PHOTO: Ross Marino 1980
Former REO Speedwagon guitarist Gary Richrath passed away on Sunday, September 13, at the age of 65.
His bandmates have generously offered up their reminiscences of him, which you can read below.
Richrath joined REO Speedwagon prior to the group’s 1971 debut album and contributed to their success not only with his playing but also with his songwriting. He wrote some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Take It on the Run,” “Ridin’ the Storm Out” and “In Your Letter.” Though he left the group in 1989, he rejoined in 2013 to perform a benefit concert to aid tornado victims in Bloomington, Illinois.
His death was announced on REO Speedwagon's Facebook page by lead singer Kevin Cronin.
KEVIN CRONIN (lead vocalist)
“Gary was one of those rare, unique guitarists, not unlike his hero Jeff Beck, or Slash (who I always felt had a little Richrath swagger in his playing). It is more than what these guys play, even though that would be plenty, it is how they put it across. Gary could stand alone in the spotlight, in the middle of a hit-filled REO Speedwagon concert, with nothing more than a Les Paul and a coil cord plugged into a Marshall stack, and totally captivate an arena full of people. We saw him do it every night so it was no big deal to us at the time... But, it was a very big deal!
“He didn't dazzle the audience with his virtuosity like Eddie Van Halen. He didn't play the blues like Clapton. But neither of them could enrapture an audience, include them and entertain them, while exuding raw sensuality through his playing quite like Gary Richrath. He was part Hendrix, part Lennon, with a dash of Dickie Betts for that bit of country flavor.
“When you are in the rock trenches with a guy, on the road or in the studio or writing and rehearsing 24/7 like Gary and I were, it's easy to take someone's gifts for granted. Singers and lead players are legendary in their competitiveness... It comes with the territory. But, when all is said and done, Gary was the perfect complement—that set of ingredients that my music needed which I could not possibly provide. We fought like brothers and underneath it all, we loved each other like brothers.”
NEAL DOUGHTY (keyboardist and founding member)
“Gary was the one who took us from being a cover band to playing our own songs. We started thinking if ourselves as a real band, not just an extracurricular activity.”
ALAN GRATZER (former drummer)
“Gary was my musical soulmate and great friend for many years. We made over fifteen albums together and went through a lot both personally and musically. We conquered the world together , but it wouldn't have been possible without his great songwriting ability, his incredible guitar work and his amazing onstage swagger and charisma. I'll always miss him, but will cherish the memories of being in the studio, being onstage and just living life on the road. I feel like I lost a brother."
DAVE AMATO (lead guitarist)
“As a writer and guitar player, Gary was complete. His songs, and the way he played guitar on them, made him unique. As I look back at what he created, I can certainly respect the work ethic he undoubtedly had to accomplish what he did. Gary set the bar, so when I joined up with REO, my mission was to pay respect to him and give the fans all that I could. And, my hope is that I've accomplished this, and taken it even beyond, to make Gary proud.”