by the storm and first responders sat near the stage for this concert.

In early 2014, it was announced that REO Speedwagon and Chicago would team up for 15 dates throughout 2014.[19] Gary Richrath died on September 13, 2015, of complications from surgery.[20] In 2016, REO toured with Def Leppard and Tesla.[21]

The band and Pitbull performed the song "Messin' Around" live on the ABC TV show Greatest Hits in 2016; that version of the song was released as a single on iTunes.[22] The band toured the UK arena circuit with Status Quo in December 2016.[23] The band toured the US with Styx and Don Felder on the "United We Rock" tour, debuting June 20, 2017, at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater.[24] In 2017, the Hi Infidelity album received the Diamond Award for official U.S. sales of over ten million copies.[25] REO and Chicago teamed up again in 2018 for a 30-city tour.[26]

The band appeared in an episode in the third season of the American TV series Ozark, which was released on Netflix on March 27, 2020. After the appearance, four of REO's songs reentered the Billboard rock charts.[27] The song "Take it on the Run" features prominently in a 2018 episode of the first season of the TV series "Cobra Kai"; Daniel and Johnny are riding in Johnny's car when the song comes on the radio. Both men begin nodding their heads to the song, and Johnny, with some surprise, says to Daniel, "You like Speedwagon?" Daniel replies, "What kind of man doesn't!"

In 2021 REO Speedwagon was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum in Joliet.[28] The group spent summer 2022 touring with Styx, on the Live and Unzoomed Tour, with Loverboy serving as the opening act.

Gregg Philbin died on October 24, 2022.[29][30]

On January 4, 2023, the band announced that its sole remaining original member, Neal Doughty, would retire from touring with the band after 55 years.[31] Bassist Bruce Hall said Doughty would always be part of the REO brotherhood, and left open the opportunity for Doughty to appear at select dates.[32] The band announced Derek Hilland (ex-Iron Butterfly) as a touring replacement for Doughty.[33][34]

On November 7, 2023, Hall announced he was taking a leave of absence from touring to prepare for and undergo back surgery for an accident he had a number of years earlier. Hall is expected to rejoin the band on tour in 2024. Later that day, Cronin announced that bassist/singer Matt Bissonette would be Hall's touring replacement.[35]

Band members

Main article: List of REO Speedwagon members

Current members

Non-performing

Former members

Touring substitutes

Touring guests

Discography

Main article: REO Speedwagon discography

Studio albums

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ From around July 2005 until around September 2017, Gratzer made occasional live guest performances, playing percussion only.
  2. ^ Rumors began circulating around 2001 that Richrath would temporarily rejoin; however, nothing came of this. He also planned to return to the band in 2016, but stomach problems and his death on September 13, 2015, prevented him from returning to the group.
  3. ^ Greg never recorded/toured with the band, but rehearsed.
  4. ^ Doughty was absent from the REO Speedwagon Unplugged Live in Washington XM Radio show in early April 2007, with producer Joe Vannelli filling-in on keyboards. Vannelli also performed additional piano, Hammond organ, and synthesizer on the 2007 album Find Your Own Way Home, recorded between 2005 and 2006.
  5. ^ With Doughty's retirement from touring being announced in January 2023, Derek Hilland has been filling-in for Doughty live since January 2023.
  6. ^ With Hall's hiatus to have back surgery in November 2023, Matt Bissonette will fill in for Hall, who is expected to return in 2024.
  7. ^ John Aldridge, Bryan Hitt's drum tech since July 2005, performed additional percussion parts live from around July 2005 until around February 2017. He also performed drums at soundchecks when Bryan was running late.

Citations

  1. ^ Hi Infidelity AllMusic. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  2. ^ "REO Speedwagon | New Music And Songs". MTV.com. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Famous residents, former residents". Champaign News-Gazette. January 15, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Larkin, Colin, ed. (1997). "REO Speedwagono". The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1006. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  5. ^ Romag, James (2023). REO Speedwagon: Every Album, Every song (On Track). Sonicbond Publishing. ISBN 978-1789522624.
  6. ^ "MusicMoz - Bands and Artists: R: REO Speedwagon: Timeline".
  7. ^ Sheff, David (March 23, 1981). "Now It's Cheat to the Beat, as Reo Speedwagon Finally Arrives with 'Hi Infidelity'". People. Vol. 15, no. 11. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  8. ^ Karp, Jonathan (July 16, 1985). "Born-Again Techno-Rock". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  9. ^ "REO Speedwagon". En.allexperts.com. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 810–811. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  11. ^ "Box Score Top Grossing Concerts". Billboard. June 1, 1985. pp. 48–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  12. ^ "Artist Chart History - REO Speedwagon". Billboard. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
  13. ^ "REO Speedwagon Will Dedicate Every Show to Late Guitarist Gary Richrath 'Probably Forever'". Billboard. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  14. ^ "REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin on Louisville, power ballads and if my wife's a slut". Louisville.com. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
  15. ^ "Styx, REO Speedwagon Team Up For "Rockin'" Tour, Single". Billboard. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  16. ^ "Myspace". Blogs.myspace.com. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  17. ^ Elli, Stuart (December 2, 2009). "REO Speedwagon Rocks On as a Game". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  18. ^ "REO Speedwagon Plans 'Hi Infidelty' 30th Anniversary Reissue, Tour". Billboard. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  19. ^ "Live Nation Announces REO Speedwagon And Chicago Summer Tour". AllAccess.com. January 13, 2014. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  20. ^ "Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon dies". Music-News.com. September 14, 2015. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  21. ^ "Def Leppard Announce Summer Tour With REO Speedwagon and Tesla". Ultimateclassicrock.com. February 29, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  22. ^ "Messin Around - Single (United States)". iTunes Store. Apple Inc. June 29, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  23. ^ "UK TOUR WITH STATUS QUO & THE LOUNGE KITTENS ANNOUNCED". Reospeedwagon.com. March 21, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  24. ^ "Styx, REO Speedwagon, Don Felder Ready for 'United We Rock' U.S. Tour, Starting June 20th". AllAccess.com. February 16, 2017. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  25. ^ "REO Speedwagon's 'Hi Infidelity' receives 10× Diamond Award". Upi.com. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  26. ^ Filcman, Debra (February 5, 2018). "Chicago and REO Speedwagon Announce Co-Headlining Summer Tour". ultimateclassicrock.com. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  27. ^ April 2020, Scott Munro14 (April 14, 2020). "REO Speedwagon drive back into the charts thanks to Ozark appearance". Classic Rock Magazine. Retrieved April 16, 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ "Illinois Rock & Roll Museum on Route 66". roadtorock.org/.
  29. ^ "Gregg Philbin". reospeedwagon.com/.
  30. ^ "Former REO Speedwagon Bassist Gregg Philbin Has Died". October 24, 2022.
  31. ^ "REO Speedwagon's Neal Doughty Announces Retirement from Touring". January 4, 2023.
  32. ^ "A Statement from REO Speedwagon – January 2023 - REO Speedwagon".
  33. ^ "Introducing Derek Hilland - REO Speedwagon".
  34. ^ "REO Speedwagon rolls with changes".
  35. ^ "Update on Bruce - REO Speedwagon".
  36. ^ https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=936828941144955&id=100044535725630&mibextid=mXkcHE
  37. ^ a b "live at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK". www.queenconcerts.com. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  38. ^ a b "REO Speedwagon with Larry the Cable Guy – Roll with the Changes". YouTube. December 9, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2016.