Gary Dean Richrath was an American guitarist, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the rock band REO Speedwagon from 1970 until 1989. Richrath was an influential musician who left an indelible mark on the rock music scene in the 1970s and 80s.
Early Life and Background
Gary Richrath was born in Peoria, Illinois on October 18, 1949. He became interested in music at a young age after The Beatles performed. Richrath was the lead guitarist and principal songwriter for REO Speedwagon during their most popular period in the 1970s and 1980s, on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Richrath began playing guitar as a teenager and started several local garage bands.
After high school, Richrath attended the University of Illinois and played in a popular local band called The Exports. During this time, he met future REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin, the lead singer of a rival band called Fuse.
Joining REO Speedwagon
In 1970, Richrath left The Exports and joined REO Speedwagon, a flatbed truck named after the REO Speedwagon. Originally formed in 1967 by Neal Doughty and Alan Gratzer, REO Speedwagon underwent several lineup changes before Richrath joined.
With Richrath on board, the band self-released an eponymous debut album in 1971. However, it wasn’t until the band’s third album, R.E.O./T.W.O., released in 1972 that REO Speedwagon gained widespread attention.
Chart Success in the 1970s
REO Speedwagon’s follow-up album Ridin’ the Storm Out was released in 1973 and featured Richrath’s first songwriting contribution, “Find My Fortune.” The album was the group’s first to make the Billboard 200 chart.
Over the next few years, REO Speedwagon released more albums like Lost in a Dream (1974) and This Time We Mean It (1975), slowly establishing themselves as a popular Midwestern rock band.
REO Speedwagon achieved their first major hit single in 1976 with “Keep On Loving You,” written by Richrath. The song peaked at #89 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled their album R.E.O. to platinum status.
Mainstream Success in the 1980s
After some lineup changes in the late 70s, REO Speedwagon released their most commercially successful album, Hi Infidelity, in 1980. The album spawned four hit singles, including “Keep on Loving You” and “Take It on the Run” written by Richrath. “Hi Infidelity” sold over 10 million copies in the US alone.
REO Speedwagon solidified their status as rock superstars with their 1981 follow-up album Good Trouble. It featured Richrath’s catchy pop-rock tunes “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Keep the Fire Burnin’.” Both albums cemented Richrath as the band’s chief songwriter.
Richrath’s Departure from REO Speedwagon
By the late 1980s, tensions grew between Richrath and lead singer Kevin Cronin over the band’s musical direction. Richrath favored a harder rock sound, while Cronin pushed for a more mainstream pop direction.
After arguments during recording sessions for the 1988 album The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog, and a Chicken, Richrath left REO Speedwagon in early 1989 at age 39. His final show with the band was on July 13, 1989.
REO Speedwagon found success with replacement guitarists but never fully recaptured their heyday from the early 80s.
Richrath’s Later Musical Endeavors
After leaving REO Speedwagon, Richrath briefly formed a new band called Grater Than Richrath in the early 1990s. He also made occasional guest appearances with various artists and bands over the years.
In the 2000s, Richrath re-teamed with former REO frontman Kevin Cronin for some reunion shows and toured with a band called REO Speedwagon featuring Gary Richrath.
Richrath stayed active with music projects until his death, maintaining his reputation as an underrated guitar virtuoso and skilled songwriter.
Gary Richrath married his wife Debbi in 1969 when he was only 20 years old. They had one child together, Miles, born in 1970. The couple divorced in 1991 after over 20 years of marriage.
Outside of music, Richrath was an avid golfer who occasionally participated in celebrity golf tournaments. He was also a licensed pilot who enjoyed flying recreationally.
|October 18, 1949
|Gary Dean Richrath
Richrath’s Death and Legacy
On September 13, 2015, Gary Richrath was found dead at age 65 in his home in Santa Barbara, California. His cause of death was ruled a suicide by the coroner’s office.
Richrath left behind an influential legacy as part of REO Speedwagon’s rise to fame, penning some of the band’s most memorable and enduring hits like “Take It on the Run” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
With his prodigious guitar skills and knack for catchy songwriting, Gary Richrath played a pivotal role in establishing REO Speedwagon as an icon of heartland rock in the 1970s and 80s. Though he remains lesser known than REO’s frontmen, Richrath’s creative contributions helped define the band’s signature sound.
Decades after his acrimonious split with the band, Richrath’s songs remain classic rock radio staples. His guitar work influenced many aspiring musicians and serves as a time capsule into REO Speedwagon’s most popular period.
While his story ended tragically, Gary Richrath’s musical gifts are an integral part of REO Speedwagon’s lasting legacy.
What is Gary Richrath’s age?
Gary Richrath was born in Peoria, Illinois, on October 18, 1949. He died on September 13, 2015, at 65, in Santa Barbara, California.
How did Gary Richrath die?
Gary Richrath died at 65 in his home in Santa Barbara. His cause of death was ruled a suicide by the coroner’s office.
What is Gary Richrath net worth?
At the time of his death in 2015, Gary Richrath had an estimated net worth of $10 million. His net worth was accumulated largely through his work as lead guitarist and songwriter for REO Speedwagon during their peak years of popularity.
Who is Gary Richrath’s wife?
Gary Richrath was married to his wife Debbi from 1969 until they divorced in 1991. Together, they had one child named Miles Richrath, who was born in 1970.
What is Gary Richrath’s height?
Gary Richrath was reportedly 6 feet 1 inch (185 cm) tall. His height and slender build contributed to his signature stage presence as the lead guitarist for REO Speedwagon.
What are popular Gary Richrath songs?
Some of Gary Richrath’s most popular and well-known songs include:
“Take It on the Run”
“Keep On Loving You”
Time for Me to Fly”
Roll With the Changes”
Can’t Fight This Feeling”
“Back on the Road Again”
“Ridin’ the Storm Out”
As the chief songwriter for REO Speedwagon during the 1970s and 80s, Richrath penned most of the band’s biggest hits. His songwriting talents were a major factor in REO Speedwagon’s widespread popularity and success.