Our Complete List Of Foreigner Band Members looks at a legendary rock band formed in 1976. Foreigner is a British-American rock band that initially consisted of three Britons—Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, and Dennis Elliott—and three Americans—Lou Gramm, Al Greenwood, and Ed Gagliardi. The band was founded by Mick Jones, a former member of the band Spooky Tooth, who sought to combine British and American musical influences into a singular, accessible sound. The group’s name was appropriately chosen to reflect its transatlantic origins. The band quickly rose to prominence with a style that blended hard rock and pop, crafting memorable hooks and sing-along choruses that resonated with a wide audience.
Foreigner’s debut album, self-titled “Foreigner,” was released in 1977 and was an instant success. With hits like “Cold as Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time,” the album set the pace for what would become a series of successful albums throughout the late ’70s and ’80s. Their next big triumph came with their 1978 album “Double Vision,” featuring hits like “Hot Blooded” and the title track “Double Vision.” The album further solidified Foreigner’s status as a major player in the world of rock music.
In 1979, the band released “Head Games,” another commercial success, but this album marked a turning point as both Al Greenwood and Ian McDonald left the band. The lineup underwent several changes throughout the ’80s but always revolved around the core duo of Mick Jones and Lou Gramm. Despite these changes, the band managed to maintain their popularity, especially with the release of “4” in 1981, which featured evergreen classics like “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero.”
However, tension started to build between Jones and Gramm, primarily due to musical direction and the handling of the band’s affairs. Gramm wanted to stick to the band’s rock roots, while Jones was more inclined towards exploring pop and balladry. This tension came to a head in 1989 when Gramm left the band to pursue a solo career but returned in 1992. Their album “Mr. Moonlight,” released in 1994, was less successful than their previous works but still featured the hit “Until the End of Time.”
The late ’90s and early 2000s saw Foreigner taking a back seat in terms of producing new material, focusing more on touring and live performances. Lou Gramm officially left the band in 2003 and was replaced by Kelly Hansen in 2005. Even without Gramm, the band managed to maintain its following, and their tours continued to draw crowds.
In 2009, the band made a comeback with a new studio album, “Can’t Slow Down,” featuring Hansen as the lead vocalist.
Foreigner Orginal Band Members
Mick Jones is best known as the founding member, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter for the rock band Foreigner. Born in Portsmouth, England, Jones formed Foreigner in 1976 in New York City. He has played on all of the band’s albums, including their seminal 1977 self-titled debut, which featured hits like “Cold as Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time.” Over the years, he’s been instrumental in creating some of the band’s biggest hits, such as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero,” and “Hot Blooded,” among others. Jones mainly played lead guitar and provided backing vocals, but he also occasionally played keyboards.
Before forming Foreigner, Mick Jones had already built an impressive resume. He was part of the band Spooky Tooth and also a session guitarist for several artists. His career took off further with Foreigner, but he also produced albums for other artists like Billy Joel’s “Storm Front” and Van Halen’s “5150,” showcasing his broad musical capabilities.
Mick Jones has never left Foreigner and remains active in the band’s current iterations. His contributions to rock music extend beyond his work with Foreigner, but it’s undoubtedly the band that has given him the most recognition. The band has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, solidifying Jones’ status as one of rock’s most successful musicians. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013, an accolade that speaks to his incredible talent as a songwriter.
Lou Gramm, born in Rochester, New York, is best known as the original lead vocalist for the rock band Foreigner. He joined the band in 1976 and his vocals can be heard on their most iconic albums, including their 1977 self-titled debut, “Double Vision” (1978), “Head Games” (1979), “4” (1981), “Agent Provocateur” (1984), and “Inside Information” (1987). Gramm was a key part of the band’s commercial and artistic success, lending his powerful voice to hits such as “Cold as Ice,” “Urgent,” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” While Gramm did not play any instruments in the band, his songwriting contributions include co-writing many of Foreigner’s hits with guitarist Mick Jones.
In addition to his work with Foreigner, Lou Gramm embarked on a successful solo career. His 1987 debut solo album “Ready or Not” featured the hit single “Midnight Blue,” and he released several other solo albums thereafter. However, health issues and creative differences led him to leave Foreigner multiple times, the first departure being in 1990. He returned in 1992 but eventually left again in 2003.
Ian McDonald, originally from London, England, was one of the founding members of Foreigner. He joined the band in 1976 and played on the band’s first three albums: “Foreigner” (1977), “Double Vision” (1978), and “Head Games” (1979). In Foreigner, McDonald was a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, keyboards, saxophone, and flute. He was an important part of the band’s early sound, contributing to their diverse musical palette. He co-wrote some of the band’s early songs like “Starrider” and “Long, Long Way from Home” alongside band members Mick Jones and Lou Gramm.
Prior to his work with Foreigner, Ian McDonald was a founding member of the influential progressive rock band King Crimson. He played on their groundbreaking debut album “In the Court of the Crimson King,” which was released in 1969. McDonald’s musicianship and songwriting were instrumental in shaping the band’s unique sound. After leaving Foreigner in 1980, he returned to King Crimson for a short stint and then worked on various projects, including a band called 21st Century Schizoid Band, which focused on performing King Crimson’s early material.
Al Greenwood, a New York native, was also a founding member of Foreigner. He joined the band in 1976 and was responsible for the keyboard work on their first three studio albums: “Foreigner” (1977), “Double Vision” (1978), and “Head Games” (1979). Greenwood’s keyboard playing was a key component in Foreigner’s early sound, and he contributed to the writing process for some of their songs, although he did not have any major hits attributed solely to him. He played synthesizers and electric piano, adding depth and texture to the band’s hits.
Greenwood left Foreigner in 1980 along with Ian McDonald due to musical differences. After leaving Foreigner, he co-founded the band Spys, which was more oriented toward AOR (Adult Oriented Rock) and had a moderate level of success. While the band did not reach the same level of commercial success as Foreigner, they released two albums that were well-received by critics and have a cult following.
Ed Gagliardi was the original bassist for the rock band Foreigner. Hailing from New York, he joined the band at its formation in 1976. Gagliardi played bass on Foreigner’s eponymous debut album released in 1977, which featured hits like “Cold as Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time.” His bass work provided a solid foundation for the band’s unique blend of rock and pop. However, he left the band in 1979, reportedly due to musical differences with other band members.
After leaving Foreigner, Gagliardi became a part of the band Spys, which was another rock group but never quite reached the level of commercial success that Foreigner did. Spys released two albums, a self-titled debut in 1982 and “Behind Enemy Lines” in 1983. Despite the lesser-known status of the band, Gagliardi’s contributions were well-received.
Gagliardi’s departure from Foreigner was a pivotal moment for him, but he continued to engage in music throughout his life. He later joined other projects and played local gigs, although none reached the same level of prominence as his time with Foreigner. Unfortunately, Ed Gagliardi passed away in 2014.
Foreigner Continuing Band Members
Bassist Rick Wills was a significant part of Foreigner from 1979 to 1992, joining after the departure of Ed Gagliardi. Wills, from London, England, played on multiple albums including “4” and “Agent Provocateur.” Prior to Foreigner, he was associated with bands like Small Faces and Peter Frampton.
Dennis Elliott, the original drummer from London, England, was with the band from its inception in 1976 until 1991. He played on some of the band’s most successful albums including “4” and “Double Vision.”
Kelly Hansen joined Foreigner as the lead vocalist in 2005, replacing Lou Gramm. Born in Hawthorne, California, Hansen has appeared on newer albums like “Can’t Slow Down.” Prior to Foreigner, he was a member of the band Hurricane.
Jeff Pilson became the band’s bassist in 2004. Born in Lake Forest, Illinois, he played on the “Can’t Slow Down” album and continues to tour with the band. Pilson is also known for his work with the rock band Dokken.
Thom Gimbel joined Foreigner in 1995, initially as a session musician before becoming a full-time member. He plays rhythm guitar, saxophone, and provides backing vocals. Gimbel is from New Jersey and has played on live albums such as “Extended Versions” and “Alive & Rockin’.” Before Foreigner, he played with Aerosmith.
Keyboardist Michael Bluestein joined the band in 2008, although he had to take a medical hiatus in 2012. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he has been part of live recordings and has been actively touring with the band. His prior work includes stints with artists like Boz Scaggs and Enrique Iglesias.
Guitarist Bruce Watson became a part of Foreigner in 2011. He was born in Kearney, Nebraska and has contributed to the band’s live performances. Outside of Foreigner, Watson has worked with artists like Rod Stewart and Christina Aguilera.
Drummer Chris Frazier joined Foreigner in 2012. He is from Bethesda, Maryland, and has been a part of the band’s recent touring line-up. Frazier has also played with Steve Vai and Whitesnake prior to joining Foreigner.
Not to be confused with Thom Gimbel, Tommy Gimbel briefly played with Foreigner in the early ’90s, specifically during Lou Gramm’s absence. He provided guitar and saxophone duties during his time with the band.
Brian Tichy, a drummer from New Jersey, was part of Foreigner from 1998 to 2000. He contributed to some of the band’s live performances during that period. Tichy has also played with other rock bands like Whitesnake and Billy Idol.
Mark Schulman was the drummer for Foreigner from 2002 to 2005. Born in Los Angeles, California, he has also worked with artists like Cher and Pink, in addition to his stint with Foreigner.
Each of these musicians has not only contributed to the sound and success of Foreigner but has also enriched the broader musical landscape with their other projects and collaborations. Their collective work makes Foreigner’s discography versatile and enduring, appealing to fans of various generations.
Jeff Jacobs served as the keyboardist for Foreigner from 1991 until 2007. Born in Los Angeles, California, he played on several Foreigner albums, including “Mr. Moonlight” and multiple live albums. Jacobs has also worked with Billy Joel, making significant contributions to his “Storm Front” album.
Saxophonist and guitarist Scott Gilman was associated with Foreigner for a period in the late 90s and early 2000s. A native of Connecticut, Gilman was a part of live performances and recordings during his tenure. He has also contributed to soundtracks and other recording projects.
Ron Wikso served as the drummer for a brief period from 1995 to 1998. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, he participated in various live shows during his time with the band. Wikso has also played with artists like Cher, David Lee Roth, and Richie Sambora.
Johnny Edwards had a brief tenure as lead vocalist during Lou Gramm’s absence in the early ’90s. Born in North Carolina, Edwards contributed to the album “Unusual Heat,” which was not as commercially successful as previous albums but showcased his vocal talents. He also had a career with bands like King Kobra and Buster Brown.
Complete List Of Foreigner Band Members article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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