Former REO Speedwagon bassist Gregg Philbin, who played on the band's first six studio albums and appeared on 1977's Live: You Get What You Play For, has died.

Singer Kevin Cronin paid tribute to his former bandmate in a statement shared by the band. "No one should underestimate the Philbin Factor in the evolution of REO Speedwagon," Cronin wrote. "When Gregg left the band in 1977, he took with him the prog-leaning extended instrumental section aspect of the REO sound.

"Gregg approached the bass guitar much like legendary Who bassist John Entwistle," he continued. "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."

Philbin's tenure in REO Speedwagon predated Cronin's. He appeared on the band's self-titled debut album in 1971 and played on each successive LP through 1976's R.E.O. Their first six albums failed to make much of a commercial splash, although Live: You Get What You Play For — his swan-song with the band — became their first gold album. REO Speedwagon's first studio album without Philbin, 1978's You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish, would become their first Top 40 LP and ultimately go double platinum.

Despite their musical conflicts, Cronin was quick to praise Philbin's personality and offer his sympathies to those close to the bassist. "All that said, Gregg was a smart, funny, charming guy, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more savvy individual," he concluded. "His health had been an issue for some time, and today his soul is 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."

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