Riding the storm out: REO helps tornado recovery

Riding the storm out: REO helps tornado recovery

Champaign-Urbana's favorite classic rockers will be back in the neighborhood tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013) for a good cause.

REO Speedwagon, so popular in Champaign it has a downtown street named in its honor, will take the stage tonight for the "Rock To The Rescue Extends A Hand To Those In Need" concert. The sold-out concert kicks off at 7 p.m. at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Proceeds will benefit central Illinois tornado victims.

So, count on hearing fan favorite "Riding The Storm Out," says REO keyboardist Neal Allan Doughty.

"We'll definitely be playing that."

It's been 47 years since Doughty and a fellow engineering student decided to start their own band one night at the University of Illinois' Townsend Hall.

Thousands of concerts later, Champaign still brings back special memories for the only founding member left in REO Speedwagon's lineup.

Doughty, 67, shared five favorites while tuning up for tonight's tornado-relief concert in Bloomington.

1. The Red Lion

"That was the place," Doughty said of the Campustown bar at 211 East Green St. "The place was packed to the rafters, real Tudor-style beams. In most places, you see people on the dance floor. Here, the dance floor was extra seating; they were sitting on the floor, hippie-style, like at a concert, an intimate concert venue. The Red Lion was where we went from being a Beatles copy band to being discovered."

2. The old Vriner's

The former Champaign sweets shop is where the band shot the photo for the back of its second album, "R.E.O./T.W.O." Vriner's is now Memphis on Main, but step inside the historic building and you'll still see that classic band photo behind the bar. "At the time when we were shooting pictures for our second album, we liked how it was such a vintage-looking place," Doughty said.

3. He grew up here

Doughty moved here to study electrical engineering, "but playing music in bars every night didn't go too well with that. I no longer feel like an adult after years in a rock band."

4. The friend who was left behind

REO's original lead vocalist, Terry Luttrell, now sings with the Tons O' Fun band. Doughty says he still talks to the local resident, who was replaced by current frontman Kevin Cronin in 1972.

"I see him all the time," he said. "We had kind of a reunion in Nashville not long ago, a memorial for an old crew guy."

And, of course, they're Facebook friends.

5. The car that got the girls' attention

"I used to drive a white Datsun 240Z down Green Street," Doughty said.

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