In Memoriam: Gregg Philbin
Former REO Speedwagon bassist Gregg Philbin has died. The news was shared by his former band’s social media with a statement by singer Kevin Cronin.
“Gregg played on the first six studio albums and the Live, You Get What You Play For double-live album, which broke the band and became our first gold album,” he wrote. “No one should underestimate the Philbin Factor in the evolution of REO Speedwagon. When Gregg left the band in 1977, he took with him the prog-leaning extended instrumental section aspect of the REO sound.”
Philbin grew up around Champaign, Illinois, and began on saxophone before a friend asked him to join his band on bass. He played with them for one year before joining REO Speedwagon.
Philbin was an early member of the band, joining in 1968 shortly after the group formed. The group’s lineup would stay consistent except for the singer, switching frontmen three times over their first three albums. Eventually, they came up with a solution to solidify their sound.
“We were basically a live band and we sold albums because of live performances,” he said in an interview with Uncharted Zone TV. “People didn’t know what to expect the next time we came around. The first project that we did with Kevin [Cronin] when we got back together was put all our best material from the first five albums and put them on a live album with Kevin singing them. It unified the whole image and concept.”
Live: You Get What You Play For would be Philbin’s last album with the band. As Cronin stated in the Facebook post, artistic differences would play a part.
“Gregg approached the bass guitar much like legendary Who bassist, John Entwistle,” he explained. “They both played the bass as more of a lead instrument. But as the songs Gary Richrath and I were writing became more compact, and needing the bass to play a more traditional role of locking with the drums, Gregg’s style became an issue, and he would leave the band. All that said, Gregg was a smart, funny, charming guy, and you would be hard pressed to find a more savvy individual.”
In the Uncharted Zone interview, Philbin cited infighting over songwriting credits, monetary disputes, and substance abuse. After leaving the band, he moved to Florida and used his royalty money to buy properties.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Gregg Philbin.