Gary Richrath, best known as the lead guitarist for the classic rock band REO Speedwagon, died on Sunday. He was 65.
The news was announced by REO frontman Kevin Cronin on the band’s Facebook page. No cause of death has been revealed at this time.
REO Speedwagon formed in 1967 with Richrath joining in 1970, the year prior to the release of the band’s self-titled debut album. Hailing from East Peoria, IL, the guitarist would continue with the group through 1989, penning many tracks throughout his career with them, such as rock classics “Ridin’ the Storm Out” and “Take It on the Run,” the latter of which made it into the top 5 on the music charts. He also appeared on REO’s 1980 breakout commercial album Hi Infidelity, which included the chart-topping rock ballad “Keep On Loving You,” and 1984’s Wheels Are Turnin’, which contained another power ballad hit, “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
Though he enjoyed a successful career with REO, being a part of the group’s classic hit-making years through 12 studio albums, Richrath was one of the great yet underrated guitarists of rock, although he contributed many memorable guitar solos for the aforementioned tunes, as well as on songs like “Roll With The Changes,” “Don’t Let Him Go,” “Back On The Road Again,” and many more.
After leaving REO in 1989, Richrath put out a solo album Only the Strong Survive in 1992 under the band name Richrath, which he performed with until the late 1990s, and in 2013, he participated in the REO/Styx “Rock to the Rescue” benefit concert for victims of a tornado that hit Illinois that year.
Here’s what Cronin posted to the REO Facebook page about Richrath’s passing:
Hi friends, kc here. My longtime friend and collaborator Gary Richrath passed away earlier today. I feel so sad. Gary was both a unique guitarist and songwriter, and the embodiment of the tough guy with a heart of gold. I learned most of what I know about being in a rock band from Gary Richrath. The entire REO Family mourns his death and shares in the grief of his family, friends, and fans. These words do not come close to expressing the depth of emotions I am feeling at this time…kc
PS. This photo has been on my music room table for as long as I can remember, and will stay there.
Hi friends, kc here. My longtime friend and collaborator Gary Richrath passed away earlier today. I feel so sad. Gary…