‘It’s hard to complain about it’: Neal Doughty says REO Speedwagon happily delivers the big ballads

As REO Speedwagon roars through another summer of concert dates, fans can expect a setlist capped by charttopping power ballads. The band was always about far more than “Keep On Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” but, as Neal Doughty readily admits, REO understands their legacy.

“You can’t complain about the fact that it was power ballads that put us on the map,” Doughty, the band’s longest tenured member, tells us in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “We wouldn’t be working today if it were not for those big ballads. So, it’s hard to complain about it. Most of our set is of the turntable hits from the ’70s, and the reason we get to still play those songs is because of the ballads from the ‘80s.”

Doughty, who’s been on keyboards for REO Speedwagon since 1967, is joined by veteran frontman Kevin Cronin (with the group since 1972) and bassist Bruce Hall (1977). Guitarist Dave Amato and drummer Bryan Hitt both joined in 1989. The group will pair with Chicago later in the summer for a huge classic-rock double bill.

Along the way, REO has scored a number of upbeat charting songs — perhaps most notably “Roll with the Changes,” “Keep the Fire Burnin'” and “Time for Me to Fly” — but those moments always take a backseat to sweet-talking No. 1 smashes. Really, they always have.

“There was only one frustrating thing that came from it, and that’s from that time on radio only wanted that type of power ballad from us,” Doughty admits. “We spent the next the next three records releasing a rocker [as a single] first, trying to get them to play that. They would always call us up and go, ‘Where’s the ballad? When can we play the ballad?’ So, that was a little frustrating in that we couldn’t ever get, from that point on, a big hit that was anything other than a ballad.”

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