Gary Richrath provided much of the creative and driving force in the early days of the band, Gary Richrath wrote much of the material for REO Speedwagons first twelve albums. In 1977, Gary Richrath and other members of the band took over their own production, which resulted in the band’s first platinum album. Gary Richrath wrote many of the band’s most memorable songs including “Golden Country” from 1972, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” 1973, “Only the Strong Survive” 1979 and “Take It On the Run” from 1981.
In addition, Gary Richrath sang several REO Speedwagon songs including “Find My Fortune” 1973 and “(Only A) Summer Love” 1976. Gary Richrath was asked to leave REO Speedwagon in 1989, and released a solo album titled Only the Strong Survive in 1992, under the name “Richrath”.
When Gary Richrath left REO, it was rumored the band was breaking up because of extreme personality conflicts among REO’s members.
Gary Richrath did admit to crossing swords a few times with lead singer Kevin Cronin. “We had songwriting conflicts about whose songs would go on the albums,” Richrath said. Richrath saw the band move away from the “rockier” style. Kevin Cronin preferred a slower, more sentimental ballads, and Richrath was not ready to slow down.
REO Speedwagon continued to tour and record without Gary Richrath but never was able to capture that great REO sound that fans had grown to love and records sales were never the same.
Richrath moved on and formed a band that was more in touch with his own tastes. The band played over 1,000 concerts, mostly in small clubs and halls, and Richrath said audiences were eating up the two hour shows, half REO classics and half new Richrath tunes, and the new songs were getting noticed. Gary’s band continued to tour throughout the 1990’s until Richrath headed back into the studio in 1998 to create a new CD that remains unfinished.
Richrath says “I wasn’t trying to create a new REO, just carrying on with what I do.”
There were always rumors that Gary Richrath was rejoining REO Speedwagon, but unfortunately this never happened but for one special occasion on December 4, 2013 in Bloomington, Illinois. Gary Richrath reunited with REO for a performance of “Ridin’ the Storm Out” at a benefit concert titled “Rock to the Rescue” to raise money for the affected families of the tornado hit in central Illinois. Watch the video here.
Richrath passed away on September 13, 2015, as confirmed by his former REO Speedwagon associate Kevin Cronin. Gary Richrath was 65 when he passed away.