A group of students at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, started playing together in the basement of their dorm in 1966. One of them read REO Speed Wagon on a blackboard in one of their classes, and the group latched onto the name R.E.O. Speedwagon. Over time the periods were dropped, but they still pronounced each letter separately.
The group started getting jobs where they actually got paid for performances in bars and clubs. They built up a following, and in spite of almost constant personnel changes the group finally got a record deal with Epic Records. Their first album was released in 1971. In early 1972 their lead vocalist left the group and was replaced by Kevin Cronin. Kevin left after the group’s second album was recorded, but he returned to the fold in 1976.
It was their ninth album that finally began producing the hits the group was working towards. Hi Infidelity included the chart-topping Keep On Loving You and also crossed the group over to the Mainstream Rock charts as well.
Ten more top forty records came along, including another number one hit (Can’t Fight This Feeling). Sold out concert tours and top ten albums continued through most of the eighties. Their hit single in 1987 was In My Dreams, which reached ##19. That was followed by their last top forty single in 1988 when Here With Me got up to #20.
Although Epic dropped the group as a result of decreasing chart success, the label began releasing a series of compilation albums. No fewer than a dozen have appeared since 1996.
The group has restructured its members a lot. It continues to tour successfully as a nostalgia group, often touring with other reconstructed bands from the past like Styx and Chicago.