DU QUOIN – Not every musician can say his Marv Albert impression landed him a job playing with an iconic classic rock band. It’s quite possible, in fact, Thom Gimbel is the only one.
The year was 1992, and Gimbel has spent the past several years playing keyboard and singing back-up vocals for Steven Tyler in Aerosmith. While he loved the opportunities – including performing on “Wayne’s World 2” – Gimbel really wanted to play guitar.
“There just wasn’t enough room in Aerosmith for another guarist,” he said.
Word reached Gimbel that another notable band, Foreigner, was looking for help. Through mutual connections, he arranged a meeting for dinner and drinks with the band’s frontman, Mick Jones.
Jones was already familiar with Gimbel’s musical talents; the dinner was more of an opportunity to gauge his character. With his jokes – and his signature impression of Marv Albert calling classic boxing contests – Gimbel won over his Foreigner cohorts’ hearts.
“Personality is so important when joining a band,” he said. “You spent so much time together; it’s almost like you live together. You want to make sure you get along.”
Gimbel said he’d been a Foreigner fan long before meeting the band and described it as a perfect fit. He filled in for an absent band member in 1993 before joining them full time in 1995.
Gimbel and the others, especially Jones, have connected not only musically but also in their other interests, including sports. At the core of it, though, is a passion for music and the desire to create melodies and lyrics that meld together to entertain, inspire and touch people on a personal level.
You have free articles remaining.
“We all feel like we have this common bond. It’s like all being in love with the same girl,” he said. “We’re all just hooked on this music with so much emotion and spirit in it.”
Gimbel laughed at the label of "classic rock" Foreigner enjoys, adding he preferred to think of it as traditional rock. The band still produces high-energy, audience-involved shows for audiences across the country.
“You can call it whatever you want; it’s just good music,” he said.
Fans in Southern Illinois will have a chance to hear it for themselves when Foreigner takes the grandstage stage at the Du Quoin State Fair at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for the show are $25 to $30.
The Illinois Lottery purchased nearly 900 tickets for the concert, offering them at no charge to veterans and first responders. Gimbel called the move “awesome” and said the band loves being part of special opportunities like that.
“That’s an honor for us,” he said. “Anytime we can be part of helping anyone like that, we’re just delighted. We’re big supporters of all the police, firefighters and everyone else.”
Fans can expect to hear all the classic Foreigner hits during the performance, including a special rendition of “I Want to Know What Love Is,” featuring a choir of Du Quoin students.
“We’re going to play all the hit songs people know and love,” Gimbel said. “Foreigner has so many Top 20 songs, it just kind of fills up the set.”