Fate Makes it Feel Like the First Time for Lou Gramm
In the early to late 70’s, most of the Rock music heard on the radio or out of New York, was either Disco or Punk Rock. There were 2 popular clubs in New York that were divided like the political parties in Washington, DC. You had Studio 54, which catered to Disco, and then there was the legendary, CBGB’s, favoring Punk and Glam Rock.
Most radio stations during that time were playing Disco or Easy Listening Rock. Anytime you changed the radio station, you were almost guaranteed to hear Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, the Commodores, the Village People, or Barry White. Since there was no satellite radio back then, you had to search to find any type of Rock music. When you did, it was generally Punk Rock (the Ramones, Patty Smith, the Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, or David Bowie).
Each generation has its Rock music. The 80’s had New Wave or Glam rock from California.
The 90’s brought Metal with Metallica, Pantera and Iron Maiden, or Grunge with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden. By 2000 Pop and Techno. Now, as we approach 2020, Rock music is on the upswing once again and is appreciating the Classics a lot. Bands from the 90’s are still touring, and including some great new Rock bands; taking them under their wing, which seems to be helping Rock music. In Europe, Metal is king and those bands are featured on satellite radio.
In the 70’s, Rock music needed more. "Saturday Night Fever" was the top movie, and the music market was saturated by Disco music. People wanted to dance like John Travolta. They were also amazed by the sultry voice of Donna Summer. I remember being in elementary school and hearing Donna Summer on a radio, yet again, and screaming out, “Disco sucks!” I had had it.
I was first turned on to true Rock music at the age of 7 when my mom bought the Three Dog Night album, "Naturally." I couldn’t get enough of ‘Liar’ and ‘Joy To The World.’ I loved it! Rock music was becoming light rock. Bands like, Seals and Crofts, Bread, America, and Atlanta Rhythm Section sang emotional ballads and opened up. Yet, I just wanted to Rock!
By 8th grade my life changed because of my homeroom teacher. Mr. Frank was a hippy who loved playing air guitar. He would plug his huge headset into a tape recorder. I asked him one day what kind of music he liked and he said, “The only kind: Rock and…Roll! There’s nothing like a power chord and loud drums to wake you up!” He showed me a box of cassette tapes he had in a drawer. I was an athlete and really wanted some music to pump me up on the wrestling mats. Mr. Frank turned me on to Boston, Peter Frampton, Kansas, Cheap Trick, Foghat, Tom Petty and some new band called Foreigner. It only took hearing the opening guitar riff for “Feels Like The First Time” for me to get completely hooked. Mr. Frank made cassette tape copies of the songs he had, and my life changed. The music motivated me on the matts into a college scholarship and making state, and then to nationals. That is what Rock music does.
Foreigner is an English-American rock band, originally formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran English musician and ex-Spooky Tooth member, Mick Jones. Also in the band, is ex-King Crimson member, Ian McDonald. The trademark of this band has been its catchy rock songs, and the soulful vocals of American vocalist, Lou Gramm. Jones created the band's name because of how McDonald and Dennis Elliott were British, yet Gramm, Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliard were American. Foreigner has been the world's best-selling bands of all time, with worldwide sales of more than 80 million records, including 37.5 million records in the US.
Since its beginning, Foreigner has been led by English musician Mick Jones (former member of Nero and the Gladiators, Johnny Hallyday's band, Spooky Tooth, and The Leslie West Band). When the Leslie West Band folded in 1976, Jones was stranded in New York City. West's manager, Bud Prager, encouraged Jones to continue his songwriting, and to form a new band; rehearsing in a place Prager had near his New York office.
Jones got together with keyboardist Al Greenwood, drummer Stan Williams, and bassist, Jay Davis (later with Rod Stewart) and they jammed. During a session for Ian Lloyd's album, Jones met up with transplanted Englishman and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald and another session for Ian Hunter unearthed another fellow Brit in drummer Dennis Elliott. After auditioning 50 singers, the band still couldn't find the right one. Jones dragged out an old Black Sheep album -given to him backstage at a Spooky Tooth concert a few years back, by their lead singer, Lou Gramm. They immediately had him audition. Gramm proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle and bassist, Ed Gagliardi completed the new sextet.
A name, "Trigger", was tentatively agreed to as their band name on a demo tape, but it was passed on by all the record companies it was delivered to. John Kalodner, a former journalist and radio programmer who was working in A&R at Atlantic Records, happened to see the Trigger tape on Atlantic Records' president's (Jerry L. Greenberg's) desk. He convinced Greenberg to look into signing this group immediately. Jones came switched the band's name to Foreigner, and the band began.
In November 1976, Foreigner recorded their debut album with producers John Sinclair and Gary Lyons at The Hit Factory, but switched to Atlantic Recording Studios to finish basic tracks and complete it. The album was re-mixed back at Atlantic by Mick Jones, Ian McDonald and Jimmy Douglass. Bud Prager became Foreigner's manager, a role he would continue in for the next 17 years.
The band's debut album, Foreigner, was released in February 1977 and sold more than four million copies in the United States, staying in the Top 20 for a year with the hit singles, "Feels Like the First Time", "Cold as Ice" and "Long, Long Way from Home".
By May 1977, Foreigner was already headlining theaters and had scored a gold record for the first album. Not long afterwards, they sold out U.S. basketball arenas and hockey rinks. After a show at Memorial Hall in Kansas City on May 6, 1977, drummer Elliott injured his hand, prompting the band to call in Ian Wallace (ex-King Crimson) to play alongside Elliott on some of the dates until the hand was healed.
After almost a year on the road, the band played to over two hundred thousand people at California Jam II on March 18, 1978, and in the following month, the band toured Europe, Japan and Australia for the first time. They have had a long line of successful hits still recognized today, as Classic Rock. In 2013 Lou Gramm was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Foreigner’s legendary songwriting of Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, created ten multi-platinum albums and multiple Top 30 hits. Universally hailed as one of the most popular rock acts in the world, the band is responsible for some of the greatest rock anthems of our time, including the worldwide No. 1 hit, "I Want To Know What Love Is," which today remains one of the 25 most performed songs in the ASCAP Catalog.
Major songs in the Jones/Gramm catalog include "Juke Box Hero", "Hot Blooded" and "Waiting For A Girl Like You."
Jones is the winner of the prestigious British Ivor Novello Songwriter Award.
On July 20, 2017, Lou joined Mick Jones, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and the current Foreigner for three songs at a Foreigner 40th Anniversary show at Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island, New York.
In 2019 Gramm toured on a bill with Asia, featuring John Payne. He performed lead vocals on the track "Sometimes" on the album The Secret by Alan Parsons.
Kreig Marks, Publisher
TRR: Hey Lou, welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. This is a treat. I’m not going to go fan-girl all over you but let me tell you, I’ve been a huge fan since my 8th grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Frank, told me about the first Foreigner cassette in 1977.
Lou: (laughing) That’s pretty cool. Sounds like you had a pretty cool homeroom teacher.
TRR: Yes, he was pretty cool. He was always playing rock music for us on his cassette player.
Lou: That’s really cool that he would do that. I can’t imagine teachers doing that these days.
TRR: Unfortunately, neither can I. But, I remember how, when our homeroom teacher put on, “Feels like the First Time, “ in our classroom, I was hooked. The thing is, at that time it was about light music, or disco or light rock. Yet, when you came along it was a welcome change to have more guitar, and your style of Rock. Who influenced all of you guys as a band?
Lou: Oh man, there were so many. Definitely the Beatles. They were a huge influence. Free, and Bad Company, Steve Marriott of Humble Pie. Man, the list is long.
TRR: Foreigners first album, in 1977, did you guys know, when you released that very first album, only a year after being a band, that it would do as well?
Lou: You know, by the time we started touring, "Feels Like The First Time" was climbing up the charts and we had a good feeling about how the whole thing was going to go. So yeah, I was very positive, and I think the rest of the band was too. We had some very strong songs written and recorded and yes, I knew it would do very well.
TRR: When you were a kid in Rochester, who did you listen to? Your first album you bought was?
Lou: I loved the Beatles. I still do. The other groups, Free with Paul Rodgers, Steve Marriott, Steve Winwood and John Lennon. They were my heroes as a kid and they were big influences on me.
TRR: When did you know you wanted to be a professional singer?
Lou: Oh man. I guess since I was around 10, 11 or 12 years old. I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and told my dad, that's what I want to do.
TRR: What was your dad's response?
Lou: (laughing) He just smiled at me. He didn't say, "you're not going to do that." He just smiled like, "Oh no you don't." (laughing)
TRR: And then, moving forward, what was his response when you actually did it and Foreigner became such a huge and successful band?
Lou: He was so incredibly proud of me. Back in the days, my dad was a trumpet player. Both my parents were in music. My father was a band leader, and my mom was a singer.
TRR: I assume that’s how they met?
Lou: (laughing) Yah, how’d you guess that one? Yes, that’s how they met.
TRR: Did they get to see you perform live?
Lou: Oh yah. They heard Foreigner many times and they were very proud. It was awesome.
TRR: What about before Foreigner? You were in a band called Black Sheep. Did you also have a day job at the time?
Lou: It was a lot of fun but let me tell you, it was a whole lot different than things are these days. We actually had two albums out on Capital Records. I remember a tour we did with KISS. We would do shows in the North East, like in the Catskills. After the shows, we would all pile into an old Ford Galaxy and drive home, and my band mates would drop me off at the community college I was going to. I would change my clothes in the car, and they would drop me at the college. A full show, a four hour drive home, and little sleep. But that's how it was back then.
TRR: What were you studying?
Lou: I was a History major and an Art minor.
TRR: I assume you really never had an opportunity to do anything with your degree.
Lou: That would be correct. Once I got my Associates Degree, things with Foreigner were taking off.
TRR: What is one of the most memorable experiences you have, from a recording session with Foreigner?
Lou: I think when we were recording Jukebox Hero. Mick was playing the lead. We had everything done except the lead guitar intro. Mick kept playing it but was not happy with it. After about 2 1/2 hours, his hands were hurting, he was exhausted, and he said, "one more try" and he played the solo that's on the song now, he nailed it. It was like a party in the studio, everyone jumping up and down yelling, "He did it!"
TRR: Isn't it funny how it's always the last take?
Lou: That's how it always seems to go. But, I think it worked out well.
TRR: (laughing) I'd have to agree with you on that. Some producers you worked with. Who really stands out?
Lou: Mutt Lange on Foreigner 4. Keith Olson on Double Vision. He's the one who produced Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Queen's producer, Roy Thomas Baker on Head Games. That was a wild time, a crazy experience.
TRR: How so?
Lou: From the time we got in to the studio until the time we left. We would get in the studio at about 10 or 11am in the morning and he'd already have 2 or 3 bottles of champagne popped. (laughing) We'd finish the champagne and then we'd start recording. That would really loosen us up.
TRR: (laughing) I'm sure it did!
Lou: You know, we'd continue working and he'd be there drinking all day. And, although he was really good, by the time the session ended, he'd practically have to be carried out of there. (laughing)
TRR: I wonder if he has any recollection of actually producing the album. I doubt it. (laughing)
Lou: (laughing) I think you're right. And the funny thing is we'd start out at 10am in the morning and work until about midnight. The next day, we'd start at about 11 in the morning and work until about 1am. The next day we'd start around 2pm and the next thing you know our clock is completely turned around. Eventually we'd be coming in at around 9 at night and work until about 4 in the afternoon. (laughing)
TRR: But I'm sure you're proud how the album turned out.
Lou: Oh yes, absolutely.
TRR: In 1976 Foreigner is a new band. Then, only a year later, Foreigner is selling out huge arenas. How old were you then, and tell me the moment you realized, “Whoa, we are a big deal.” Was there some single moment where it hit you?
Lou: I guess I was around 25 or 26 at the time? We were doing a show, the Cal Jam 2 (a big festival type show in Ontario, California, with several other rock bands at the time). The crowd went wild after we left the stage and wanted us to go back on. It was a thrill.
TRR: Looking out from the stage, how many people would you say were there?
Lou: Wow, there were a lot! It was a full stadium, shoulder to shoulder. Over 300,000 people. It was crazy, a great crazy.
TRR: That's a lot of people packed into one place to see a concert. Were you nervous?
Lou: No. Excited? Absolutely. It's a natural high that you can't explain.
TRR: Incredible. Your relationship with Mick Jones, according to a lot of media stories and interviews I’ve seen, has had a kind of love/hate relationship over the years. Is that fair to say? I’d like it from your perspective.
Lou: Yah, not always, but it’s been like that on and off over the years. But, so are a lot of other friendships, business relationships and marriages. We’re both hard-working, motivated people, and we can both be pretty stubborn. Now our relationship is very good. There were several years when we didn’t talk at all.
TRR: How many?
Lou: I’d say at one point, maybe 10 years.
TRR: What got you both talking again?
Lou: The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Induction in 2013. We were both contacted that we were going to be inducted into this, and Billy Joel, (he’s a good friend of Mick’s) was going to introduce us and welcome us into the Hall. Well, like I said, it was about 10 years since we had spoken and now, we are going to be on the same stage again and probably do a few of our songs together.
TRR: So, did you call him?
TRR: How was that first conversation?
Lou: It was OK. We hadn't spoken since 2003. We congratulated each other. We had a major falling out in 2003 and I left the band. I was extremely angry and we hadn't spoken in 10 years. So, we finally spoke when we learned we were going to be given this very prestigious award.
TRR: What about when you saw each other at the event? Were you nervous about that?
Lou: Not really nervous, maybe a bit reserved, I guess?
TRR: Were you looking forward to seeing Mick?
Lou: Hmm, that’s a good question. I guess I was, maybe curious to see how it would go. Cause man, it had been 10 years since we had spoken. The last time we spoke it got ugly.
TRR: Argument? Band stuff?
Lou: Yep! (laughing) How’d you know?
TRR: So how did it go, at the event?
Lou: Well, I flew to New York 2 days before the reception, because we were suppose to play a few songs with a studio band. So, we rehearsed and it was all good, like old times. And then Billy Joel introduced us and we went on to perform 2 songs. It was a wonderful night, and we let the past be the past.
TRR: How did it feel to perform a few songs with Mick, that you hadn’t done with him in several years?
Lou: It really felt good. So, now when I see him, it's like seeing an old friend.
TRR: I watched that on television and it was pretty cool to see the two of you together again.
Lou: Yah, it really was. I did miss it.
TRR: Is that when the two of you decided to do some Foreigner shows together again? Did you talk about that then?
Lou: Yah we did. We discussed it and then we eventually did it.
TRR: So now, when was the last time you spoke to Mick?
Lou: We spoke a couple months ago. We have some things on the schedule for this year during the Summer. There will be 2 or 3 shows on the West Coast and 2 or 3 on the East Coast.
TRR: Hopefully you’ll get to South Florida again.
Lou: I don’t know if it’s on the schedule, but I’ll keep you in mind.
TRR: In 1987, you put out your first solo album, Ready or Not. Was Mick upset or angry at you for going off to do this solo project?
Lou: You know, Foreigner would do an album and then go on tour, take off about 6 months and then go back in the studio again. Around 1986, Mick told us he and his wife were going to take a cruise around the world and wouldn't be back for about 4 months, maybe longer. I was antsy. I had a lot of songs in my head and I didn't think it would be fair to the rest of the group that he was going to put us on ice for that long. So I got some of my musician friends I knew, and we completed some demos, and Atlantic Records loved them and gave me an album budget. I recorded a solo album. By the time Mick came back, I was not only finished with the album, but was a special guest on the Steve Miller tour. Mick got back and called and said, "Hey Lou, it's about time we get started on the next album." I told him he would have to wait a little while. He said, "What do you mean?" I told him I had my own album out, and he said yah, he heard it.
TRR: Did he like it?
Lou: He said, just like this, "It's OK."
TRR: It's OK? That's what he said?
Lou: Yep. He said we were going to start writing songs and go into the studio. I told him I can't do that, I'm touring to support my album. That's what I learned being in Foreigner. When you have an album, you tour to support the album. That's what you do normally. I said, "Why can't you wait another month or two?....We waited all this time for you. In a month or 2, I'll be done with my tour and I'll be glad to join you in the studio then, and we'll record the next album." He said I think you should end the tour and come home now. I told him I couldn't do that.
TRR: What was his reaction?
Lou: He got fuckin' angry. Next thing I knew, they had a new singer and were finishing up the album.
TRR: Talk about a slap in the face.
Lou: Yep. It didn't have to be that way. I wasn't doing this to insult him. I was doing this to stay busy. My album did very well. I actually have an article in Billboard Magazine that says Midnight Blue was the most listened to song in 1987. I was extremely proud of that. I won't bore you with the details.
TRR: It's not boring at all. It's all part of your history.
Lou: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
TRR: Through family members, I know drummer, Kevin Neal. He was your touring drummer for a while.
Lou: Yes. Kevin is a great drummer and a great guy.
TRR: I interviewed him last year. One of his favorite songs to play as your drummer was, “Lost in the Shadows” from the movie “Lost Boys.”
Lou: That's cool.
TRR: Did you write that song specifically for the movie?
Lou: No. That song was written for my album, and then I got a call from Joel Schumacher, who was the producer of the movie. He asked me if I had anything that could possibly be in that movie. I had that song, but it had no lyrics. So, I worked on the song with my bass player, and Joel loved it, and it became the theme song for the movie.
TRR: Tell me, out of all of the Foreigner albums, or solo albums, which album do you feel resonates the most to you, as Lou Graham the musician?
Lou: Mr. Moonlight
TRR: I haven’t heard that album in years. I agree, it was a great album. It didn’t get the same attention as all the others though. Why do you think that was?
Lou: It was recorded on a small boutique label and didn't get much airplay or sell much because times changed. A new bunch of artists were the hero's of the radio then and that's how it went. A lot of corporations bought up the independent radio stations, and there was a program director who had a hand in what would be played during the day, but it's now all decided by the company. So, when that happened, we were pretty much shut out, us and a lot of the bands that came up with us, like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Kansas. A lot of the corporations locked out the veterans like us.
TRR: Those corporations ended up blocking out the bands who actually made them who they were and are.
Lou: That's right. And it's still going on today. So that's why that album, Mr Moonlight, which I feel was one of our best albums, never got the attention like the others. If you go back to listen to it, check out "White Lie," "Rain," and "Big Dog."
TRR: I'll definitely do that. Some years ago, you started the band, Shadow King. Some great music came out of the Shadow King album.
Lou: Thank you, I’m very proud of that.
TRR: Let me ask you this, when Vivian [Vivian Campbell, former guitarist for Dio and Whitesnake] left to join Def Leppard, why didn’t you replace him to keep Shadow King going? Do you think Shadow King could have been very successful if Vivian had remained?
Lou: I think if he hadn't left, it would have been a huge band. That first album had all the potential in the world. Melodically, the songs on it had a lot of integrity and balls. It was a lot of fun to record. We recorded it with Keith Olson. It was on Atlantic Records. They were gung ho about it, and were ready to publicize it to make sure it got out there. While we were finishing that, Foreigner was now looking for a lead singer again. Mick really wanted me back, but if Shadow King was a hit, Atlantic told him that I would never be coming back. So suddenly, all the promotion and everything Atlantic promised, they didn't deliver any of it.
TRR: I guess that sounds a bit suspicious?
Lou: Uh, yeah. So, we did a short tour, and the album didn't sell well, and at that point, Vivian got the call from Def Leppard, so that was it. There's some live footage from the show we did in London on the internet. I don't remember the name of the venue, but it was a blast.
TRR: In 1997, which I imagine was one of the hardest years of your life, you were diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Your doctor’s had no answers to cure it.
Lou: That’s correct.
TRR: I can’t begin to imagine what went through your mind. How did you not lose your mind? Were you losing hope?
Lou: I tried not to lose hope but when, after so many tests, your doctors, the experts at this, all say there’s nothing they can do for you, I guess you do start to lose your mind at times, or get depressed.
TRR: When did you first realize that something was wrong?
Lou: I started to have some balance problems and vision problems. Every once in a while, my eyes would cross and it was crazy. I was forgetting some of the words to our songs. So, I went to the doctor to get checked out and that’s when they broke the good news! (laughing)
TRR: I’m glad you’re here to laugh about it now.
Lou: Yah, me too.
TRR: Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?
Lou: Yah, I do. I’m very spiritual. I’ve been a Born-Again Christian for many years, and really try to live my life through God’s eyes. I’ve been away from drugs and drinking for a long time, and I owe a lot of that to my beliefs.
TRR: Congratulations on that. That isn't an easy battle to win.
Lou: It wasn’t. It was a day to day thing, sometimes a minute to minute thing, but I got through it.
TRR: So, you are diagnosed with the tumor. Next question, do you believe in fate?
Lou: Oh, absolutely I do. A lot.
TRR: Your story is incredible. So, your doctor’s say, “Lou, we’re sorry but there’s nothing we can do for you anymore?"
Lou: That’s right.
TRR: Did you think you were going to die?
Lou: I thought about that, but I kept a small bit of hope, too.
TRR: I heard that, you were given bad news by your doctors, horrible news, and you’re at home one day, sitting on the couch, TV remote in your hand, flipping through channels. Along comes a story on the news about a doctor, not too far from where you live, who is doing a new surgical procedure to remove inoperable brain tumors? Man, that is fate! What were the odds, really that you’d see that?
Lou: I don’t even know. But yah, I believe in fate.
TRR: Lou, imagine you decided to go out for lunch with the family or had to go do something in the house and you got up, turned off the TV, and had missed that story? That is freak’n fate! It's an amazing story. When is your life movie coming out?
Lou: (laughing) Yes, that was fate talking. Something kept me there flipping through the channels.
TRR: (laughing) I’m glad you didn't leave the room when that came on!
Lou: (laughing) Yah, me too!
TRR: So, what happened next, after you saw that story?
Lou: At the end of the story on the news channel, they gave the doctor’s contact information. I called right away and it’s crazy, but they had just gotten a cancellation, so I was able to see the doctor in a day.
TRR: Fate again!
Lou: (laughing) Fate! How could God not have his hand on that?
TRR: Exactly. So what happened next?
Lou: Next thing I knew, I'm in his office the next morning, Tuesday, and his secretary said to get on a plane today, and get to Boston because his office had a cancellation. So I'm on a plane to Boston, get to his office. I’m having an MRI on Wednesday and some other tests and on Thursday, 19 hours in surgery to remove the tumor. It was the size of an egg, and had these tentacles that were wrapping around the optic nerve and pituitary.
TRR: And, obviously the surgery was successful.
Lou: Yes, it was successful.
TRR: Then the fun part began. In my previous profession, as a neurological physical therapist, I’ve worked with dozens of people who have gone through brain surgery. I know that the recovery is often worse than the surgery itself. What was your recovery like?
Lou: Oh man, you are right. It was tough. Especially with all the steroids they put me on to keep the swelling down. I went from 150 pounds to over 250 pounds.
TRR: I imagine very high doses of Prednisone?
Lou: Yep, how’d you know? (laughing)
TRR: How about your blood sugar? With high doses of Prednisone like that for such a long time, a lot of people develop diabetes.
Lou: Yep. I now have type 2 diabetes. So I have to monitor my blood sugar all the time. An inconvenience, but I'm alive.
TRR: Agreed. Did you go through any formal physical or occupational therapy?
Lou: Actually, no. My doctor wanted me to take at least a year and a half to heal and recover. Foreigner had other plans. Foreigner's manager said they had to cancel a lot of shows because of my surgery, and now had them rescheduled, so we had to go out on the road.
TRR: Seriously? It seems like he was blaming you for the cancellations.
TRR: Pardon the expressions but WTF?! That's so cold. The tour was that much more important than your health? First, you almost die, and now, after a month or so post surgery, they want you back touring?
Lou: They had a tour scheduled for Japan for after I had surgery, and expected me to be there for that.
TRR: Did you do that tour?
Lou: Yep. I shouldn’t have, but I did.
TRR: How the hell did you do a tour, only a few months after major brain surgery?
Lou: Slowly? (laughing)
TRR: Seriously, how or why did you do that tour?
Lou: Man, I shouldn't have. But, I did. I really don't remember that tour. When I took the stage, I couldn't remember the words to the songs. All the words were written on these huge pieces of paper taped to the stage, and I would read the words during every song.
TRR: So, just put a band aid on it, and put you back out on the road?
Lou: That's right. That's exactly right. And, in addition to the Type 2 diabetes, I also developed sleep apnea from the weight gain. I was messed up from the surgery, the diabetes, and now sleep apnea. I was totally exhausted. I'm actually glad I don't remember that tour.
TRR: How are you feeling now, if you compare it to before you had the brain tumor? What is different, and what feels the same for you?
Lou: I feel good. I mean, before the surgery, I was having blurred vision, balance issues. Now, I feel good. Obviously it affected my voice some, but I'm good. I'm still out there performing, and having a lot of fun doing it.
TRR: You’ve had an amazing career, a legacy of sound. When you reflect on all of it, what are you most proud of, musically speaking?
Lou: I'm proud of all the songs from the beginning of the band, to the end of my part with the band. I'm proud of the reputation I cut for myself. There's a lot of a--holes out there, unfortunately. To the best of my knowledge, I'm squeaky clean. I've had my own drug and alcohol problems, but never got loud and obnoxious at a bar. I was the guy who always went to my room to drink.
TRR: How long have you been sober now?
Lou: Since 1992. I had been sober for about 5 years before the tumor.
TRR: Congratulations. I know that couldn't have been easy, but you did it.
Lou: No, it wasn't easy, but I made the conscious decision one night after a show, that I had to do this. I called my manager and had myself checked into Hazelden. That was in 1992.
TRR: How about in your life, what are you most proud of overall?
Lou: I'm proud of my career I've had, all the lives I've touched, my sobriety and of course, my family.
TRR: What is one of the craziest moments as a rock star, something you still to this day laugh about when you recall what happened?
Lou: Back to the Cal Jam 2. In Ontario, California at the Ontario Speedway. There were about 300,000 people there. We were one of the new up and coming bands, and we had only one album at the time, the first Foreigner album. We did all the songs from the album and then we left the stage. The crowd was going nuts, wanting us to go back on for an encore. Well, we just did all the songs for the album. Our manager came over and yelled at us to get our asses back on the stage for the encore. We said we didn’t have any encore songs. Mick said, “Let’s do ‘Hot Blooded.’ We had been in the studio working on the second album and I said, “Mick, we only have one verse written for the song.” He laughed and said, “Then sing the verse twice!” We brought the house down, and that sealed it for us, to make it one of our new singles.
TRR: That's crazy how that worked out.
Lou: Yep! We went out, did ‘Hot Blooded’ and I just repeated that same verse and the crowd loved it and the rest is history. I still laugh about that when I think about it.
TRR: Great story! If you could go back in time to another part of your life, is there anything you would do differently?
TRR: Yah, if you could wake up and bam, suddenly you’re back at another time in your life, 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago. Is there anything you can think of that you’d do differently?
Lou: Yep. One of my regrets has to do with my addictions. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in drugs or drinking. I think I would have enjoyed life even more, and been totally in control, and could have done even more.
TRR: If you could perform with anyone right now, someone you revere or wish you could work with in a band setting, who would it be, or who are those guys to perform with?
Lou: Oh, that's a tough one.
TRR: That's why I asked it. How about this, it can be anyone, dead or alive.
Lou: Mavis Staples
TRR: Really? I didn't see that one coming at all. She's a R&B and Gospel legend. Very powerful voice. Man, if the two of you got together to do a remake of her song No Time For Crying, that would be awesome! Give her a call!
Lou: She has a very unique and very soulful voice, and has incredible phrasing. She's very special. I saw her at the Song Writers Hall of Fame and spoke to her for a few minutes. I gave her my contact information. I haven't heard from her so, I'm not sure if the window for that opportunity has closed.
TRR: Lou, have your manager reach her. That song would be incredible if the two of you remade it. I hear it.
Lou: Maybe I'll do that. Or, at least explore the possibility.
TRR: What does the next 2 years look like for you?
Lou: This will be my last year touring with my band. I’ve been at this for over 45 years now, and it’s time to get away from that grind. If something very interesting comes up, I'd consider it. But, as far as doing several shows a year, I'm finished at the end of this year.
TRR: Time to spend some quality time with yourself and the family?
Lou: Yes, I owe that to them and myself.
TRR: I understand you also collect muscle cars.
Lou: Yes, I'm a classic muscle car aficionado.
TRR: What are your favorites?
Lou: I've got a few, but my favorite is my '68 Camaro Supersport. Black on black with only 16,000 original miles on it. I go to cruise nights and show it. It's a lot of fun.
TRR: Any grandkids?
Lou: Nope. No grandkids. My oldest is 40, but he's not married, a 33 year old and he's not married either. And the youngest is a year and a half.
TRR: Wow, a baby at home.
Lou: Yep, and she’s just terrific. Her name is Luciana. She has this beautiful red hair and blue eyes. She’s wonderful. She has me so wrapped around her finger. How about you? Any kids?
TRR: Yep, I have 4. A 26 year-old daughter, Lindsay, who will be getting married in September. Jake is 23 and is a firefighter in Orlando. And, my wife and I, this is my second marriage, we have 6 year-old twins, Matthew and Emily.
Lou: That’s great! Congratulations on the wedding and with all the kids.
TRR: Thanks! Lou, this has been a treat. Thank you for your time and the conversation.
TRR: When Bob contacted me, I tried not to go all fan-girl on you, and I think I've been pretty restrained today.
Lou: (laughing) You've been great. No fan-girl at all. That's too funny.
TRR: Thanks again for your time, and good luck with the rest of the shows this year. Enjoy your retirement.
Lou: Thank you, Kreig. I will. I really enjoyed speaking with you. This has been a real treat. You take care.
TRR: And you, too.