A leader of Central Illinois' favorite rock and roll band, REO Speedwagon, has passed away.
The band's Facebook page announced news early Monday of the death of lead guitarist Gary Richrath, who was 65. No cause was given.
REO has reached iconic status in places like Champaign-Urbana, where downtown Champaign's Main Street carries an honorary REO Speedwagon street sign. The band got its start playing in the clubs around the University of Illinois campus.
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Champaign native Bruce Hall, still touring with the band today, remembers Peoria native Richrath as his musical “big brother.”
“He was still living in Peoria” when Hall met him, “and the band I was in, Feather Train, needed a guitar player, so someone told us about Gary, and we asked him to come to Champaign to audition, and he fit right in, right off the bat.”
Hall says he last saw Richrath when they were on stage together in Bloomington for 2013's “Rock to the Rescue” tornado benefit.
“I know there are a lot of folks who are going to be saddened by the death of Gary,” Hall says, “but he will live on through his music. He was proud of his music. I loved him; he was a good friend.”
Richrath is the writer of the band's hit “Take It on the Run.” Hall is the writer and lead singer of the band's hit “Back on the Road Again.”
REO Speedwagon has a stop at Champaign's Virginia Theater scheduled Nov. 9.