REO Speedwagon

* REO Speedwagon 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. 
 
In the fall of 1966, Neal Doughty entered the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, coming in as a junior. On his first night, he met another student, Alan Gratzer. They held an impromptu jam session in the basement of their Illinois Street Residence Hall dormitory, and soon started a rock band. Gratzer had been a drummer since high school, and was playing in a local group on the weekends, while Doughty had learned some  Beatles  songs on his parents' piano.
 
Doughty started to follow around Gratzer's band, eventually sitting in on a song or two. The keyboard player was the leader, but several other band members were unhappy with the situation. On the last day of the university's spring semester, guitarist Joe Matt called the band's leader and told him that he, drummer Gratzer, and bassist Mike Blair had decided to leave the band and start a new one with Doughty.
 
They made a list of songs to learn over the summer break, and Doughty landed a summer job to buy his first keyboard. On his Farfisa organ, he learned *" Light My Fire " by  The Doors . The members returned to school in the fall of 1967, and had their first rehearsal before classes even started. They named the band REO Speedwagon , from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck Doughty had studied in transportation history, and the initials are those of its founder Ransom E. Olds. Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did, they chose to spell out the name with the individual letters each pronounced ("R-E-O"). An ad 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. The first lineup consisted of Doughty on keyboards, Gratzer on drums and vocals, Joe Matt on guitar and vocals, Mike Blair on bass and vocals.
 
In early 1968, Terry Luttrell became lead singer, and Bob Crownover joined as the guitar player, replacing Matt. When Mike Blair left the band in the summer of 1968, Gregg Philbin replaced Blair, Marty Shepard played trumpet and Joe McCabe played sax until McCabe moved to Southern Illinois University. Crownover played guitar for the group until the summer of 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 would go on to found progressive rock/album-oriented rock 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 was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitarist and prolific songwriter who brought fresh original material to the band. With Richrath on board, the regional popularity of the band grew tremendously. The Midwestern United States was the original REO Speedwagon fan stronghold and is pivotal in this period of the band's history.
 
The band signed to Epic Records in 1971. Paul Leka, an East Coast record producer, brought the band to his recording studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut where it recorded original material for its first album. The lineup on the first album consisted of Richrath, Gratzer, Doughty, Philbin, and Luttrell.
 
With their equipment being hauled to dates in a friend's station wagon, REO played bars and clubs all over the Midwest. The band's debut album, * R.E.O. Speedwagon , was released on Epic Records in 1971. The most popular track on this record was *" 157 Riverside Avenue ". The title refers to the Westport, Connecticut address, where the band stayed while recording in Leka's studio in Bridgeport and remains an in-concert favorite.
 
Although the rest of the band's line-up 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 . Cronin recorded one album with the band, 1972's * R.E.O./T.W.O . but left the band during the recording sessions for 1973's * Ridin' the Storm Out  because of internal conflicts. Ridin' the Storm Out was completed with Michael Bryan Murphy on lead vocal, and featured Neal Doughty's memorable "wailing storm siren" entrance on the title track. Murphy stayed on for two more albums, * Lost in a Dream  and * This Time We Mean It , before Cronin returned to the fold in January 1976 and recorded * R.E.O ., which was released that same year.
 
Cronin's return came after Greg X. Volz turned down the position for lead vocalist after becoming a born-again Christian.
In 1977 REO convinced Epic Records that their strength was in their live performances. Epic agreed to let them produce their first live album, * Live: You Get What You Play For , which was eventually certified platinum. That same year, the band moved to Los Angeles, California.
 
In 1977 bassist Gregg Philbin left the band. Depending upon which band member is expressing an opinion, it was either because Philbin 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 he was asked to leave over his lifestyle issues affecting the music quality. Philbin was replaced with another Champaign, Illinois musician, Centennial High School alumnus, Bruce Hall, to record * You Can Tune a Piano but You Can't Tuna Fish . The album was released in 1978 and received FM radio airplay. The album was REO's first to make the Top 40, peaking at #29. The album went on to sell over 2 million copies in the US, ultimately achieving double platinum status.
In 1979 the band took a turn back to hard rock with the release of * Nine Lives.
 
* Hi Infidelity  (1980) contained four US Top 40 hits and is the group's best-selling album, with over ten million copies sold.
  

  

Posted by ClassicRockA-Z

​Source - Wikipedia

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