Before there was Lou Gramm there was Gates-Chili High School’s Lou Grammatico.
Before there was Foreigner, there were his Rochester bands like St. James Infirmary and PHFFT.
“And you know, we did 2 shows and we went phfft!” Lou Gramm joked while sitting in his Rochester recording studio.
Gramm, who now lives in Webster, will be perform some of his final concerts this summer.
He plans to retire early next year, ending an illustrious career that took root in his hometown.
After St. James Infirmary and PHFFT, Gramm helped form Black Sheep, which took Rochester by storm.
In the mid-70s, Black Sheep caught their big break and began touring with Kiss.
One cold winter night, the band was driving back to Rochester when their equipment truck hit a patch of ice on the Thruway and flipped.
Their equipment was destroyed.
Kiss booted them from the tour and their label dropped them.
That’s when Mick Jones called.
Jones, already an established musician then, had been impressed by a Black Sheep album Gramm had given him and asked Gramm to audition for a new band.
Gramm declined telling Jones he already had a band.
When Gramm’s band mates heard that, they told him he’d be crazy not to do it and that was that.
Few bands can claim the kind of commercial success Foreigner enjoyed in the 70s and 80s.
Jones and Gramm turned out one chart topper after another, but the stardom didn’t stop Gramm from moving back to Rochester from just outside of New York City at the height of Foreigner’s fame.
“There was something about Rochester that’s very livable and the people are real, there’s no pretense here, there’s no reason for pretense here, it is what it is,” Gramm said.
Then came the break-up.
Mick Jones and the rest of the band moved on without Gramm.
After being asked if there were still any hard feelings, Gramm responded with, “There had been for a number of years.”
But in 2013, Jones and Gramm were asked to perform together at their induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In the practices leading up to the performance, a friendship reformed.
“It was fantastic,” Gramm said. “It was like we broke through the final barrier.”
Gramm says it’s possible the two might reunite for a concert this summer.
You can look at Gramm’s tour dates here.
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