by Marty Reimenschneider
Back in the mid-60’s as a freshman at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, I frequented a number of taverns that would serve you if you were tall enough to look over the bar. One of these rather raunchy establishments was known as the Midway Tavern, a shotgun type building, long and narrow. Upstairs the pinball machines were always occupied by fledgling pinball wizards who passed the time by sucking on quarts of Blue Ribbon. The dark and damp basement of the building was usually occupied by the pledge class of my fraternity and the neighboring sorority girls, all of whom iat at long tables guzzling their own quarts of Blue Ribbon. One Saturday night, after two quarts, I noticed a band setting up next to the juke box. After several adjustments in amps and a considerable amount of feedback, the young musicians started playing what amounted to nothing but a bunch of songs in three chord progression. Little did I know that I was witnessing the birth of a group later to be known as the One Eyed Jacks, which had considerable success throughout Illinois as the leading rock group of the mid 60’s, from Old Town in Chicago to the high schools of southern Illinois. Eventually this group from Champaign evolved into one of the most popular acts in the midwest–R.E.O. Speedwagon. Now I can hear all you readers on the coasts asking who?
Well, troops, it’s time you found out what was happening in the plain states …
You know a lot of groups today think that blowing up amps, spitting fire and brimstone and flash powder are the only ways to get a crowd to stand up and cheer. Not so. For nine years, Reo Speedwagon has had audiences across the midwest from the Dakotas to the mid south, swinging from the rafters by doing nothing more than playing exciting, straight ahead rock and roll with passion and precision.
A lot of love for rock and roll and plenty of plain hard work has paid off over the years for R.E.O. Their reptuation as one of the most dynamic live acts in rock has developed from those early days I mentioned previously in Champaign, Illinois where their playing set bars like the Midway and later the “Chances R,” on fire.