Monday, 20 April 2009
Reo Speed Wagon
REO Speedwagon was formed by students attending the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois in the fall of 1967 to play cover songs in campus bars. The band’s name came from Ransom Eli Olds (REO) an early 20th Century truck manufacturer of the Speedwagon model, commonly used for fire engines. The first line up consisted of Alan Gratzer on drums and vocals, Neil Doughty on keyboards, Joe Matt on guitar and vocals and Mike Blair on bass and vocals. In the spring of 1968, Terry Luttrell became lead singer, and Bob Crownover and Gregg Philbin replaced Matt and Blair. Joe McCabe played sax at this time until moving to SIU. 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. Another guitarist, Steve Scorfina, came aboard briefly, and was replaced by Gary Richrath in late 1970.
Richrath was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitar player and prolific songwriter who brought original material to the band including REO’s signature song “PlayRidin’ the Storm Out”. 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.