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Lou Gramm of Foreigner - 3/22
at City Winery New York City
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 niteclubs in Rochester and 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, and 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.
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 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. 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 40% of 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 wave-ish, keyboard-dominant quality.