Since you know REO Speedwagon’s line up from my post yesterday, let’s focus a bit on their formation, first album and how those line up changes actually played out.
In the fall of 1966, Neal Doughty entered the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, coming in as a junior. On his first night, he met another student, Alan Gratzer.
Doughty started to follow around Gratzer’s band, eventually sitting in on a song or two. The keyboard player was the leader, but several other band members weren’t happy with the situation. On the last day of the university’s spring semester, guitarist Joe Matt called the band’s leader and told him that he, drummer Alan, and bassist Mike Blair had decided to leave the band and start a new one with Neal. They made a list of songs to learn over the summer break, and Doughty got a summer job to buy his first keyboard.
They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck Doughty had studied in transportation history. Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did, they chose to spell out the name with the individual letters each pronounced. The first line up consisted of Doughty on keyboards, Gratzer on drums and vocals, 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, respectively. Marty Shepard played trumpet and Joe McCabe played sax at this time until McCabe moved away. Crownover played guitar for the group until the summer of 1969 when Bill Fiorio replaced him. Fiorio then departed in late 1969 and Steve Scorfina came aboard for over a year, composing with the band and performing live, before being replaced by Gary Richrath in late 1970.
The band signed to Epic Records in 1971 and recorded original material for its first album in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The lineup on the first album consisted of Richrath, Gratzer, Doughty, Philbin, and Luttrell. Their debut album was released that same year.
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