Gary Richrath’s Tragic End And Life-Story

Many of the older fans of REO Speedwagon would remember how they conquered the ’80s rock scene, captivating audiences with their electrifying sound. Founded in 1966 in Champaign, Illinois, the band quickly established itself as one of the top acts in the Midwest and soon began to tour nationally. It was a very competitive market back then; we’re talking about the ‘Van Halen era,’ but still, the band managed to solidify their place. Guitarist Gary Richrath had a big part in that.

Gary Richrath was a skilled and ambitious guitarist hailing from Peoria, Illinois. Fueled by a desire to make his mark in the music industry, he poured his heart and soul into his songwriting, crafting fresh and original tunes. He was a musical prodigy with a blues-infused playing style that was raw and intense, capturing the essence of rock and roll. When REO Speedwagon was looking for a new guitarist, Richrath jumped at the chance to join the band.

Undeterred by the 100-mile journey to see them perform, Richrath declared with confidence, ‘I’m going to be a part of that band whether they like it or not.’ With his remarkable abilities and unwavering spirit, he made his dream a reality. He quickly established himself as a critical part of the band’s sound, writing some of their biggest hits, including ‘Take It On the Run,’ ‘Ridin’ the Storm Out,’ and ‘Find My Fortune.’

With Richrath at the helm, REO Speedwagon became one of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s. Beginning from the early days of REO Speedwagon, he elevated songs that could have been labeled as adult contemporary and gave them a harder, more compelling edge. His distinctive guitar style gave ballads such as ‘Keep On Loving You’ a rock-solid foundation.

Yet, Richrath was not content to simply rest on his laurels. After nearly 20 years with the band and a few personal conflicts, he formed a new band, debuting with the album, ‘Only the Strong Survive.’ His passion for music never waned, but sadly, his solo career was short-lived. Health problems and other personal difficulties caused his touring schedule to come to a halt and eventually led to his passing in 2015 at the age of 65.

The contribution of Gary Richrath to the music world has been largely overlooked, but those in the know recognize his significance. Maybe his decision to leave Speedwagon was one of the main reasons for this. He indeed had made a difficult decision when leaving the band, and he didn’t hold much in the music scene after that. His health problems and alcoholism, which first obscured his relationship with his bandmates, followed him throughout his life. Thus, the story of exceptional talent was written in rock history as one of the saddest ones.