Rochester native Lou Gramm nominated for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as member of Foreigner

Lou Gramm nominated for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Rochester native Lou Gramm has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the original singer of the band Foreigner. With a legacy spanning five decades, Foreigner is one of the best-selling rock bands of all time with more than 80 million records sold worldwide. 

Other nominees include: Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Cher, Dave Matthews Band, Eric B. & Rakim, Peter Frampton, Jane’s Addiction, Kool & the Gang, Lenny Kravitz, Oasis, Sinéad O’Connor, Ozzy Osbourne, Sade and A Tribe Called Quest. The inductees will be announced in late April. 

Lou Gramm sat down with News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke to talk about the nomination, his current tour and his Rochester roots. 

Jennifer Lewke: “Where were you and what you were doing when you heard that Foreigner had finally been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Lou Gramm: “I think it was after a show that we had just played with my band and I was drying off in the dressing room and there was a call. It was Foreigner’s manager, Phil Carson, and he said, ‘You better sit down ’cause we’ve finally been nominated for the Rock Hall of Fame.'”

It was a call Gramm, a kid from Gates, never thought he would get.

Jennifer Lewke: “Let’s go back to your time growing up in Gates. Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?”

Lou Gramm: “I started playing drums when I was 8 years old. My dad did my uncle a favor by getting this old set of drums out of the basement, so we set them up and that’s what I played on for a couple of years.” 

Jennifer Lewke: “Do you still have the drum set?”

Lou Gramm: “No, I don’t have the drum set.”

Jennifer Lewke:  “’Cause that should go in the Hall of Fame with you.”

Lou Gramm: “Yes, yes it should!”

Gramm joined Black Sheep, a band here in Rochester, as its drummer and singer.

“It was very difficult to put the emotion of the song across from behind a big set of drums,” he recalls. “So, we started looking for a singer and we must have auditioned three or four people who sang okay but they weren’t really …. I don’t think they grasped what we were after.”

That’s when Gramm decided to make a move.

“I said, ‘Look guys, if we can’t find a singer, let’s try and find a drummer and I’ll move up to the front.’ I’m sure my first bunch of shows as a frontman were awkward. It wasn’t my turf up front,” Gramm tells News10NBC. 

Lou Gramm speaks about nomination to rock hall of fame

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That quickly changed after his audition with Foreigner. Gramm recalls an instant connection between the band.

“I thought it was special right away because as soon as Mick [Jones] and I started writing, I mean the songs just started proliferating, you know, and the writing sessions were always interesting and we always came away with something that was potentially very good,” Gramm says.

Gramm says the band was shocked by the success of its self-titled first album in 1977.

“You hope for a mid-chart hit or maybe two to lift, get your wheels off the ground, but that first album was so much more than we had hoped for,” he recalls. 

Gramm attributes Foreigner’s early fans to the fact that they were opening for The Doobie Brothers.

“They had a built-in audience. Every show we played with them was sold out,” he says.

Gramm and Jones became legendary songwriting partners, creating iconic hits like “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Hot Blooded,” “Juke Box Hero” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” 

The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013 but their relationship has been strained over the last few decades. If inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, “in spite of the highs and lows through the years, I think that will be a moment of camaraderie that will bridge any problems that we’ve had in the past,” Gramm says. 

Jennifer Lewke: “Do you hear Foreigner’s influence in today’s music?”

Lou Gramm: “Yes, yes I do and it feels good. It’s nothing that I need to talk about. It’s just a little smile I walk around with.”

Jennifer Lewke: “Okay, let’s do a lightning round on Rochester-specific things Lou, okay? First: favorite restaurant?”

Lou Gramm: “That’s a tough one. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by choosing somebody else.”

Jennifer Lewke: “What do you do when you’re home?”

Lou Gramm: “I like to drive around and go through the neighborhoods I used to live in and see what they still look like. That’s still fun and when I do that, I bring my kids with me.”

Jennifer Lewke: “How many times do people try to hit you up for free tickets?”

Lou Gramm: “Um, sometimes. Not as often as you might think because they know I’m not an easy touch, you know!” 

Jennifer Lewke: “I know you do a lot of charity work locally still, too.”

Lou Gramm: “Yeah, I have my own charity. It’s to help young musicians get started who love music but maybe the family can’t afford the piano or the guitar or something like that or even lessons.”

Jennifer Lewke: “You have a show coming up in March at Kodak Center. Is there a little extra nostalgia, a little extra excitement when it’s here you’re playing?”

Lou Gramm: “Always extra excitement. Tours are long and years go by sometimes without performing in Rochester, and sometimes it’s ‘yes’ and sometimes it’s ‘no.’ There’s no rhyme or reason to it but when it’s a ‘yes’ and the show is coming up, I know for a fact, I get more amped up and more nervous to play in front of my hometown people.”

The Lou Gramm All Stars perform on March 9th at the Kodak Center. Tickets are available here.

More on Gramm’s local non-profit here.

More on Gramm’s current band and tour here.