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United We Rock: REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato Talks Monster Summer Tour with Styx and Don Felder

This summer’s United We Rock Tour features three juggernauts of classic rock: REO Speedwagon, Styx and former Eagle Don Felder.

These artists have provided rocking summer soundtracks for the past four decades—and they share a uniquely rich history; REO and Styx have toured together many times over the years and Styx and Felder just completed a five-night residency in Las Vegas. For United We Rock, Felder will open the show with a 45-minute set of Eagles classics along with a few surprises and special guests, while REO Speedwagon and Styx will alternate headlining sets.

But don’t expect the United We Rock triple-bill to be a “hits only” event; REO and Styx have added new material to their set, with Styx supporting their new album, The Mission, and REO performing their rocking new song, “Whipping Boy.”

I recently spoke with REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato about the United We Rock tour, his gear and more.

With a tour loaded with guitarists, I suppose the first question is, who gets to perform “Hotel California” with Don Felder?

Well, Styx recently did a residency in Las Vegas, so Tommy [Shaw] has the seniority [laughs]. Actually, Tommy said he was going to play with Don on “Take it Easy.” He plays a Strat for the first half of the song and then switches to banjo. It’s phenomenal. I still remember when Don first asked me to play “Hotel California” with him; I got goosebumps. I’m not as nervous about the REO set as I am about Felder, because you can’t screw up that solo!

How did REO prep for the United We Rock tour?

We had a few warmup gigs on the weekends for a few months and used those gigs to change the set list around, figure out how to transition into songs and try to do something different. After 28 years, it’s still fun challenging yourself.

Styx has a new album, The Mission, and there’s a new song in REO’s set as well, “Whipping Boy.” What can you tell me about it?

It’s always good to have new music to keep going forward. That was Kevin [Cronin’s] song, and we each added our own two cents to it. We worked on the song on the weekend gigs to get it sounding really tight. It’s actually not even recorded yet. We might record it sometime in the fall.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

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REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato Talks Signature Les Paul, Touring with Def Leppard

DaveAmato2

Reo Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato with his Signature Les Paul

REO Speedwagon are set for another amazing year. The group, which consists of Kevin Cronin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Amato (guitars), Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards) and Bryan Hitt (drums), has set out on what will be an extensive 55-city North American summer tour with fellow rock legends Def Leppard and Tesla.

For Amato, there’s something else to be excited about: his long-awaited signature Gibson Les Paul guitar, which will be available soon.

I recently caught up with Amato at an REO performance to get the goods on his new Les Paul as well REO’s tour and his time subbing for guitarist Doug Aldrich in the Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault.

How did your relationship with Gibson begin?

I’ve always wanted a Les Paul with a Floyd Rose. I had one that Sammy Sanchez built for me in Los Angeles. I loved the guitar for years, but the contour on the Floyd was way up there. Eventually, Gibson started working on one for an Axcess guitar, and I when I saw it at a NAMM show, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. They gave me a few guitars and I started promoting and playing them while I was out on tour. It led to me having my own model. They were originally going to do a Collector’s Series but decided they want to put out a new line. So we came up with a new model for me, based on the Axcess model.

What do you like most about your new signature model?

There’s really only so much you can do to a Les Paul, but I wanted to make it a souped-up hot rod. It’s not a Junior but it’s based on one. I like the fact that it’s really light. I also wanted to incorporate one of my favorite necks into the design. I had a ’58 Reissue I loved that I sent to them. They specked the entire neck and did an incredible job. It’s got a white ebony fretboard and an HD-TV finish. It really rocks.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

Roll with the Changes: Dave Amato Talks Guitars and 25 Years with REO Speedwagon

Since REO Speedwagon’s arrival on the scene 40-plus years ago, the band has seen a lot of musical changes. Touring relentlessly through the Midwest in the 1970s, they finally broke through, scoring a pair of No. 1 hits in the 1980s. They also had the bestselling rock album of 1981, Hi Infidelity.

REO Speedwagon (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

REO Speedwagon (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

Some might even say they were the originators of the term “power ballad.”

And although the band also has gone through a few personnel changes over the years, they never cease to bring their lineup of hits to eager fans every year.

The band, which includes Kevin Cronin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Amato (guitars), Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards) and Bryan Hitt (drums), performed 96 shows last year and are on pace to do an equal amount in 2014, including a summer co-headlining tour with Chicago.

I caught up with Amato, who recently celebrated 25 years with REO Speedwagon. I asked him to reflect on his career with REO and his affection for guitars and vintage gear. He also told me about an important lesson he learned from his early years working with Ted Nugent.

GUITAR WORLD: Twenty-five years with REO Speedwagon. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that?

I think brothers. We’ve been together for 25 years, and these guys are my friends and my brothers. It’s great playing with them every night.

Can you tell me the story of how you joined the band?

My friend Jesse Harms was a keyboard player in Sammy Hagar’s band and was also writing songs with Kevin [Cronin]. Gary [Richrath] wasn’t with the band anymore and they were looking for a guitar player. They didn’t want to put out a “cattle call” for people in LA, so Jesse mentioned me to Kevin and they gave me a few songs to see what I could do with them. I remember I went in on a Friday around 1 p.m. We played a few of the songs together and then played a little basketball. Then we went back in and jammed again until around 5. That was when they offered me a spot in the band. It’s a good story and was just meant to be.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

30 Years of Hi Infidelity

Thirty years ago at this summer a young twelve-year-old blogger (me) was busily wearing out the vinyl of one of his favorite albums: Hi Infidelity, the break-through album by REO Speedwagon, a band who had achieved moderate levels of success during the 1970’s with songs like “Time For Me To Fly” and “Roll With The Changes”.

The release of Hi Infidelity catapulted the band from a local mid western act into a world-wide arena rock sensation selling an estimated 10 million copies and spending fifteen weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts. Powered by the songs “Take it On The Run”, “Don’t Let Him Go” and the song that started the power ballad craze, “Keep on Loving You”, which became the band’s first #1 song.

REO Speedwagon has gone through a few line-up changes over it’s 44 year history (yes they’ve been rockin’ since the 1960’s)  but still holds founding member Neal Doughty (keyboards/Hammond Organ) in it’s arsenal along with long time members Kevin Cronin (vocals, guitar), Bruce Hall (bass guitar) and the “babies” of the group: Dave Amato (21 years as lead guitarist) and Bryan Hitt (20 years on drums). Gone are the original members who contributed to the Hi Infidelity album: guitarist Gary Richrath (left in 1989) and drummer Alan Gratzer (retired).

Not surprisingly, the band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of this monumental event with the digitally remastered release of Hi Infidelity: The 30th Anniversary Edition.

What sets this 2 CD release apart from most other milestone reissues is what’s also included on disc two:  The Crystal Demos –  previously unreleased demo versions of nine songs from the album. Here, listeners actually get the opportunity to hear the “raw” sound of what was to become the biggest selling album of 1981. In addition, the CD package also contains liner notes from Kevin Cronin and long time guitarist Gary Richrath.

Hi-Infidelity’s accolades include:

* The highest-selling rock LP of 1981

* Has sold more than 10 million copies in the US

* On February 21, 1981; the album reached #1 on the Billboard album chart and remained at #1 for 15 straight weeks; over-taking  John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” album. Not many bands can claim their record dethroned a Beatle.

* Remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 101 weeks, unprecedented for an American rock band at the time

* The single “Keep on Loving You,” certified  #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 21, 1981

* “Take it On The Run” and “Keep on Loving You” were one of the first videos that aired on MTV (#9 and #17 respectively)

REO Speedwagon is currently out on the road in support of their “new” record.  As an bonus, in addition to all of the other hits they are known for, the band has also included at least six songs from the Hi Infidelity album into their set list.  It’s the perfect opportunity for fans to hear most of this milestone record performed live.

There are plenty of reasons 80’s rock fans should revisit REO Speedwagon’s magnum opus. What’s even better: wearing out the polycarbonate plastic on this 30th Anniversary Edition is much harder to do than it was on the original vinyl. Be sure to check it out.

 

Article first published as 30 Years of Hi Infidelity on Technorati.

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