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Lou Gramm began his music career in his hometown of Rochester, New York, playing in local Rochester bands, like St. James Infirmary (later The Infirmary), and PHFFT. He later sang harmony vocals in another local band, Poor Heart. Gramm then went on to play drums—and eventually become frontman 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,” in 1973. Black Sheep played in nightclubs in Rochester, New York, and Buffalo, New York.

Soon after this initial bit of success, Black Sheep signed with Capitol Records, releasing two albums in succession: “Black Sheep” in 1974 and “Encouraging Words” in 1975. They were the opening act for KISS when an icy accident with their equipment truck suddenly ended the band’s tour on Christmas Eve 1975. Unable to support its albums with live performances, Black Sheep’s run came to a screeching halt.

A year before the accident, Lou Gramm had the opportunity to meet his future bandmate, Mick Jones. In early 1976, Jones expressed his interest in Gramm and invited him to audition for lead singer in a new project.

With the blessings of his Black Sheep bandmates, Gramm auditioned for the still-unnamed band and got the job. Lou Grammatico then became Lou Gramm and became one of the most successful rock vocalists of the late 1970s and 1980s with the band Trigger—later renamed Foreigner.

On the release of “Hot Blooded” in 1978, Circus magazine said Lou 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, achieving two of its biggest hits with the ballads “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Foreigner’s first eight singles cracked the Billboard Top 20—and 4 went Top 10—making them the first group since the Beatles to achieve this in 1980.

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Ryan Wood