Gary Richrath

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Gary Richrath
Gary Richrath, 1980.
Gary Richrath, 1980.
Background information
Birth nameGary Dean Richrath
Born(1949-10-18)October 18, 1949[1]
Peoria, Illinois[1]
DiedSeptember 13, 2015(2015-09-13) (aged 65)[1]
GenresHard rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, slide guitar
Years active1968–2015

Gary Dean Richrath (October 18, 1949 – September 13, 2015)[1] was an American guitarist, best known as the lead guitarist and a songwriter for the band REO Speedwagon from 1970 until 1989.

Early life[edit]

Richrath was born in Peoria, Illinois, on October 18, 1949, to Curtis and Eunice Richrath,[1] and grew up in East Peoria, Illinois.[2] Originally playing saxophone in the school band, he took up guitar as a teenager, becoming self-taught.[3] He graduated from East Peoria Community High School in 1967.[3]

By 1968, Richrath was in a band called Suburban 9 to 5.[3]

As lead guitarist and songwriter for REO Speedwagon[edit]

Richrath wrote, performed on and sang on some of REO Speedwagon's early hits, including "Golden Country" (1972), "Ridin' the Storm Out" (1973), "Find My Fortune" (1973), "Son of a Poor Man" (1973), "Wild as the Western Wind" (1974), "(Only A) Summer Love" (1976), "Flying Turkey Trot" (1976), "Only the Strong Survive" (1979) “In Your Letter” (1980) and "Take It On the Run" (1981).[4] In 1977, he and other members of the band took over production, which resulted in the band's first platinum album. Along with playing lead guitar, Richrath sang lead vocals on "Find My Fortune" (1973), "Wild as the Western Wind" (1974), "Dance" (1975), "Any Kind of Love" (1976), "Only a Summer Love" (1976), "Breakaway" (1976) and "Tonight" (1976).

Solo career[edit]

Richrath left the band in 1989,[3][5] and with his new band named Richrath, released the album Only the Strong Survive in 1992.[3]

Later years[edit]

On November 22, 2013, REO Speedwagon and Styx announced a benefit concert titled "Rock to the Rescue" to raise money for families affected by a tornado in central Illinois. The concert was held on December 4, 2013 in Bloomington, Illinois. Richrath reunited with the band for a performance of "Ridin' the Storm Out" to end their set at the sold-out concert.[6] Richrath stayed on stage to help with the encore of "With a Little Help From My Friends" along with REO Speedwagon, Styx, Richard Marx and others.[7] Families affected by the storm and first-responders sat near the stage at this concert.


Richrath died on September 13, 2015, with news of his death confirmed by his former REO Speedwagon bandmate Kevin Cronin.[8] He was 65 years old. Speaking to the Songfacts website in 2017, Cronin disclosed the cause of Richrath's death: "He had some stomach problem or something and he went in the hospital to get treated for a stomach ailment and there were complications and he didn't make it."[9]


REO Speedwagon[edit]


  • 1992 Only the Strong Survive


  1. ^ a b c d e "Gary Richrath Obituary - East Peoria, IL". Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  2. ^ Bruch, Thomas (2015-09-15). "Promoter Jay Goldberg 'in shock' over Gary Richrath's death". Peoria, Illinois. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  3. ^ a b c d e Luciano, Phil (2015-09-14). "Ex-REO Speedwagon guitarist and East Peoria native Gary Richrath dies at 65". Peoria, Illinois. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  4. ^ Steve Turner (January 28, 1983). "REO Speedwagon climbing back to No. 1". The Ledger. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  5. ^ Shane Harrison (June 13, 2006). "Where are they now?". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  6. ^ Video of Gary Richrath's performance with REO Speedwagon in December 2013 Retrieved 9-19-2015.
  7. ^ Video "Rock to the Rescue Benefit Concert" Retrieved 9-26-2015.
  8. ^ "Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon dies". Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  9. ^ "Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon". 2017-06-16. Retrieved 2017-08-24.

External links[edit]