A rock band that began in 1967, much of REO Speedwagon's commercial success came about in the 1980s. Known for blending both hard and softer rock styles over the course of their career and live sets, REO Speedwagon features the vocal talent of Kevin Cronin. He has been a permanent frontman since 1976, having also served in the band from 1972 to 1973. Prior to Cronin, the band had been fronted by Terry Luttrell, who went on to form Starcastle.
Neal Doughty is the only original member of the band still playing. Bruce Hall became the group's bassist in 1977 and has provided guitar work and backing vocals ever since. Dave Amato, on lead guitar, and Bryan Hilt, on drums, both joined in 1989. The band has enjoyed a settled lineup since then.
REO Speedwagon's early years
Touring the mid-western states of America in their first few years together, the band was finally picked up by a record label in 1971, when they signed to Epic. The group's debut LP soon followed. This self-titled work featured eight tracks. Several albums and various personnel changes followed, until the format finally settled down with REO, the band's sixth studio LP. It reached number 159 in the Billboard 200 charts.
REO Speedwagon's mainstream breakthrough
In 1977, REO Speedwagon's musicians convinced their record label bosses that a live album would be the best way of showcasing the band. Epic agreed to the idea of a first live album, and they even let the band produce it. Live: You Get What You Play For was the resulting work. It would go on to achieve platinum-selling status. At this time, the entire band relocated to Los Angeles, California.
By 1980, REO Speedwagon had morphed into performing in a more accessible, even poppier style. Their new sound was captured on the 1980 album Hi Infidelity, a number one hit in the US. It reached number 6 in the UK in 1981. This album spawned a string of hits in both Europe and North America, including the top-selling “Keep on Loving You”, penned by Cronin. A slightly less successful album followed, called Good Trouble.
In 1985, the band had another number one single by the name of “Can't Fight this Feeling”. It was taken from the album Wheels Are Turnin', which was another commercial success. Another hit album was released in 1987.
Since the late 1980s, the band has continued to tour and perform, although they have not achieved the same level of their earlier successes. A Christmas album came out in 2009. In 2016, the band embarked on a tour with hard rockers Def Leppard.