Lou Gramm (born Louis Andrew Grammatico; May 2, 1950) is an American rock vocalist and songwriter best known for being the original 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", "I Don't Want to Live Without You" and his solo hit "Midnight Blue". In 2009, the Lou Gramm Band released their self-titled album of Christian rock.
Gramm was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Nikki (Masetta), a singer, and Bennie Grammatico, a band leader and trumpeter. 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, play drums and 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 Rochester and Buffalo, New York, 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 disbanded.
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 to audition for the job of lead singer.
Foreigner formation and heyday
Gramm traveled to New York to audition and 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 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. Their first eight singles cracked the Billboard Top 20, making them the first group since the Beatles to achieve this.
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 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 line up 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. 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.
Late 1980s and 1990s
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". He also contributed the song "Lost in the Shadows” to the soundtrack for the 1987 horror film The Lost Boys. 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.
Encouraged by his solo success, and increasingly displeased with the direction in which Jones was taking Foreigner, Gramm left the group in May 1990 to tour behind Long Hard Look, opening for Steve Miller Band, and went on to form Shadow King in late 1990 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. So when he was contacted by Mick Jones, Gramm agreed to return to the group in April 1992 to record three new songs for the compilation, The Very Best of ... and Beyond. Gramm also brought Bruce Turgon with him to join the Foreigner line up.
In 1992 Gramm, after having completed a stint in rehab at the end of the previous year, became a Born Again Christian "after being tired of the rock 'n' roll life and not feeling very fulfilled ... I was falling prey to some of the bad habits that can go along with that, and I just decided that my own willpower and strength was not enough, and [being raised a Catholic Christian], I knew the answer was something deeper for a long time."
In 1995 Foreigner 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.
In 1996, 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, by 1998, Gramm was back touring with Foreigner playing summer festivals and smaller markets.
2000s to present
Gradually, Gramm's health and energy returned. He left Foreigner again in 2003. Then Gramm, with brothers Ben Gramm (drums) and Richard Gramm (bass), and friends Don Mancuso (guitar) and Andy Knoll (keyboards) formed the Lou Gramm Band to play a retrospective of Gramm's work with Foreigner and his solo material and has been touring the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (as well as performing occasional dates off the continent) steadily since January 2004.
The Lou Gramm Band finished an all-Christian rock album, which was released in the U.S. on June 2, 2009, through Spectra Records. The Christian rock album was not received well, with Gramm claiming low level marketing was the problem.
As of 2012, changing the name of his band to "Lou Gramm the voice of Foreigner", Gramm continued to perform many of his old Foreigner hits but without two of the original band members: Richard Gramm was replaced by AD Zimmer on bass and Don Mancuso was replaced by Michael Staertow as lead guitar. This lineup continues to play for Gramm.
Along with Jones, Gramm was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 13, 2013.
|Ready Or Not||
|Long Hard Look||
|Lou Gramm Band||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|Year||Song||US Hot 100||US MSR||US A.C.||UK singles||Album|
|1987||"Midnight Blue"||5||1||-||82||Ready Or Not|
|1987||"Ready Or Not"||54||7||-||-||Ready Or Not|
|1989||"Just Between You And Me"||6||4||4||-||Long Hard Look|
|1989||"True Blue Love"||40||23||-||-||Long Hard Look|
With Poor Heart
- 1988: Foreigner In A Strange Land
- 1993: The Best Of The Early Years
(Note: These are actually releases of much older recordings.)
With Black Sheep
- 1974: Black Sheep
- 1975: Encouraging Words
- 1977: Foreigner (#4 US)
- 1978: Double Vision (#3 US, #32 UK)
- 1979: Head Games (#5 US)
- 1981: 4 (#1 US, #5 UK)
- 1982: Records (#10 US, #58 UK)
- 1984: Agent Provocateur (#4 US, #1 UK)
- 1987: Inside Information (#15 US, #64 UK)
- 1992: The Very Best Of
- 1992: The Very Best Of...And Beyond (#123 US, #19 UK)
- 1993: Classic Hits Live/Best Of Live
- 1994: JukeBox Heroes: The Best Of
- 1994: Mr. Moonlight (#136 US, #59 UK)
- 1999: The Platinum Collection
- 1999: Rough Diamonds No. 1
- 2000: Hot Blooded And Other Hits
- 2000: Anthology: Jukebox Heroes
- 2002: Complete Greatest Hits (#80 US)
- 2002: The Definitive (#33 UK)
- 2008: No End In Sight: The Very Best Of Foreigner
With Shadow King
- 1991: Shadow King
With Liberty N' Justice
- 2001: Welcome To The Revolution
With Don Mancuso
- 2005: D: Drive
With The Lou Gramm Band
- 2009: Baptized By Fire