REO Speedwagon's 1971 debut album was with their original lead singer, Terry Luttrell. Kevin Cronin
took over that role for their next effort, R.E.O./T.W.O.
(1972), but it was rough sledding, and while they were making their third album, Ridin' the Storm Out
(1973), he left over conflict with guitarist Gary Richrath and other creative tensions. Cronin returned to the band in 1976, which meant moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, where they had relocated. On that trip, he had lots of time to think about all the changes in his life, and how he was (quite literally) rolling with them.
The song hit him in a flash: he started writing the lyrics on a brown paper bag in his Ford Pinto while he was driving. Released as the first single from their 1978 album You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish
, the song became their biggest hit to that point, reaching #58.