ANDERSON – Classic rock band REO Speedwagon brings its “Rock To The Rescue” concert to Emens Auditorium on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie. The concert kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Rock To The Rescue” is a foundation that was begun in 2001 by REO’s Kevin Cronin and Styx’s Tommy Shaw. The two bands, who often tour together, worked to provide support to families of 9/11 victims. Recently, the foundation has raised more than $400,000 benefiting victims of the Midwest tornadoes and storms.
The Herald Bulletin talked with keyboardist and founding member Neal Doughty recently about the upcoming concert.
“A couple of times over the years we have put the thing back together on special occasions. We did a big show for Bloomington, Ill., (that had been hit with severe tornadoes),’’ said Doughty. “We looked at the area that had been hit. You would have to have seen it (in person) to really see the extent of devastation.”
Doughty was in shock when touring the area where a nice new neighborhood once stood. It was totally gone. His description was it looked like a nuclear blast had gone through there. Furniture was hanging in trees. Neighbors weren’t able to help because their houses were gone too.
Doughty, from Evansville, and frontman, Kevin Cronin along with bass guitarist, Bruce Hall, both born in Illinois, find themselves being overly protective of their home states.
Giving back to the community is something the members have done their whole career. From visiting sick children in hospitals to working with Shaw and his daughter, Hannah, who save exotic pets, to the many “Rock To The Rescue” concerts already in the books.
“Most bands that have had some good luck in the entertainment business -- that is just something they do (giving back),’’ said Doughty.
Doughty resided with his family in Evansville until the age of 12.
“It was a nice place to grow up. We lived in a woods and had nice childhood things – trees, rocks and ditches,’’ laughed Doughty. “Then we moved to Illinois, where I went to college, and accidentally helped start a rock band.”
“Most of the proceeds at this point are going to food banks,’’ said Doughty. “No one rock ‘n roll band can fix a situation that big (the devastation). But you can start out by making sure no one is starving. Making sure that people are warm and fed.”
Locally, Second Harvest Food Bank will be the beneficiary of a raffle fundraiser to be held the night of the concert.
A portion of proceeds will benefit the charity; plus, the band will hold memorabilia and instrument raffles or auctions. Donations will also be accepted.
The five-member rock band that got its start in 1968 today includes Doughty, Cronin, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt.
Some 46 years later, what is it that keeps their music alive?
“It borders on unbelievable. Not only are you lucky to get something going in the first place then when we happened the genre of music just never really went away,’’ said Doughty. “It’s timeless – like country music. People would call us a nostalgia band. Not really. It’s just a time of music that didn’t go away. It’s permanent.”
The group, now all in their ‘60s, has more than 40 shows through year’s end currently listed on its website with undoubtedly more to be added. They will play auditoriums on college campuses like Friday’s show; in April they will be at the French Lick Resort, August will find them at Klipsch Music Center with one of the newest groups to the Rock To The Rescue family, the band Chicago (who they have never toured with to date), and later doing three shows with Carnival Cruise Lines.
Doughty’s favorite type of venue?
“I personally like the outdoor shows. Especially the venues with the shed roof -- where much of the audience is covered. You get the outdoor effect but rain won’t stop the show,’’ said Doughty. “This goes back to Woodstock that this type of music was meant to be seen on a large scale.”
“We are still a bar band at heart,” said Doughty.
Doughty’s favorite REO song?
“‘Can’t Fight this Feeling.’ It’s piano and Kevin. The piano part I’ve worked pretty hard on. You kinda got to play every correct note on that song,’’ said Doughty. “But I also really like ‘Roll with the Changes.’”
REO was one of the ’70s bands who mastered the power ballad. Was this something that Doughty ever regretted?
“In the ’80s we were known for our power ballads but actually we were just a ‘70s classic rock band. But if not for those No. 1 ballads we wouldn’t be working today,’’ said Doughty. “It put us in the club permanently. Everyone (band members) wants to keep doing it. We are a rock and roll band that had a couple of ballads that were big hits. I actually like power ballads”
Anyone out there today doing a good “power ballad?”
“Pink. She’s my new favorite. I just saw Pink live and there’s a couple of ballads on her new record and quite a few ballad type things she does. My wife has been a Pink fan from the beginning. Ballads are never going away. They are the most romantic form of music there ever was.”
And, along with those ballads “Keep On Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,’” and “Take It On The Run” fans will get a dose of what made them the rock band — “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” “Roll With the Changes” and “157 Riverside Avenue.”