"Happy 62nd Birthday"
Lou Gramm (born Louis Andrew Grammatico; May 2, 1950) is an American rock vocalist and songwriter best known for his role as the lead vocalist and co-writer of many of the songs for the rock band Foreigner. He also had a successful solo career. Gramm was the vocalist for many top-40 hits including "Cold as Ice", "Waiting for a Girl Like You", "I Want to Know What Love Is" and his solo hit "Midnight Blue". Most recently, the Lou Gramm Band has released a self-titled Christian rock album in 2009.
Gramm was born in Rochester, New York. He attended Gates-Chili High School in Rochester, graduating with the class of 1968. He is also an alumnus of Monroe Community College in Rochester.
Gramm began his musical career in his mid-teens, playing in local Rochester bands, including St. James Infirmary (later The Infirmary), and PHFFT. He later sang harmony vocals in another local band, Poor Heart. Gramm then went on to sing and play drums, and to eventually become front man for the band Black Sheep.
Black Sheep had the distinction of being the first American band signed to the Chrysalis label, which released their first single, "Stick Around" (1973). Black Sheep played in nightclubs in Buffalo, NY including McVan's, formerly at Niagara Street and Hertel Avenue. Soon after this initial bit of success, Black Sheep signed with Capitol Records, releasing two albums in succession [Black Sheep (1974) and Encouraging Words (1975)]. They were the opening act for KISS when an icy accident with their equipment truck on the New York State Thruway suddenly ended the band's tour on Christmas Eve, 1975. Unable to support its albums with live performances, Black Sheep came prematurely to a screeching halt.
A year earlier, Lou Gramm had the opportunity to meet his future bandmate Mick Jones. Jones was in Rochester performing with the band Spooky Tooth.
Gramm had given Jones a copy of Black Sheep's first album (S/T). It was early in 1976, not long after Black Sheep's truck accident, when Jones, in search of a lead vocalist for a new band he was assembling, expressed his interest in Gramm and invited him in a phone call to audition for the job of lead singer.
Foreigner era With the blessings of his Black Sheep bandmates, Gramm flew down to New York to audition for the still-unnamed band. With his powerful vocals, he easily got the job. Lou Grammatico then became Lou Gramm, and, with the band initially known as "Trigger," and later renamed Foreigner, became one of the most successful rock vocalists of the late 1970s and 1980s.
Circus magazine in 1978 upon release of "Hot Blooded" commented that Lou Gramm had a voice that Robert Plant might envy. He was performing to audiences exceeding 200,000 at some dates during the "Double Vision" tour while Steve Perry was drawing 3,000 to 10,000. Gramm is a highly underated singer. His unique vocals have made Foreigner one of Billboard's Top 100 Artists of All Time in hit songs history.
Gramm was the lead vocalist on all of Foreigner's hit songs, including "Feels Like the First Time", "Cold as Ice", "Long, Long Way from Home", "Hot Blooded", "Double Vision", "Blue Morning, Blue Day", "Head Games", "Dirty White Boy", "Urgent", "Juke Box Hero", " Break It Up" and " Say You Will". He co-wrote most of the songs for the band, which achieved two of its biggest hits with the ballads "Waiting for a Girl Like You", which spent ten weeks at #2 on the 1981-82 American Hot 100, and "I Want to Know What Love Is", which was a #1 hit internationally (US & UK) in 1985. The latter was credited only to Jones; however, Gramm indicated that he had contributed to its writing. Their first 8 singles cracked the Billboard Top 20,(4 went Top 10) making them the first group since the Beatles to achieve this in 1980.
Gramm and Mick Jones had a volatile sort of chemistry that exploded into many a chart-topper, yet at times they clashed artistically. Following the band's second album, the wildly successful Double Vision, shifts in personnel began to take place.
Following their next album, Head Games, Gramm and Jones jointly decided to reduce the band's lineup from six to four members. The next album, which Gramm has called the high point of his work with Foreigner, was aptly titled 4.
Gramm wanted the band to remain true to its purer rock origins, favoring music with a solid drum and guitar structure, whereas Jones embraced the 1980s style of synthesizer ballads — a more lucrative approach at the time. Indeed, the next album, Agent Provocateur, would find Jones moving creatively in the opposite direction from Gramm, seeking out potential co-producers such as Trevor Horn, and then Alex Sadkin, which ended up giving Foreigner's sound a somewhat new-wavish, keyboard-dominant quality.
By 1987, Foreigner continued to struggle with ongoing internal conflicts. During this period, Gramm released his first solo album, Ready or Not, which received critical acclaim and contained a top five hit single with "Midnight Blue".
This was followed by the late-1987 Foreigner album Inside Information, which reached number 15 on Billboard's album chart. The extracted "Say You Will" was released late that year, reaching number 6 on the Hot 100 early in 1988, and "I Don't Want to Live Without You" followed, reaching number 5 on the Hot 100 and number one on the adult contemporary chart in the spring.
A third single, "Heart Turns to Stone" reached number 56 in the summer.
Eventually a second solo effort, Long Hard Look, that included the top ten hit, "Just Between You and Me", and "True Blue Love", reached the Top 40.
Gramm also contributed a song to the soundtrack for the 1987 movie The Lost Boys, titled "Lost in the Shadows."
Encouraged by his solo success, and increasingly displeased with the direction in which Jones was taking Foreigner, Gramm left the group to form Shadow King with close friend and former Black Sheep bassist Bruce Turgon. The new group's 1991 self-titled album was released by Atlantic Records. Despite positive reviews, the group lacked cohesiveness. It also did not enjoy the level of marketing and promotional support necessary to sustain a new project. Shadow King soon disbanded.
The same year, Foreigner released the album Unusual Heat, a relatively unsuccessful effort fronted by vocalist Johnny Edwards.
Edwards was not widely accepted by the Foreigner fan base.
Gramm returned to the group in 1992 to record three new songs for the compilation, The Very Best of ... and Beyond, bringing a new energy back into the mix. Gramm also brought Bruce Turgon with him to join the Foreigner lineup at this point.
In 1995, the group released the album Mr. Moonlight on the Rhythm Safari label which, although relatively successful in Europe, was not as widely marketed or distributed in the U.S. Still, "Until the End of Time" made inroads at adult contemporary radio. With the changing trends in popular music, this now-classic rock band came to suffer the inevitable slowing of their genre's momentum.
New Foreigner era
In 1996, Mick Jones invited Gramm to perform backing vocals on a cover version of "I Want to Know What Love Is" he was producing for the Australian singer Tina Arena. The song went on to become a major hit again throughout Europe.
In April 1997, two months after providing vocals for Christian rock band Petra's Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus, and on the eve the band was to leave for a Japan tour, Gramm was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma.
Although the tumor was benign, the resulting surgery damaged his pituitary gland. In addition, the recovery program had caused Gramm to gain weight, and likewise affected his stamina and voice. He continued to work with Jones throughout his illness and in 1999, Gramm was back touring with Foreigner playing summer festivals and smaller markets until late 2002.
Lou Gramm Band
In 2003, Gramm once again split from Foreigner to rejuvenate his solo career with a band that included Bruce Turgon on bass, Rocket Richotte on guitar, Kevin Neal on drums, John Purdell on keyboards (who died suddenly very early in the tour), and Gary Corbett on keyboards. Following the death of both his father and mother, Bennie and Nikki Grammatico — he a trumpeter and bandleader, she a singer for his Big Band — Gramm and the initial lineup decided it best to take different paths. Fulfilling a lifelong wish of his parents that their three musical sons might someday make their music together, Gramm and his brothers, Ben and Richard, formed the current lineup of the Lou Gramm Band (also known as "LGB").
Gradually, Gramm's health and energy have rebounded, although his voice has been obviously affected, and sounds quite different on much of his new material. The Lou Gramm band has been touring the U.S., Canada, and Mexico steadily since January 2004, as well as occasional dates off the continent, and the touring continues.
Lou, Ben, with friends Don Mancuso and Andy Knoll, play a retrospective of Gramm's work with Foreigner, his solo material, plus a few personal favorites of their own. In addition, the band has taken on Christian rock. The Lou Gramm Band has recently finished an all-Christian rock album, which was released in the U.S. on June 2, 2009, through Spectra Records.