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The American Spirit Is Alive & Well!

written by REO Speedwagon

Hi friends…The American spirit is alive and well!

Seven years ago today Tommy Shaw, Dave Amato and I stood among the ruins, in the aftermath of the killer EF-4 tornado which cut a mile wide swath of destruction through the small town of Washington, Illinois. REO, Styx, Richard Marx, Head East, and other Illinois bred artists came together for a benefit concert in nearby Bloomington, IL, and raised $450,000.00 to help take care of the stricken families, and aid the rebuilding effort.

And rebuild they did. The people of Washington showed that when people put their differences aside, and come together for a common goal, nothing can stop them. Mayor Gary Manier rolled up his sleeves from day one, and was hands on during the entire process. When a leader brings people together, and brings out the best in them, that’s when amazing things can happen.

Gary Richrath had moved back to his home town of Peoria, IL, and we invited him to join us on stage that night for our encore of “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. 16,000 cheering Illinoisans roared their approval. It was an emotional day on so many levels, but looking to my left and seeing my old friend, and rock’n roll big brother Gary Richrath standing there with his familiar Les Paul guitar, as we played REO’s first hit, which he had written forty years prior, had me holding back tears. I’m fortunate that Gary and I had made peace, as that was the last time I would see him. Our good thoughts go out to Gary Richrath, Mayor Gary Manier, and all the courageous people of Washington, Illinois…kc