Lost in a Dream: Bassist Bruce Hall revels in REO Speedwagon’s longevity

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When Bruce Hall joined REO Speedwagon 40 years ago as its bassist, he knew it was the start of something good.

The band had been together for 10 years already, and he knew some of the musicians, as they had shared a home in Illinois. But he never imagined that four decades later, he would be helping to celebrate REO Speedwagon’s 50th anniversary.

“Whoever would have thought this would happen?” Hall says. “We shake our heads. We never expected this to be our life career. We were young men, like college students, and
we said, ‘Let’s get a band together’ and everything just kind of kept going.

“Members have come and gone throughout the time. Gary passed away last year. Alan moved on a couple years back. He started a restaurant in Santa Barbara called Mona Lisa
that was a big success. He’s living in Northern California right now. I don’t get to see him much anymore.”

To celebrate the milestone, REO Speedwagon – singer Kevin Cronin, guitarist Dave Amato, keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Bryan Hitt – is heading out on tour, and playing the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on Friday, May 5.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been this long,” Hall says. “It’s unbelievable. For this tour, we’re going over some of our older songs. We’re trying to see what we can add to our show from the first album. We do a song called ‘157 Riverside Avenue’ sometimes, not all the time.

“We find songs that people will like, and please some of our older fans who grew up with that.”

Longtime friends
Hall joined the band in 1977, but had known the guys since their formative years in Champaign, Illinois.

“I played in a band with Gary before he was in REO Speedwagon,” Hall says. “When they asked me to join in 1977, I already knew the songs and them. It was a piece of cake for
me. They were already my friends. We all lived in this big house. We were in diff erent bands, but we were pals.”

It’s that ongoing friendship that has kept REO Speedwagon together.

“Kevin and I are good buddies,” says Hall, whose grandparents retired to Apache Junction. “Neil is a bigtime buddy. The ‘new guys’ have been in the band for over 25 years. They’re
great. Brian’s a great drummer, and Dave’s a great guitar player. He’s one of the best I’ve ever heard.”

Hall is just thrilled to help REO Speedwagon celebrate a half century of music.

“I don’t know how I got so lucky as to do something I love so much,” he says. “To play live is the best part of being in a band. It’s not even work. It’s more of a joy than anything.”

What: REO Speedwagon and Paul Gurvitz & The New Army
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 5
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix
Cost: $50-$195
Information: 602-267-1600 or celebritytheatre.com