As with many bands, there are core members that define the sound and image of the band. If you take them away, you merely have a poor version of a namesake. You could even travel the band with most members intact. But remove that one defining core member, and the whole thing just melts into the ether of time.

That completely describes the work of Gary Richrath in R.E.O. Speedwagon. It was his guitar, and his contributions that helped to elevate the band to the top of the heap that they arrived at after a string of under-performing albums that include my much-loved R.E.O./T.W.O. (1972). It wasn’t until their Live set, Live: You Get What You Play For (1977), that the band began to gain stature in the Rock world. Their next studio issue, You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish (1978) elevated them even further. That breakout studio set was followed by more big hits sets (Nine Lives – 1979, Hi-Infidelity – 1981, Good Trouble – 1982). By 1989, Gary Richrath had left the band over the usual ‘directions’ dispute.

On September 13, Gary Richrath left this world for his Golden Country at the too young age of 65. While he was fairly unproductive for a number of years, his presence is still keenly felt.

Not only will I play R.E.O.\T.W.O. in tribute to Gary, I will enjoy “Flying Turkey Trot” (“…how about a little turkey music, y’all?”) in honor of the man who defined REO Speedwagon!

Bob Wirtz Pictures

Gary Richrath



By MARowe