Lou Gramm (born Louis Grammatico on May 2, 1950 in Rochester, New York) is an American rock vocalist and songwriter best known for his role as the lead vocalist 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 "Midnight Blue". Most recently, the Lou Gramm Band has released a self-titled Christian rock album in 2009.
Louis Grammatico attended Gates-Chili High School in Rochester, New York, graduating with the class of 1968. He is also an alumnus of Monroe Community College in Rochester.
Grammatico 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. Grammatico 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). Soon after this initial bit of success, Black Sheep signed with Capitol Records, releasing two albums in succession Foreigner era
With the blessings of his Black Sheep bandmates, Grammatico 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.
Gramm was the lead vocalist on many of Foreigner's hit songs, including "Feels Like the First Time", "Cold as Ice", "Hot Blooded", "Urgent", "Double Vision", "Juke Box Hero", "Head Games", "Dirty White Boy" and "Say You Will". The band 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 (U.S. & U.K.) in 1985.
Gramm and 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 Virgin Records in the UK and Atlantic Records in the U.S. 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, although it was not to be found in many places in the U.S., if at all.
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 suddenly passed away very early during 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. The 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, and Richard, 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. The Lou Gramm Band is currently on tour supporting the album, live video from their Chicago performance on September 19th, 2009 can be seen at the 104.3 Jack FM website.
Gramm counts John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Steve Marriott, Paul Rodgers and Wilson Pickett among his influences.