Gregg Philbin, Former REO Speedwagon Bassist, Has Died

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

Gregg Philbin, the former bassist of REO Speedwagon, has reportedly passed away. The band announced the unfortunate news on Monday (October 24). 

In the post on their website, the REO Speedwagon bandmates stated that Gregg Philbin played on the band’s first six studio albums and the live You Get What You Play For double-live album. “No one should underestimate the Philbin Factor in the evolution of REO Speedwagon,” the music group declared. When Gregg left the band in 1977, he took with him the prog-leaning extended instrumental section aspect of the REO sound.”

The band also stated that Gregg Philbin approached the bass guitar much like the legendary Who bassist John Entwistle. “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.”

The REO Speedwagon bandmates went on to add that Philbin was a smart, funny, charming guy. “You would be hard pressed to find a more savvy individual,” they shared. It was also noted that Philbin’s health had been an issue for some time and his soul has finally been freed. “We all loved Gregg, mourn his death, and send our condolences to his surviving family members and friends. Today is a sad day in REO World.”

Philbin was bass and backup vocals for REO Speedwagon from 1968 to 1977.  He replaced Mike Blair. In 1977, Bruce Hall took over the band’s bass part and has been there since.

REO Speedwagon Keyboarder Neal Doughty Reveals Why Gregg Philbin Was Replaced 

While speaking to Classic Rock Revisited, longtime REO Speedwagon keyboarder Neal Doughy spoke about why Gregg Philbin was replaced by Bruce Hall nearly ten years after joining the group. 

“The other guys thought we needed a bass player who played more solidly,” the REO Speedwagon musician explained.  “And was more cohesive with the drums. They didn’t let me in on it right away because I was really close with Gregg personally. Gregg’s style was too busy for Alan’s drumming. We had known Bruce for a long time and liked the way he played. His bass seems to keep things more solid. And he sings and writes, too.”

Hall also spoke about replacing Philbin in the band. “I thought Gregg Philbin was a great bass player and I thought he played some really interesting and cool parts.”

Hall then admitted he wasn’t quite sure of the full details about what happened between Philbin and the rest of the REO Speedwagon. “I don’t know all of the particulars of what happened to Gregg, but it was a great opportunity, so I decided to give it a go.  I knew them all and they had recorded one of my songs and I had kind of grown up and I knew most of their songs and I had heard them.  It all took off from there.”