REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

Bryan Hitt (Drums), Bruce Hall (Bass Guitar), Kevin Cronin (lead vocals, guitar), Dave Amato (Lead Guitar), Neal Doughty (Keyboards)

Often times when someone asks me what kind of music I listen to or who my favorite band is, they become confused. I tell them REO Speedwagon and they tell me “Who the hell is that?” It never fails.

As an 18 year old, I sometimes ask myself, how the heck did I become an REO Speedwagon junkie? And I’m not 100% sure how to answer that exactly. All I know is that I was introduced to them on Fourth of July weekend in 2008 and I’ve been a fan since. I came home from a local July 4th celebration and returned home a bit before midnight. My parents were watching some band perform on the Iowa Public Television and I went into the other room to get on the computer.

I could hear the TV from the other room but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Until one familiar sounding song came on. (If you’d like a trip down my memory lane, watch this video. This is exactly the song and video that caught my attention.) I asked my mom who was performing on TV and she told me “REO Speedwagon.”

REO whaaaat? I had heard the name before but I had no idea that it was a band, yet alone my new favorite band, but I sure was intrigued! Within one month I had bought their “The Hits” album, downloaded numerous REO Speedwagon videos, and bought the very DVD that was showing on IPTV that night (Sound Stage: Live In The Heartland). I was well on my way to my REO-fan-ism.

REO Speedwagon’s roots go all the way back to 1967 in Champaign, IL when University of Illinois student Neal Doughty started a small band, performing covers of songs around the area. Where did he come up with the band name? How about a transportation history class when he walked in one day, and the words “REO Speedwagon” were scribbled on the chalkboard. An REO Speedwagon was originally a flat bed truck, typically used as a firetruck, created by Oldsmobile founder, Ransom Eli Olds (REO).

Hi Infidelity: REO

The band went through various changes through the 1970s and finally struck gold in 1980 with the release of the album “Hi Infidelity.” This album contained their first number one hit, “Keep On Loving You,” along with other big hits “Don’t Let Him Go”, “Take It On The Run”, and “Tough Guys”.

Gratzer, Hall, Cronin, Doughty, Richrath

With Kevin Cronin on lead vocals, Gary Richrath on lead guitar (these two are the masterminds and writers behind the majority of REO Speedwagon’s songs), Bruce Hall on bass guitar, Neal Doughty on keyboards, and Alan Gratzer on drums, REO Speedwagon saw the early 1980s as the band’s most successful stint. With follow up albums “Good Trouble”, “Wheels Are Turning”, and “Life As We Know It” throughout the 80s, REO kept the material fresh, but success didn’t come as easily. Popularity dropped and internal problems plagued the band. Gary Richrath left the band after “differences in musical direction and creativity” with band leader Cronin, and Alan Gratzer jumped ship (or truck for that matter) to spend more time with his family. This left a gaping hole in the band and left fans unsure of the band’s future.

REO Speedwagon in the '90s

REO in the

1988-1990 was a transition period for the band. With Richrath and Gratzer out, a few people came and went, but in 1990 the current REO lineup was solidified with the addition of former Ted Nugent guitarist Dave Amato and Wang Chung drummer Bryan Hitt. The early ’90s continued to prove as a struggle for the band with new material not striking a nerve with a fan. From 1995 on, the band concentrated on going back to their roots and reviving their biggest hits. From compilation albums to new tours, REO Speedwagon was back on the road to success.

The 2000s brought tours with Journey, Styx, Def Leppard, Night Ranger, .38 Special, etc. and allowed REO Speedwagon to prove they were still a force to be reckoned with, even in large venues.

With a current lineup with 20 years together under their belt, REO Speedwagon has continued touring all year round, have released two new studio albums since 2007, and even have a computer game based on them!

They pack their shows with enthusiasm, youthful energy, and sound just as good or better now than they ever have. If you have a chance to see REO Speedwagon in concert, DO SO! You won’t be disappointed! If you need a second opinion on that, check this out.

Since July of 2008, I have amassed quite the REO collection.  I’ve seen these arena rock legends live in concert twice and plan on letting that number grow.  I own over a dozen CDs (including every studio album since 1977), a few DVDs, several shirts, a pocket watch, and thanks to my new Ebay account, I can assure you all that my collection will continue to grow.

On August 17, 2010, I saw REO Speedwagon live in concert for the second time in my life. One would think that standing in the front row of a concert would be good enough. But not for me. I got a backstage pass for after the show and had a chance to spend time with the band, getting pictures with and autographs from each member. It was easily the best night of my life. You can check out my pictures from that night here.

Some think I’m a bit weird for being as big of fan of REO Speedwagon as I am, but it’s a feeling that I can’t help but fight and I have every intention to keep on lovin’ REO Speedwagon.

REO Speedwagon has had it’s ups and downs and they’ve rolled with the changes, but they keep pushin’ and are certainly back on the road again. (REO fans will get this. If not, become one!)

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