Kevin Cronin - guitar, piano, vocals; Neal Doughty - keyboards; Alan Gratzer - drums; Bruce Hall - bass; Gary Richrath - guitar, vocals
One of the key acts that defined "corporate" rock, as it has come to be known (also known by the gimmicky term "arena rock"), REO Speedwagon became one of the most popular bands of the 1980s and one of the best sellers, despite the fact that they were almost universally shunned by music critics. It would take a decade and three lead vocalists, but by the time this recording was made for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, REO Speedwagon (named for a brand of tractor-trailer) would be one of the biggest bands in the world, having released a number of platinum albums, including 1981's Hi Infidelity, which yielded several hit singles (including the ultimate power ballad, "Keep On Lovin' You") and sold a staggering nine million-plus copies.
Originally formed by drummer Alan Gratzer and keyboardist Neal Doughty while both were students at the University of Illinois in 1969, the band soon recruited flash guitarist Gary Richrath, and rounded out the membership with a vocalist named Terry Luttrell and bassist Greg Philbin. By 1971, they were being managed by an ambitious young music entrepreneur named Irv Azoff and had a deal on Epic Records. When the first album failed to chart, Luttrell left and was replaced by vocalist/guitarist Kevin Cronin. With R.E.O./T.W.O., they got considerably closer to their trademark sound, but again, when sales were mediocre, they fired Cronin and enlisted another lead vocalist, Mike Murphy. Murphy sang on the band's first real radio hit, "Ridin' The Storm Out," but by the time they finished touring for their fifth album, 1975's This Time We Mean It, the band once again had no front man. They soon realized they had made a huge mistake asking Cronin to leave and promptly invited him back.
Cronin came back, but this time, he took greater control of the band and their music. By the time this recording was made, REO had begun embracing the "power ballad," whereby hard driving instrumentation would often be blended into a commercial pop song. The result was REO classics such as "Time For Me To Fly" and "Keep On Lovin' You," both of which are featured here. Eventually, the hits stopped for REO, and by the mid-1990s, only Cronin, Hall and Doughty remained from this version of the band. They have remained a steady touring act, often sharing the stage with other giants of that era, Journey and Styx.