Powerhouse vocalist and songwriter Lou Gramm can be heard each and every day, all over the world, on Radio, iPods, CD players, television commercials, music videos, and of course… jukeboxes. He has become the voice of a generation.
Among the most distinctive and powerful voices to emerge from Rock and Top 40 radio, Gramm – the lead vocalist and co-writer of the multi-platinum band Foreigner – as well as a successful solo artist in his own right – remains one of the most recognizable performers in music today.
Lou Gramm, the vocalist on 20 Top 40 singles, which continue to drive sales of nearly 80 million albums worldwide, exploded onto the international music scene with Foreigner on the chart topper, “Feels Like The First Time,” in 1977. The stats are impressive – Eight Top 5 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Five Top 5 Albums on the Billboard Top Album chart in the U.S alone! Lou Gramm is in a class by himself.
Now, nearly three decades after the debut of Foreigner and chart-topping success as a solo artist, Lou Gramm returns with a hot new band and a dynamic live show featuring 90 minutes of his own unique brand of Rock’n’Roll.
“I was the lead vocalist for Foreigner for 26 years,” says Gramm. ”I am enormously proud of this, and the music I have made with Foreigner is still a big part of my solo shows. However, with this line up, I can also perform my own music and the hit records I have had as a solo artist. I even throw a few curve balls, such as my take on a Beatles classic like ‘You Can’t Do That.’ In the end, I believe the fans are getting a better show.”
Whether they are rocking out on classics like “Hot Blooded” or “Juke Box Hero,” or rolling out a new extended groove on Gramm’s massive solo hit, “Midnight Blue,” Lou and his band have been pleasing enthusiastic audiences since January of 2004 with a show that captures the essence of Gramm’s talent.
“It is enormously gratifying when I speak with fans before and after these shows,” says Gramm. “So many of them tell me how the music I have made since the mid-1970s has been so important in their lives. For some, it was a rebellious youth that identified with Foreigner rockers like ‘Dirty White Boy’; for others it was that flashback to their first true love that they envision when they hear a song like ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You.’ I am just grateful that something I helped create could touch people so deeply.”
Born in Rochester, NY, as Lou Grammatico, he spent most of the late sixties and early seventies drumming with a few regional rock bands. In 1970, he made the transition from drummer to lead vocalist with his blues-rock band, Black Sheep. In 1972, Black Sheep was signed first to Chrysalis Records and then, Capitol Records (where they recorded two albums).
“We were pretty successful in the Northeast US, and we had a very loyal cult following,” says Gramm, speaking of Black Sheep. “We were extremely influenced by Paul Rodgers’ first band, Free. In those days he and Steve Marriott from Humble Pie were the best vocalists in rock and roll, as far as I was concerned.”
Black Sheep was among the first bands out of Rochester, NY to get a recording deal with a major label, and played throughout the U.S. with acts such as Kiss, Argent, Ten Years After and Ted Nugent. In 1974, the group was on the verge of a national breakthrough opening for Kiss, when a truck accident destroyed their equipment and abruptly ended the tour for Black Sheep. While the group pondered its next move, fate intervened.
“Out of the blue, I got a call from Mick Jones, a British guitarist whom I had met when his former group, Spooky Tooth, played a show in Rochester the previous year,” recalls Gramm. “He told me he was forming a new group and wanted me to come to New York to audition.” At the urging of the other Sheep members, Gramm decided to go to New York and check it out.
One year later, Lou Grammatico has become Lou Gramm, and Foreigner’s debut album on Atlantic Records is near the top of the US charts. The band has dominated radio with three hit singles that included “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” and “Long Way From Home.” By the time the band was about to release its second album, Double Vision, in 1978, the debut album was more than quadruple platinum, and the band had won several major music industry awards.
From 1977 through 1980, the six members of Foreigner would rule the pop and rock charts with what seemed to be an endless string of Top 10 hits that included “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Blue Morning Blue Day,” “Rev on The Red Line” and several others.
In 1981, they re-grouped as a quartet with Gramm and Jones at the forefront of the creative core as well as its public persona. That same year, they released Foreigner 4, which many still regard among the greatest rock albums of all time. Among the hits that emerged were “Juke Box Hero,” “Urgent” and the aforementioned “Waiting For A Girl Like You.”
“It was a stressful time because everyone was expecting a lot from us,” says Gramm. “The result was a very, very strong album. It showed what could be accomplished when Mick and I collaborated with a great producer like Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange.” Gramm would eventually stay another seven years with Foreigner, through two more albums and one of the biggest hits of all time (the classic rock ballad, “I Want To Know What Love Is”).
Problems began in 1986, when the tension between himself and Jones had grown to the point where Gramm needed to do his own thing.
He recorded and released his first solo album, Ready Or Not, which had immediate success with “Midnight Blue”, another Top 5 hit for the vocalist. Also, in the year of its release, 1987, the song was Billboard’s #1 most played single at rock radio. The title track and several other songs from Ready Or Not stormed onto radio play lists across the country.
Gramm returned to make the Inside Information album with Foreigner, but the experience was creatively unfulfilling for him. By the end of 1988, he announced he was leaving Foreigner. “Mick and I were moving in radically different creative directions,” says Gramm. “ I knew then it was time for me to focus on my solo career.”
In 1990, Gramm released a second solo album, Long Hard Look, which had another Top 5 hit with “Just Between You & Me.” In 1991, Gramm formed a new rock band, Shadow King, with former Black Sheep bassist Bruce Turgon and future Def Leppard guitarist, Vivian Campbell. The band made one critically acclaimed album on Atlantic but, caught in a shifting radio landscape, it never became a major commercial success.
It appeared that Gramm and Jones eventually were able to resolve their personal and creative differences in 1992. The two got together in LA and ended up being sequestered for several days in a hotel during the Rodney King racial riots. The duo reformed Foreigner shortly thereafter and returned for nearly a ten-year run that included the Mr. Moonlight album (which saw great success around the world, but could not find a home at radio here in the U.S.). It was in 1996, that fate, once again, intervened. After complaining of headaches, short-term and long-term memory loss, and ironically, double vision, Gramm was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.
“Even though it was a benign (non-cancerous) tumor,” recalls Gramm, “it was large and its presence threatened my life. I was treated by Dr. Peter Black and the staff at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, who sent me into emergency surgery. The operation was 19 hours long but the tumor was successfully removed.”
Though the threat to his life had been overcome, the condition had taken its toll on Gramm’s adrenal and his pituitary glands. “It has been a daily struggle getting back to normal, but my faith in Jesus Christ is strong, and in the end, it got me through those tough times and continues to do so.”
After six months recuperating, Gramm resumed his work with Foreigner and continued doing tours through the end of 2002. “By then, I felt it was time for me to explore other outlets that could allow me to perform more than just the hits I made with Foreigner,” says Gramm.
Gramm assembled a new band that features his two talented brothers, Richard Grammatico on bass and guitar (an original member of Black Sheep), and top session musician, Ben Grammatico on drums. Also on board is guitarist Don Mancuso, (another alumnus of Black Sheep) and keyboardist Andy Knoll.
“This line up is stripped down and very lean,” laughs Gramm, “but I like it this way. It’s a classic rock and roll band without the excess instrumentation. This is a strong group and it is wonderful to finally be working with my brothers who have always been successful and acclaimed musicians in their own right.”
“I am at the point in my life where I can really enjoy the result of my many years of hard work,” says Gramm. “I am having fun now for the first time in a long time, and I am eager to return to the studio after the current tour to start recording some new music for a couple of different album projects I have planned for the future.”