Interview: REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato discusses upcoming tour with Chicago, career highlights
Photo courtesy: Solters and used with permission

Last year, REO Speedwagon had one of the summer’s most successful tours with United We Rock. An extensive, cross-country jaunt with fellow classic rock icons Styx and Don Felder. For REO guitarist Dave Amato, the tour was made even sweeter when he had the chance to perform The Eagles’ monster hit, “Hotel California” with Felder on stage each night.

This summer, REO Speedwagon will once again bring their infectious arsenal of hits when they join forces with Chicago for a 30-city, co-headlining run from June through August.

Combined, REO Speedwagon and Chicago have sold more than 140 million records, and in one of the year’s most highly-anticipated tours, fans will be treated to sets filled with deep cuts and fan favorites from both bands.

REO promises a night filled with monster hits, which includes songs like “Roll With The Changes,” “Keep On Loving You,” “Back On The Road Again,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling" and “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” as well as a few surprises.

Chicago will be performing their historic album, Chicago II in its entirety for the first time ever along with an “encore” filled with their own biggest hits.

REO Speedwagon is: Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt.

AXS recently caught up with Dave Amato to discuss all things REO Speedwagon in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: You’ve been with REO Speedwagon since 1989. Did you ever imagine you'd still be doing this so many years later?

Dave Amato: No. My average span of doing things with someone was about two or three years. I did three years with Ted Nugent; four years with Cher; and was with Richie Sambora on his first tour. With REO, it’s a brotherhood, with a lot of love and respect. The band may be getting older but we cherish every night and give 1,000 percent. It may be almost thirty years, but it’s still as exciting as day one.

AXS: What do you think makes REO Speedwagon so timeless and special?

DA: It’s the songs. Kevin and Gary [Richrath] wrote great songs. Kevin still writes from the heart. It’s really important to him. Even today, we’ll go to a soundcheck and Kevin will have lines and chord changes that we’ll be working on.

AXS: What’s your favorite REO Speedwagon song to play in the set?

DA: Honestly? They’re all my favorites, but I get to stretch on “Back On The Road Again” a little more than any of the others. That’s always a lot of fun.

AXS: What can you tell me about the band’s upcoming tour with Chicago?

DA: We’ve toured with them before and are very excited about it. They're fantastic players and insane singers. Last time, we did six songs together (three of ours and three of theirs) and there were thirteen guys on stage! We'll see if we do it again this year.

AXS: What would you say was the turning point in your career as an artist?

DA: Probably my first show with Ted Nugent in 1985 at The Cotton Bowl in front of 91,000 people for Texxas Jam. I remember we didn’t do anything before the show except rehearse. So, I asked Ted if we were going to do any kind of warm-up gig. He said, "No! I like to break my boys in right!” [laughs]. I was the lead singer at the time and sang half of the set. Ted really challenged us that night, and when the show was over and I walked off stage, I remember thinking to myself, “I can do anything!" That was a high point, for sure.

AXS: You’ve been using your Signature Les Paul guitar on stage lately. What can you tell me about it?

DA: It’s got a smaller body, but it feels like a full-size Les Paul. I spec’d out one of my ’58 necks, so it’s a little fatter than the standard Axcess model. It’s also got a '57 Classic pickup, a Floyd Rose tremolo system and an HD-TV finish. It’s a souped-up hot rod and I just love it.

AXS: You’re known for being an avid collector of vintage, 1980s Marshall amp heads. Are you still using them?

DA: Absolutely. In fact, a friend of mine from New Jersey called me recently and told me he knew someone who was selling two mid-80’s Marshall JCM heads and wanted to know if I’d be interested in them. I said, “I already have seventeen of them. I don’t need anymore.” He says, “He wants $1500 for both.” I said, “I’ll take ‘em!” [laughs].

AXS: Does REO have plans to record any new music?

DA: We added a brand-new song, “Whipping Boy”, to our set last year and we'll probably be doing it again this year. We also spruced up our Christmas record [Not So Silent Night] and re-released the song, “I Believe in Santa Claus” this past year. We’ll see what happens in the fall. Right now, we're focused on touring. It’s going to be another busy year.