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Foreigner rocks this year’s West Virginia State Fair

Courtesy photo
Foreigner is pushing 40 but shows no signs of stopping. The classic rock group appears Aug. 14 at the West Virginia State Fair.

It’s not unusual for golfers to take their clubs when they travel on business. If there’s a course nearby, maybe they can squeeze in a round. At the very least, they can always practice.

Tom Gimbel, guitarist and saxophone player for classic rock band Foreigner, often brings his clubs along on the bus.

Gimbel, who performs Aug. 14 with Foreigner at the West Virginia State Fair, said, “In the summertime, yeah. I certainly do. I like to practice putting in my hotel room.”

Nobody really minds.

“As opposed to practicing the saxophone,” he said. “I’d probably end up in the county jail if I did that.”

While he’s on the road, the only place he plays his saxophone is on stage.

That’s practice enough, because while the band — best known for hits like “Juke Box Hero,” “Cold as Ice,” and “Double Vision” — is quickly approaching 40 years, it has rarely slowed down.

“Things have been going great for us,” Gimbel said. “This summer, we’ve been out on the road with Styx and Don Felder [formerly of The Eagles].”

Playing classic rock is a steady living. There’s always a crowd, and while that crowd shows some gray, there are a lot of kids there, too. New people discover not just Foreigner, but classic rock all the time.

“I think it’s a different texture,” Gimbel said. “There’s crunchy rock guitars and real drums. It’s sort of a departure from the electronic music that’s being made today.”

And the music has held up over the years. A good song is just a good song.

Gimbel said, “The songs have got a lot of heartfelt sentiment and feeling that’s easy to relate to. It just grabs people. I think that’s what propels the music forward over the ages.”

Gimbel isn’t an original member of Foreigner, which was founded in 1976 by Mick Jones, Ian McDonald and Lou Gramm. He joined in the early ’90s. Aside from Jones, he is probably the longest serving member of the band still playing today. (McDonald left in 1980 and Gramm in 2003).

He got the job, partly because of a golf game.

“A friend of mine, Ricky Phillips, the bass player for Styx, was playing with a guy from Atlantic Records,” Gimbel said.

This was actually before Phillips joined Styx. At the time, he was part of Bad English and was working with Jimmy Page, Sammy Hagar and others.

“He told Ricky that Foreigner was looking for someone to play guitar and sax.”

Phillips gave him Gimbel’s name.

“The next thing I know, Mick Jones’ brother, Kevin, is calling, asking me if I would want to come meet the guys.”

Gimbel hit it off with the band.

“I thought this couldn’t be better, and I’ve thought that ever since.”

Foreigner, he said, is still going strong. Jones is still very creative and is working on new material.

Gimbel said, “I think he spent some time with Sammy Hagar doing some songwriting. I know he’s also been talking with Lou Gramm about finding some of their old tapes and maybe dusting off some of that stuff.”

However, all of that might not lead to an album. People just aren’t buying albums like they used to.

Gimbel said the band could end up releasing individual songs or maybe an EP.

“I’m sure they’ll find their way out some way,” he said of the tunes.

Meanwhile, Gimbel was looking forward to coming to West Virginia and might even bring his clubs with him. The Old White Course course at The Greenbrier is almost too much to resist.

“I hope I can sneak out and play that course,” he said. “That would be a real treat if I could find a way to do that.”

Reach Bill Lynch at, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

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