I was born in Omaha, Nebraska but raised in Northern California. At 3 years old, my family moved to Fresno, California where my dad started his medical practice in Internal Medicine.
At the age of 5, my parents noticed that I had a talent for figuring out the popular songs of the day on their piano… strictly by ear. Soon after, they decided to enroll me into private lessons. I took lessons from many different teachers, and actually studied guitar too, but piano was my fave.
“I’ve lived and breathed music for as long as I can remember. As a child I found myself, on more than one occasion, sitting in the principles office for disrupting the class and singing in the middle of the teachers lectures… in fact, my third grade report card included a note to my parents stating “Louis’ studies continue to improve… but he frequently stands on his desk and does the ‘modern dance’ whenever he chooses.” What can I say, I thought that was normal behavior!”
Thinking back, I guess one of the early turning points for my musical development happened just as I entered 6th grade. The British Invasion was in full force here in the U.S. and I discovered… the Beatles! Wow!!! That was it for me. I decided then and there that THAT was what I had to do!!
My best friend Kevin, was taking guitar lessons and I convinced him that we should start a “band”. We tried to learn EVERYTHING that The Fab Four recorded. We soon “booked” ourselves into his parent’s music school studio for our first concert. Inspired by the Beatle’s movie “A Hard Days Night”, we convinced Kevin’s sister to get all of her girlfriends to chase us around the hood, while my brother Patrick filmed us on the way to our first “big show”! I mean why were we getting into this music thing anyway???… to get the girls and be just like the Beatles right???
Music was all over the house. My dad loved Frank Sinatra, mom loved Elvis, and my brother’s stereos were blasting constantly with their favorite bands. Coming of age at the turn of the 70s, I appreciated a wide variety of music – modern rock, classic, and jazz. As I entered high school my faves were Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and my favorite singer ever… Marvin Gaye. But I also really liked rock artists like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc.
As I entered college and my tastes evolved, I discovered the jazz recordings of Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett. This music really opened up my ears and seemed more challenging to me than just the popular top 40. The more I listened, the more it became my passion to try to follow in the footsteps of these great jazz pianists. So after 4 years as a music major at the local university, I decided to enroll at the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston.
It was a great experience living in Boston. I had the chance to listen to and witness up close my musical heroes on a daily basis. Artists like George Benson, Jimmy Smith, and Miles Davis (who was experimenting during his later years in funk rock and electronic music), were all playing at the local venues. After a few months, however, I decided I’d had enough “school”… it was time for the real world!!! So I moved back to California – a good move as I met the girl of my dreams, Betsy. We married and ultimately moved to Los Angeles so I could pursue the music biz for real!
I kicked around for more than a few years in LA, trying to meet people and make my way into the music business. Not an easy task when you don’t know anyone in this town!
A chance meeting through a friend of mine, led me to meet multiple Grammy winning Gospel artist Andrae Crouch. Next thing I knew I was touring the world many times over and recording music with a musician I considered to be a genius composer and pianist. To this day, I credit much of my gospel influenced / rhythm and blues style of singing and playing to my dear friend and first LA music mentor, Andrae Crouch.
In 1987, my big break came… Smokey Robinson recorded my song, “Just To See Her” on Motown Records, which earned me a Grammy nomination for “Best Rhythm and Blues Song” of the year. This song also won Smokey his first and only Grammy for “Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal” of the year. I was thrilled that my first recorded and published song was a Billboard Top Ten hit for four weeks, and shot to No.1 on the Adult Contemporary and R & B charts. Later that year, on the nationally televised “Tribute to Aretha Franklin”, Smokey and Aretha performed “Just To See Her” as the featured duet of the show. I thought WOW! I can die and go to heaven. The “Queen of Soul” just sang my song on national TV!!
Songwriting was now high on the priority list! Two months later I wrote the song “I Wonder Who She’s Seeing Now”, recorded by The Temptations featuring Stevie Wonder, which became a No.1 Billboard R&B hit. My Motown connection was further evolving! My friend Kenny G, who I had done some recent live shows with, asked me to write a duet for him and Smokey. So I co-wrote and played keyboards on “We’ve Saved The Best For Last” for his multi-platinum CD “Silhouette”. This recording was rewarded with a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” of the year.
Motown was just the beginning, and over the years I’ve been fortunate to write, produce, and perform with so many of my favorite Pop artists including: Patti Austin, Peabo Bryson, Billy Preston, and The Commodores, as well as jazz artists: John Patitucci, Joe Sample, Robben Ford, Eric Marienthal, and Larry Carlton.
In 2010, I also had the distinct pleasure of working with producers T Bone Burnett and Bill Maxwell, contributing background & co-lead vocals for Elton John and the late Leon Russell’s acclaimed CD “The Union”. It was a real thrill to sing with two of my absolute favorite pianists and songwriters!
I released two solo albums “A Night To Remember”, and “Look The Other Way” through the JVC/Victor record label in Japan, which have maintained success abroad for two decades. One of the songs, “What Might Have Been” from my first CD, has just surpassed 1 million views on YouTube this year!
As I’m typing this, I’m traveling on the Chicago tour bus. We’re on our way to our final show of our 2016 U.S. and Canada tour with Earth, Wind, and Fire! I can still remember wearing out the double album Chicago II in high school! “Make Me Smile” and the “Ballet” blew me away!! I marveled at the way this album mixed so many styles of music into one record. I also remember being inspired by EWF and their songs “The Way Of The World” and “September” – and now, I get to sing and play those songs with both groups tonight in Omaha, Nebraska… the city where I was born!!
When Lee Loughnane called me in 2009 to ask me If I would be interested in becoming a permanent member of Chicago, I told him I wanted to think about it … 3 seconds later I said – YES!! I’ve been having the time of my life ever since. Ironically, when I joined my first real band at age 18, the first song those guys asked me to sing was Lee’s song “Call on Me”! Little did I know, I would be singing it today with the real Chicago!
Performing all over the world with this great group of talented musicians and crazy personalities, and playing this timeless music truly never gets old. Finally, to all the incredible and loyal Chicago fans that we’ve met along the way, I’ll simply say join us! We’re all really looking forward to what the future brings!!
As the well known song says …“its only the beginning”