AFP Gary Richrath, the former lead guitarist of REO Speedwagon who helped the heartland US rockers win mainstream success, has died at age 65, the band said. Richrath died on Sunday of unspecified causes, the band’s singer Kevin Cronin wrote on the band’s website as he posted a picture of the two of them in the REO Speedwagon’s heyday. “I feel so sad. Gary was both a unique guitarist and songwriter, and the embodiment of the tough guy with a heart of gold,” Cronin wrote. –AFP

“I learned most of what I know about being in a rock band from Gary Richrath,” he wrote. REO Speedwagon formed loosely in 1967 in the university town of Champaign, Illinois but the band found its sound several years later with the arrival of Richrath, a skilled guitarist from Peoria elsewhere in the state.