Sure, you can call the members of REO Speedwagon rock stars. But if you have to label them, here’s the more accurate term they prefer: Working musicians.
Formed in 1967, signed in 1971 and fronted by iconic vocalist Kevin Cronin since 1972, REO Speedwagon has – for decades – been a confounding blend of consistency and change.
They rode in station wagons, going from tiny gigs to even tinier gigs, just to get the REO name out in the early days. Later they rode the top of the charts with a RIAA certified 22 million albums sold in the U.S. and 40 million around the globe, with a string of gold and platinum records and international hit singles. The 9-times certified Hi Infidelity remains a high-water mark for rock bands.
Make all the “Ridin’ The Storm Out” or “Roll With The Changes” cracks you want, but that’s exactly what the band has done. REO Speedwagon has that Midwest work ethic.
The band has gone onstage and in the studio and done the work, year after year – dozens of albums, hundreds (thousands?) of concerts, infinite radio spins. The eyes have always been on the future and on the road – not a year has gone by where REO Speedwagon didn’t perform live, thrilling fans with hits like “Keep On Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
And yes, they do roll with the changes. With the modern-day music industry disintegrating, the band members recorded Find Your Own Way Home in 2007 and put it out themselves through Walmart – and personally drove to radio stations across the country to get it heard. Ultimately the album, (yes, REO Speedwagon still makes albums, not a bunch of songs), had more success than it would ever see with a record company. Whatever the band members need to do to connect with fans, they do it.
“We're still doing it and still going strong,” Cronin says.
Cronin (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards) has always cast an eye to the future, along with band-mates Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards), Dave Amato (lead guitar)