REO Speedwagon is an American rock band from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois United States. Formed in 1967, the band grew in popularity during the 1970s and peaked in the early 1980s. REO Speedwagon has charted two number one songs, "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling", both power ballads. Their 1980 album Hi Infidelity is the group's most commercially successful album, selling over 10 million copies and charting four Top 40 hits in the US. Over the course of its career, the band has sold more than 40 million records and has charted 13 Top 40 hits including "Take It on the Run" and "Keep the Fire Burnin'". REO Speedwagon's popularity has declined over the years but the band still tours regularly and remains popular on the fair and casino circuits and teams up with other acts to play larger venues.
REO Speedwagon took its name from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck and fire engine, manufactured by the REO Motor Car Company. ("R.E.O." are initials of the company's founder, Ransom Eli Olds, who also founded Oldsmobile, once a division of General Motors.) The band was hauled to gigs by a friend who owned an REO Speedwagon. Since they could not pay him, they agreed to name the band after him (or at least his car.)
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 first line up consisted of Alan Gratzer on drums and vocals, Neal 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 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. 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 "Ridin' 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.
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.
The band released a self-financed album entitled Find Your Own Way Home in April 2007. Though it did not chart as an album, it produced two singles which appeared on Billboard's Adult Contemporary radio chart.
REO Speedwagon continues to tour regularly, performing mostly their classic hits. They are popular on the fair and casino circuits, but still team with other acts to play large venues. They teamed up with Styx to record a new single entitled "Can't Stop Rockin'", released in March 2009, as well as for a full tour that includes special guest .38 Special.
In November 2009, REO Speedwagon released a Christmas album entitled "Not So Silent Night...Christmas with REO Speedwagon."
On December 2, 2009, REO Speedwagon released an online video game, Find Your Own Way Home, produced by digital design agency, Curious Sense. The game was the first "downloadable casual game" produced with a rock band and was cited by numerous publications including the New York Times as an innovative marketing product for a music act.