On the phone with me is Keyboardist Neal Doughty, who I chose to call the Original Founder of the Band, a title that he says pays him nothing extra. It is here that I find out I am talking to a true professional - a kind and giving man who's been at the top of his game for 40 years.
I pointed this out to Neal, how seldom it is that I talk to a nice 'famous rocker' and he told me he couldn’t agree more. He's met a lot of uncool stars along the way.
Neal also talks about the band's beginnings, and the ability back in the '60's and '70's to take almost 11 years, under contract, to finally get a hit album. (High Fidelity in 1980). That just doesn't happen any more.
Over the course of its career, the band has sold more than 40 million records and has charted thirteen Top 40 hits, including the number ones "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling". The band plays ALL of the hits at their shows because this is what the fans want, and want to sing along to. And, says Neal, "they're the boss, so we do what the boss wants."
Neal stays current with today's bands, and is absolutely floored by 'Foster The People' and Pink.
Listen to the whole interview here, you’re going to love this guy, and make sure you sing along with every song on Thursday night.
Click here to hear the interview.
REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin says he’s usually “not one for nostalgia.” But coming off an extended 30th anniversary celebration for the group’s nine-times-platinum 1980 album “Hi Infidelity,” Cronin has a somewhat gentler view of the past.
But, he adds, the future is still his paramount concern.
“I’m much more into looking forward and keeping the creative juices flowing,” says Cronin, 61, who has in fact been working on new material, REO’s first since releasing the “Find Your Own Way Home” album in 2007 (with a holiday album in 2009).
“I think maybe the fact I am in kind of a creative mode right now makes it a little easier to embrace the nostalgia. If all you’re doing is being nostalgic, I think that gets stale pretty quick. But when the creative juices start flowing and you’re also open to accepting the beauty of some of the things you accomplished in the past, those things can go hand in hand.
“I’m feeling really strong in both of those ways right now. And as a result we’ve got, believe it or not, people coming up to us after the show who are like, ‘You guys are better than ever right now.’ To be hearing that at this point is pretty gratifying.”
And, Cronin adds, it’s even more encouraging that some of that praise is coming from fans who weren’t even born when “Hi Fidelity” was released, much less older REO favorites such as “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” “Roll With the Changes” and “Time For Me to Fly.”
“These are young people at our shows I’m talking about high school and college kids,” Cronin notes. “We’ve got people of all ages coming to these concerts and we’re just kicking ass and we’re having fun and enjoying what we’re doing.
“It’s just another one of those great, tight periods for the band. Everyone is healthy. Everyone’s feeling the creative spurt that we’re on and everyone is embracing the beauty of what’s got us there. To have five guys all in the same mindspace, it’s a really special thing. I can’t take that for granted.”
REO Speedwagon and the Tubes perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights. Tickets are $45 and $35 pavilion, $16 lawn. Call 568-268-9700 or visit www.freedomhill.net.
On any list of Summerfest perennials that is, the performers who return to the Big Gig with the regularity of flowers blooming in the spring REO Speedwagon would likely make the top five. Fortunately, the band is happy to return again and again. "Oh, my God, we love Summerfest," guitarist Dave Amato said during a recent phone interview. "I've got some friends out of Wisconsin who come over, and it's a ball every time. We look forward to it." So, evidently, does Milwaukee, along with many other cities during the summer months, as if there's a correlation between warmer weather and classic-rock bands that make their livings on the road. REO Speedwagon falls into that category. Although the band released its first album in 1971, it didn't score its first major hit until 1974 with "Ridin' the Storm Out," the title track of which remains a show-closing favorite. It wasn't until 1980 that "Hi Infidelity" gave the band arena-filling status. Amato, who joined the band in the late '80s after stints with Cher and Ted Nugent, was aware of the history, but the opportunity to join REO Speedwagon struck him, at the time, as a short-term job. "I figured it would last two or three years," he said. "I was happy to get the call to audition for them, and they were awesome. But I didn't figure it would last 24 years." Indeed, by the time Amato started his long run with REO, the band had stopped racking up big hits and was experiencing the turmoil common to groups that have to deal with reduced commercial success. That led to REO playing some unusual stages, including at the most recent Milwaukee appearance playing after an Admirals game and at Dodger Stadium in early June, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." The band takes the experiences in stride. "We've done it elsewhere in the past," Amato said, noting similar game-preceding renditions in Chicago and St. Louis, and mentioning a friendship with former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "Some of us are baseball fans, and we had a ball." As for REO's own fans, they aren't just older folks. "We have, like, young kids probably 19 or 20 years old who know the songs from their parents," Amato said. "We're getting a younger and younger audience because they're curious to see what we look like." They also probably respond to something within favorites like "Roll With the Changes," "Time for Me to Fly" and one of the definitive power ballads, "Can't Fight This Feeling." There has been some desultory work on new songs overdue, perhaps, since REO's last proper rock album, "Find Your Own Way Home," came out in 2007 but it's the old ones that connect. "The songs stand the test of time, just like the Beatles," Amato said. "Those songs are hopefully going to be around forever."Click here for review.
Before being signed in 1971 to Epic records, REO Speedwagon's founding member, Neal Doughty, was minding his own business at the University of Illinois studying to become an engineer. Then he befriended Alan Gratzer, and created a band. Many musicians were involved in the initial stages, eventually leading them to live-show stardom. MM: When you originally formed the band back in the 60s, did you have any real plans for the future? ND: “We were just students in a dorm. Alan [Gratzer] and I were going to school to be engineering students. We became friends because we both shared the same view when it came to the subject of choice. Engineering just wasn't our calling. Instead of letting ourselves feel trapped, we started playing. Low and behold, REO Speedwagon was born. We really didn't have much idea of where we were going. We were a college bar band. We traveled to play live a lot. Honestly, we found our true calling when we were already a band. Traveling all the time and playing a show to an amped up audience every night is how we discovered who we were. Where we went was all up to the people who payed to see us play.” MM: What happened to school when you travelled so much? ND: “Eventually, we dropped out. The band was never something we did with half our energy. We waited until our attendance dwindled to almost never, then decided to focus fully on our passion. Explaining that to my parents was hard, but telling them that we were already a successful band in our area softened the blow. I always used to say 'Quit the day job and do the band'. MM: Do you think starting a band today would go the same as it did for you then? ND: “Even 'back then' a lot of bands had a hard time getting started. We were lucky. Today it seems that you have to be in the 'Hot Top 40', or whatever it's called, to be able to sell a worthwhile amount of records. Today's market has changed, and today's taste has changed.” MM: Speaking of today's market, what is your take on the tech-world when it comes to promoting music on the web? ND: “I've been vocal about this before. It's not all bad! If it reaches to more members of your audience, that's the point. What people don't understand though, is who is really being ripped off when music is downloaded illegally. I'll reference Eminen [just to use as an example], when people download his latest CD illegally, their first thought is that it won't hurt him because he's a big star. They may be right, but what about the secretaries? Or the smaller bands that share the label? They benefit from Eminen's CD sales too. Everyone matters.” MM: After all this time, you still decide to tour. You've even got some back-to-back shows this summer. Why do you continue to still tour? ND: “We're kind of known as a live band. It's been a while since we put out our last record, but people still know the songs, even 'after all this time'. They may have seen us before, but now they are bringing their kids to the shows to pass on the love to them. We are all getting up there, but when we get on the stage and feel that love... We automatically feel like we are 20 years old again, for the night. We wouldn't be able to do this without the constant love we've received over the years.” MM: How do you keep it together as a band? ND: “The key is taking care of yourself. You see, in the 80s ... people did stuff. Stuff you just can't do now. The travel is becoming difficult, to tell you the truth. We [the band] all have great family lives to come back to. It feels as though we are just getting comfortable at home when we have to jet off to a show across the country. I think that's why it's easy to still work with these guys. We understand each other and our individual situations.” MM: Out of a calendar full of tour stops this summer, Belleville made the list. You guys are part of this year's Empire Rock Fest. What can the audience expect? Any 'Hi Fidelity' hits? ND: “Of course. What kind of REO concert would it be if there wasn't any 'Hi Fidelity' hits? But in all honesty, we are very happy to be coming to Belleville. I'm actually from Belleville ... Illinois. So you could say I feel a connection. This summer is a whirl-wind of concerts, and our audience can have faith we won't disappoint. The comment I hear most about our shows is when people didn't realize we played a certain song. When they realize we are 'that band' that they once rocked out to, we help bring them back to memory lane with all our hits and some surprises.” MM: Will we hear anything new from REO Speedwagon? ND: “Probably not. We've had our turn. We've had the years of recording, the parties. Now it's time to celebrate our hits and move over for someone new. I don't mean for that to sound bad, because I'm okay with it. We've had some pretty fast times and people still appreciate us. I can't as for more.” REO Speedwagon will hit the stage July 25 as part as Empire Rockfest 2013. Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx and Night Ranger are the beginning acts. Gates open at 6 p.m.Click here for review at The Intelligencer.
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