REO Speedwagon

From Academic Kids

REO Speedwagon is a rock band which grew in popularity in the Midwestern United States during the 1970s. The band reached international stardom in the early 1980s, and continues to record and perform. The band had number one hits with "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling". Both songs are power ballads, the former being prototypical of the genre and appearing on the group's most commercially successful album, Hi Infidelity. Earlier REO songs "Ridin' the Storm Out", "Golden Country", "Roll with the Changes", and "Time for Me to Fly" enjoy continuous rotation on classic rock radio stations.



REO Speedwagon took its name from the Reo Speed-Wagon, a truck manufactured by the REO automobile company. ("REO" are initials the company's founder, Ransom Eli Olds, who also lent his name to the Oldsmobile division of General Motors.) The name was suggested to fellow bandmates by keyboard player Neal Doughty, who was enrolled as an engineering student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, and who learned about the truck in a history of transportation class.

REO Speedwagon was formed in the fall of 1967 by Doughty and dormmate drummer, Alan Gratzer, to play cover tunes in campus bars. Numerous early personnel changes eventually resulted in Gary Richrath joining the band. Richrath was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitar player and prolific songwriter who brought original material to the band. With Richrath on board, the regional popularity of the band grew tremendously. The midwestern United States remains an REO fan stronghold and has its roots in this period of the band's history.

Paul Leka, an east coast-based record producer, brought the band to a recording studio where they recorded original material for their first album. The line-up on the first album was Doughty on keyboards, Gratzer on drums, Richrath on guitar, Gregg Philbin on bass, and Terry Luttrell singing.

The band's debut album was the eponymous REO Speedwagon, released on Epic Records in 1971. One of the most popular tracks on this record was "157 Riverside Avenue". The title refers to the Westport, Connecticut address where the band stayed while in the studio, and remains an in-concert favorite with fans to this day.

Although the rest of the band's line-up remained stable, REO switched lead vocalists three times for their first three albums. Luttrell left the band shortly after recording its debut album, and was replaced with singer/songwriter/guitarist Kevin Cronin. Cronin recorded one album with the band, 1972's R.E.O./T.W.O., but left the band soon after over creative disagreements. "Ridin' the Storm Out" was the band's third release with as many singers; this time Mike Murphy. Murphy stayed on for two more albums before Cronin returned to the fold in 1976.

REO Speedwagon's first live album, You Get What You Play for (1977), proved to be the first real commercial success and was certified platinum. The band was always dissatisfied with the producers on their studio albums because they continually failed to capture on tape the same quality as the band's energetic and ever-popular live show. The live album, which was self-produced, changed that. Indeed, all subsequent albums would have band members participating as producers.

Philbin was replaced with Bruce Hall in 1978 in time to record You Can Tune a Piano but You Can't Tuna Fish. The album contained the first of many of the band's Top-40 hits, "Roll with the Changes".

The lineup was now set for the band's most popular period. In 1980, REO Speedwagon released Hi Infidelity, which represented a change in the music from hard rock to more pop-oriented material. Hi Infidelity spawned several hit singles, and remained atop the charts for 65 weeks, 32 of which were spent in the top ten.

Good Trouble (1982) and Wheels Are Turnin' (1984) were follow-up albums which also did well commercially. In addition, the band performed at 1985's Live Aid.

By the end of the 1980s, Gratzer retired and Richrath left to start his own band. The 1990 release The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken with Bryan Hitt on drums and Dave Amato on guitar is one of the band's favorite albums. Unhappy with the lack of promotion, REO Speedwagon left Epic Records and ultimately landed with Castle records to release Building the Bridge (1996). The title song was used as President Clinton's re-election campaign theme, and REO Speedwagon played at the Midwest Innaugural Ball on January 20, 1997.

The band has released several compilation albums featuring their greatest hits, including 1999's "Ballads." The following year, the band recorded a concert with Styx called "Arch Allies - Live at Riverport", and re-released it as a solo album with additional songs called "Live: Plus." The band was then picked by Epic, along with such artists as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, to record a two-disc "Essentials" compilation.

In 2005, REO Speedwagon continues their rigorous touring, selling out venues all over the United States. They are also recording a new album, The Brotherhood, which will be released in the spring of 2006.



  • 1980 A Decade of Rock and Roll 1970 to 1980
  • 1985 Best Foot Forward
  • 1988 The Hits
  • 1991 Keep On Loving You - Best (Germany)
  • 1991 Second Decade of Rock and Roll 1981 to 1991
  • 1999 The Ballads
  • 2000 Arch Allies: Live at Riverport
  • 2001 Live: Plus
  • 2004 Essential REO Speedwagon

Concert Videos

  • 1981 Live Infidelity
  • 1985 Wheels Are Tourin'
  • 1991 Video Anthology 1978 - 1990
  • 2000 Styx and REO Speedwagon Arch Allies Live at Riverport
  • 2001 Live - Plus
  • 2001 Live Plus 3
  • 2002 Extended Versions - The DVD Collections
  • 2002 Real Artists Working

External links

REO Speedwagon Official Website ( Speedwagon pt:REO Speedwagon


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