music morsels June 2006 

CROSSROADS - Bruce Turgon, Bassist for Foreigner
by Mark E. Waterbury

There are surely quite a few musicians who may have been in a band with someone who suddenly gets the chance to become a famous musician; even a rockstar. If that happens to you, do you turn green with envy over your friend’s success? Sit around and pout? Kick yourself in the head wondering why it didn’t happen to you? Bruce Turgon actually did see a friend and bandmate get the call to front a band headed for stardom. Not harboring any regrets and channeling his musical passions, Bruce became a highly respected musician, songwriter, sideman, and band member working with many well-known acts including eventually joining the band that chose his friend years previously. Bruce Turgon may not exactly be a household name, but he has built himself a very satisfying and successful career in music. With the upcoming release of his first official solo album, more people are likely to learn his name as well.

Growing up in Rochester, New York, Bruce like so many other youthful musicians was smitten with the performances of The Beatles and Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show. He even started creating his own musical ensembles at the age of ten and was playing in bands by the age of fourteen. His band used to travel to the cross-town high school to compete in the annual Battle of the Bands, including a competition against the band Infirmary whose drummer’s name was Lou Gramm. The bands’ rivalries branched out into the Rochester club scene with Bruce and Lou running into each other more often. “The more we saw of each other, the more we were expressing interest about writing material together,” Bruce remembers. “It made us realize that the best way to do this was to start our own original band together.” Bruce and Lou formed the band Black Sheep with Lou switching to vocals. Lou knew an A&R rep Jim Taylor from A&M records who Black Sheep hired as their manager.  Jim managed to get a demo tape into the hands of a rep from Chrysalis Records who came over from England to see the band perform at a little hole-in-the-wall Rochester club. Although they previously had no U.S. bands on their roster, Chrysalis was impressed enough to sign Black Sheep. Chrysalis only released one single and Black Sheep did several tours in the eighteen months they were with the label including a stint with Ten Years After. Capitol Records then signed the band and released their first two full-fledged albums. Black Sheep built a strong fan base primarily in the Northeast, although real success still eluded them. “Even though we were doing well in those areas, we did not do that well in record sales,” Bruce notes. “We were a dark band; very bluesy and not really pop-oriented for the time frame. We were proud of that actually - that our music was somewhat off the beaten path. We were content to follow that road for a while and develop a core audience that wasn’t based on having top 40 singles.”

Black Sheep was supposed to go on tour opening for Kiss, but an unfortunate tour bus accident that destroyed much of their gear negated that opportunity. The band's morale took a big hit from this incident, although Black Sheep was soon to find out that people took notice of their talent. Jim Taylor connected with Spooky Tooth guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones, who tapped Lou Gramm to front a new band he was forming originally called Trigger, later changing the name to Foreigner. Foreigner’s debut album shot up the charts and suddenly Lou reached incredible notoriety and fame, much to the joy of Bruce Turgon. “I was really happy for Lou. Even though Black Sheep was a labor of love and we had a lot of pride in what we did, it wasn’t financially rewarding on any level. When (Lou) had success, I was very happy with him; I never begrudged him his success and he was always very supportive of me as well.”  Bruce didn’t have a lot of time to mull over Lou’s success anyway, because he was so busy with his career. People in the biz took notice of Bruce’s talents from his days with Black Sheep and offers started coming in. “One of the advantages of (Black Sheep) taking the somewhat lesser path is that it gave us total credibility. Because we held the line on our music ideals. it really gave weight to us any time we came in contact with people later on.” A band called Marcus contacted Bruce, persuading him to move to L.A. to become their bassist. Marcus released one album on United Artists, but fizzled shortly after. One sidelight of this venture was that Bruce realized L.A. was where he needed to be. Even as he was working on becoming a solo artist, the next opportunity came from Billy Thorpe, who he previously met and kept in touch with. When Billy needed a bassist for his band touring the U.S. and Australia to support the album that contained his smash hit “Children Of the Sun,” he called on Bruce.  He then did some session work with Nick Gilder, who rose to fame on the song “Hot Child In the City.” As he still continued to work with his own various bands in the L.A. area, gigs with bands including Prism and Warrior followed. It was becoming apparent that Bruce’s talents were in demand. “It’s a very common story for working musicians. You cross paths with so many people and then when you reacquaint yourselves with them, there is a familiarity there and you end up working with them.  If you keep good relationships with people and then fortify that with consistent work, it will certainly serve you well.“ Beyond his session work, Bruce also became a songwriter for Warner Chappell, as well as contributing music to Showtime, HBO and Warren Miller Films among other entities.

One person Bruce did not have to reacquaint himself with was Lou Gramm. The two kept in close contact ever since Lou had joined Foreigner, and Lou always took interest in all the projects that Bruce was involved with. So when Lou decided to do his first solo album “Ready Or Not” in  the late 1980’s, he tapped Bruce to co-write and play on the album. “It was great to work with Lou again. Even with everything I had been doing for all the years I was in L.A., for most of the time it was several degrees less than what I had done cutting my teeth in the business with (Lou.) With Black Sheep there had always been that fire and that buzz to keep doing things better. Rekindling our creative relationship was really exciting, because I had not experienced that in my other projects to that same level. There were some serious sparks flying when we did ‘Ready Or Not.’” Bruce worked on Lou’s second solo CD “Long Hard Look” and in 1991 they collaborated on the brief Shadow King project. In 1992, when long time bassist Rick Wills announced he was departing Foreigner, Bruce finally joined his friend in the band that had made Lou famous. Playing bass as well as co-writing songs, Bruce recorded the album “Mr. Moonlight” with Foreigner and headed out on the road for the tour supporting the album, as well as several subsequent tours.

Over the years while working on a number of projects with other people, Bruce performed with his own bands, although nothing much had really happened with them. “It was just always looking for a record deal, doing local shows, like a million other guys out there thinking the same thing.” After ten years touring with Foreigner, Bruce decided that not only did he need a break from the road, but it was time to get his own music out to the masses. The timing was advantageous as the president of Frontier Records asked him if he would like to record a solo album for them.  Acquiring some help of musicians including Denny Carmassi, Ronnie Montrose, Rocket Ritchotte and, naturally Lou Gramm, he recorded “Outside Looking In” primarily singing and playing all the instruments himself. The songs are predominantly new music written specifically for the CD, while a handful were from his previous works. “I was able to embrace a lot of the music styles that I am comfortable with and actually break into some new areas I wasn’t able to on the recording level before. It is very much slanted in the direction of the Shadow King album and the classic rock direction, because that is what Frontier Records does so I wasn’t able to completely push the parameters like I wanted to, but I was able to get some of it in there. I’m a rocker at heart so I don’t deviate too far from that.”

The release of “Outside Looking In” is the icing on an already successful career for a hardworking and talented musician who deserves wider spread acclaim. Although Bruce does not plan on touring to support the release of “Outside Looking In,” there are discussions of a second solo CD which would most likely include a tour where he can include a full tilt production show. At the moment, Bruce is  working on several projects including more work for television and film, and possibly producing a couple fledgeling bands. He is always writing, always working, and always enjoys the fact that he is able to make his living revolving around his passion for music, particularly since he recorded “Outside Looking In." “I really enjoyed doing my record. I loved my relationship with Lou and being in Foreigner, but anytime that you collaborate, there is always a certain amount of compromise involved. With my record, I went ahead and did what I wanted, and I really enjoyed it. I mean, nowadays the music industry is so many degrees less than what it was that it can be hard to enjoy sometimes. But it is a challenge and I will take whatever pleasure I can from it. When songs come to fruition with me, I just enjoy it; it’s like Christmas. I take so much pleasure in developing something from the ground up.”


Bruce Turgon’s advice for musicians: “You have to do it because you love it. The desire to continue to grow musically has to be there. You have to love it and enjoy it, and if the dollars follow, that’s terrific, but it is a very fickle way to make a career. There are a lot of easier ways to get by in life than being a musician. But if you get up every day and enjoy it, the monetary part will be a second consideration.”
Division of Serge Entertainment Group