Louis Andrew Grammatico was born on May 2, 1950 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 high school playing in local Rochester bands, including St. James Infirmary (later The Infirmary), PHFFT, and Poor Heart. Gramm then went on to sing, play drums and eventually become front man for the band Black Sheep. Black Sheep was the first American band signed to the Chrysalis label, which released their first single, "Stick Around" (1974). 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 (1975) and Encouraging Words (late 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, Gramm met 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 singer for a new band he was assembling, expressed his interest in Gramm and invited him to audition for the job of lead singer.
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 Lou Gramm had a voice that Robert Plant might envy.
Foreigner's first eight singles cracked the Billboard Top 20, making them the first band since The Beatles to achieve this. Gramm performed vocals on all of Foreigner's hits including "Hot Blooded", "Feels Like the First Time", "Cold as Ice", "Long, Long Way from Home", "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.
Gramm and Foreigner founder Mick Jones had a volatile chemistry that exploded into many a chart-topper, yet at times they clashed artistically. Following the band's second album Double Vision, shifts in personnel began to take place. After the Head Games album release, Gramm and Jones jointly decided to reduce the band's line up from the original six members 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 he became known for. The next album, Agent Provocateur, took three years to release due to the ongoing creative differences between Jones and Gramm. By 1987, Foreigner continued to struggle with ongoing internal conflicts.
Gramm released his first solo album, Ready or Not, in January 1987 to critical acclaim and contained a top five hit single with "Midnight Blue". In the same year, he also contributed the song "Lost in the Shadows" to the soundtrack for the horror film The Lost Boys.
Shortly after the release of Ready or Not, rehearsals for Foreigner's next album had started but ground to a halt as Lou's status with the group was uncertain. But after the promotion and concert dates for Lou's album were finished, cooler heads prevailed and Lou rejoined Foreigner in the studio for their next album, Inside Information, which was out at the end of 1987.
Eventually a second solo effort, Long Hard Look (October 1989), that included the top ten hit, "Just Between You and Me", and "True Blue Love", reached the Top 40. Also from the album, the song "Hangin' on My Hip" was featured in the 1990 film Navy SEALs. Encouraged by his solo success, Gramm departed Foreigner to give his full attention to touring to promote Long Hard Look, opening for Steve Miller Band in the summer of 1990. After finishing this tour, Gramm went on to form the short-lived band Shadow King, which put out one self-titled album on Atlantic in October 1991. Also in 1991, Gramm contributed the song "One Dream" to the movie Highlander II: The Quickening.
Foreigner released the album Unusual Heat in 1991, a relatively unsuccessful effort fronted by vocalist Johnny Edwards. Edwards was not widely accepted by the Foreigner fan base, as he did not sound much like Gramm. So when he was contacted by Jones, Gramm agreed to return to the band in 1992 to record three new songs for the compilation, The Very Best of ... and Beyond.
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.
In early 2003, Gramm once again departed from Foreigner to go solo and as of 2012, changing the name of his band to "Lou Gramm the Original Voice of Foreigner", Gramm continued to perform many of his old Foreigner hits & his solo hits . Accompanying Gramm is AD Zimmer on bass and Michael Staertow on lead guitar. Rob Mount on Drums. Former Foreigner touring musician Scott Gilman joined the tour, playing saxophone and rhythm guitar along with Jeff Jacobs on Keyboards. This lineup continues to play for Gramm.
Along with Jones, Gramm was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 13, 2013.
On July 20, 2017, Lou joined Mick Jones, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and the current Foreigner for 3 songs at a Foreigner 40th Anniversary show at Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island, NY.
Gramm is married to Robyn Grammatico and has four children: Nicolas, Matthew, and twins Natalie and Joseph1988: Foreigner in a Strange Land
1993: The Best of the Early Years
(Note: These are actually releases of much older recordings.)1974: Black Sheep
1975: Encouraging Words
1977: Foreigner (#4 U.S.)
1978: Double Vision (#3 US, #32 UK)
1979: Head Games (#5 U.S.)
1981: 4 (#1 US, #5 UK)
1982: Records (#10 U.S., #58 UK)
1984: Agent Provocateur (#4 U.S., #1 UK)
1987: Inside Information (#15 U.S., #64 UK)
1992: The Very Best
1992: The Very Best ... and Beyond (#123 U.S., #19 UK)
1993: Classic Hits Live/Best Of Live
1994: JukeBox Heroes: The Best Of
1994: Mr. Moonlight (#136 U.S., #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 U.S.)
2002: The Definitive (#33 UK)
2008: No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner
1991: Shadow King
2004: Welcome To The Revolution
Current membersLou Gramm – lead vocals, percussion (2003–present)
AD Zimmer – bass guitar, backing vocals (2010–present)
Michael Staertow – lead guitar, backing vocals (2012–present)
Scott Gilman – saxophone, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2016–present)
Rob Mount – drums, percussion (2016–present)
Jeff Jacobs – keyboards, backing vocals (2017–present)