The band, Reo Speedwagon got its name from the REO Speed Wagon that is a truck manufactured by the REO Motor Car Company (the predecessor to today's Nucor). It was suggested to fellow band mates by keyboard player Neal Doughty, who learned about the truck at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a class about the history of transportation. The gifted band was formed in the fall of 1967 by Doughty and dorm-mate drummer Alan Gratzer to play cover songs in campus bars. Many early personnel changes eventually resulted in Gary Richrath's joining the band. Richrath was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitar player and prolific songwriter who brought original material to the band. The regional fame of the band grew tremendously, with Richrath as a member. The Midwestern United States remains an Reo Speedwagon fan stronghold, and has its roots in this period of the band's history.
Moreover, in 1971, the Reo Speedwagon signed to Epic Records. Paul Leka, an East Coast record producer, brought the band to a recording studio, where it recorded original material for its first album. Their debut album was the eponymous REO Speedwagon, released on Epic Records by 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 recording in Leka's studio in nearby Bridgeport, and remains an in-concert favorite.
Though the rest of the band's line-up remained stable, Reo Speedwagon changed lead vocalists three times for their first three albums. Terry Luttrell left the band shortly after the group recorded its debut album, becoming the vocalist for Starcastle. He was replaced by Kevin Cronin, who 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 missed rehearsals and creative disagreements. Ridin' the Storm Out was completed with Mike Murphy on the microphone. Murphy stayed on for two more albums, Lost In A Dream and This Time We Mean It, before Kevin Cronin returned to the fold in 1976 and recorded R.E.O.
Reo Speedwagon's first live album, Live: You Get What You Play For in 1977, was the band's first real commercial success and was certified platinum. The band had always been not contented with the producers on their studio albums, because they continually failed to capture on tape the quality of the band's live show. The live album that was self-produced, changed that. Indeed, all subsequent albums would have band members participating as producers.
By 1978, Gregg Philbin was replaced with Bruce Hall, 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. This was followed up in 1979 with the band's hardest rocking album, Nine Lives.
The talented band was now set for the band's most popular period. By 1980, Reo Speedwagon released Hi Infidelity that represented a change in the music from hard rock to more pop-oriented material. Hi Infidelity produced several hit singles, including the #1 Keep On Loving You and the #5 Take It On the Run, and remained on the charts for 65 weeks, 32 of which were spent in the top ten. It went on to become the biggest-selling rock record of 1981.
However, Good Trouble and Wheels Are Turnin' were follow-up albums, which also did well commercially, the former containing the #2 hit single Keep The Fire Burnin' and the latter containing the #1 hit single Can't Fight This Feeling and the lesser hits One Lonely Night and I Do' Wanna Know. Moreover, the band performed at 1985's Live Aid.
Reo Speedwagon is indeed a talented band. They have proven they worth as gifted artists of the music industry.
REO Speedwagon Los Angeles Greek Theatre