Fans Keep on Loving REO
On the record with Neal Doughty
It amazes Neal Doughty the number of young children who know every lyric to REO Speedwagon's songs.
Their parents weren't even born yet when the band formed in 1967. Signed in 1971 and fronted by iconic vocalist Kevin Cronin since 1972, REO Speedwagon is a band that still works to improve itself. Doughty is the only founding member still with the group and the only one to play on every album.
REO (named after the precursor to the light truck) rode to gigs in station wagons, hopping from small gigs to get its name out. And that it has.
The explosive "Hi Infidelity" album received the Recording Industry Association of America's 10X Diamond Award for surpassing sales of 10 million units in the United States. Doughty said concertgoers can expect to hear such hits as "Keep On Loving You" and "Take It On the Run" since that album is popular with the public.
Band members also enjoy playing their own favorites, Doughty's being "I Can't Fight This Feeling" because he and Cronin worked hard on it for a long time. "I can't mess that one up," he said.
Band members hear each other perfectly through monitors to keep track of when each does something great or makes a mistake. Watch for them shooting a smile or grimace at one another, respectfully, if so. He said they try to outdo each other every night.
Doughty said he messed up a few notes recently and went home to practice, even after playing the song 30 years. He said he enjoys "a few thousand screams" from the crowd to provide energy and would not likely play every night in his living room just for his wife and dog at home in California, "which they like, by the way."
"They're a good audience," he added.
A lot of bands are not together very long when success hits early, Doughty said. Early years can tear a group apart when they are "not in the picture as big as they'd like to be." After 10 to 12 years, that doesn't matter anymore, he said. Doughty said REO Speedwagon never initially had an ego problem internally and still doesn't.
It's a standard answer among musicians, but Doughty said the Beatles influenced him after they emerged. "I immediately wanted to be in a band," he said. There was an old piano in his parents' basement that he used to teach himself how to play. "You can tell sometimes," he said. "I developed a style by working around my limitations. Therefore, I have a lot of styles."
"You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish," another album, is known for its great name, which Doughty said comes from a really old black-and-white movie that a friend said would make a great title.
The band will not likely release a full album any time soon because it is hard to pull out 12 songs, he said. "Now people like to download things and make playlists by song," Doughty said.
Last July the members of REO Speedwagon were voted the top musicians in Illinois history by participants in the "Illinois Top 200" project, a part of the state's bicentennial celebration. Let's welcome them back to Louisiana at the Horseshoe Riverdome on Friday, May 31, at 8 p.m.