Gary Francis Caine Cherone ( shə-ROHN; born July 26, 1961) is an American rock singer and songwriter. He is best known for his work as the lead vocalist of the Boston rock group Extreme, as well as his short stint as the lead vocalist for Van Halen on their 11th album Van Halen III and subsequent tour. In recent years he has released solo recordings. In 2007, he reunited with Extreme.
Born Gary Francis Caine Cherone, he grew up in Malden, Massachusetts and attended Malden High School, the third of five brothers and the younger of fraternal twin Greg Cherone. Raised in a middle-class Catholic family, Cherone was quiet, creative, and athletic. As a youth, he dreamed of a career as a basketball player until he suffered a serious knee injury.
In his teenage years, Cherone turned to singing in local bands and was heavily influenced by the reigning rock frontmen of the day, most notably Roger Daltrey of The Who, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and Queen's Freddie Mercury. In 1979 Cherone and drummer friend Paul Geary along with guitarist Matt McKay, formed a hard-rock band called Adrenalin and performed locally. In 1981, they changed the band's name to The Dream and recorded a six-song independent vinyl E.P.
A few years later, Cherone and The Dream appeared in a music video produced by David Horgan, on the early MTV program, Basement Tapes, a show in which the viewing audience "voted" (via a toll-free telephone number) for one of two competing amateur music videos submitted by unsigned artists. The Dream's video for "Mutha, Don't Wanna Go to School Today," won their contest, beating a then-unknown Henry Lee Summer by just 1% of the total vote. Incidentally, both Cherone and Summer had once had aspirations of playing basketball as a career.
In 1985, Cherone and Geary met guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger in an altercation over a dressing room, but the rivals soon became collaborators and shortly after the combined foursome took the name Extreme, and began writing their own material. The name Extreme came from a play on the words "Ex-Dream". By the late 1980s, the group had attracted a large regional following; in 1987, the band signed with A&M Records, which released their self-titled debut album in 1989. Selling over 250,000 copies, the band's debut album justified a second, and in 1990 the band recorded the critically acclaimed Extreme II: Pornograffiti, a fiery mix of hard rock, funk, and pop propelled by Bettencourt's extraordinary guitar playing. The album's lyrical content, mostly written by Cherone, was loosely based on the concept of a fictional young boy named "Francis" and his observations of a decadent, corrupt, and misogynistic society.
Although well received by the rock world in the press, initial sales and chart success for the album were sluggish until A&M released the acoustic ballad "More Than Words" in the early spring of 1991. The song was picked up by mainstream radio and became a huge smash, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. Extreme II: Pornograffiti was eventually certified quadruple platinum and remains a notable entry in the genre. Also in 1991, Extreme toured in support of David Lee Roth.
Cherone's career came full circle in April 1992 when he performed "Hammer to Fall" onstage with the three surviving members of Queen at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium. (Extreme also performed a medley of Queen hits during the first half of the concert.) Later that year, Extreme released III Sides To Every Story, a concept album known by the band as their finest work. This album marked the pinnacle of the band's creative ability as a whole.
As the decade progressed, the sudden popularity of grunge brought about a sea of change in the pop music industry, causing 80's rock and glam to gain less commercial support from labels. In response, Extreme's 1995 recording, Waiting for the Punchline, was a stripped-down and cynical affair that was only modestly successful. After the supporting tour, Bettencourt became dissatisfied and left the group to launch a solo career. Extreme officially folded almost immediately afterward.
With Van Halen
In 1996, rock band, Van Halen, had a falling out with their second lead singer, Sammy Hagar, who had been with the band since 1985. After a failed reunion attempt with original lead vocalist David Lee Roth, who had been with Van Halen from 1974–85, Van Halen was once again without a lead vocalist. At the urging of Van Halen's manager, Ray Danniels, (who also managed Extreme), Cherone was called for an audition. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen liked Cherone's lyrics, as well as his work ethic, and in November 1996 Cherone became Van Halen's third lead vocalist. That year, Cherone took up residence in Eddie's guest house and spent the next year writing and recording a new studio album.
Released on March 17, 1998, Van Halen III debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling 197,000 copies in its first week; 500,000 by summer (RIAA gold certified in the United States); and over 700,000 copies as of 2011. The album featured an eclectic and diverse set of songs, marking a departure from the straightforward arena rock that Van Halen had played with Hagar, and contrasting with the tongue-in-cheek bombast that originally attracted Van Halen fans to Roth. Van Halen III's songs were often longer and more lyrically intricate than earlier Van Halen material, giving it a progressive influence. The album only produced a sole #1 Billboard Mainstream Rock hit in "Without You".
By most bands' standards the album would have been considered an unmitigated commercial success, but by Van Halen's standards it was considered a flop. Neither the album nor the supporting tour performed to financial expectations, with Van Halen III being the first album in the band's career to not achieve at least double platinum status. However, the tour was well received by fans. The tour brought back many older Van Halen songs that fans had wanted to hear since Roth's initial departure in 1984. This was largely because Hagar refused to play all but the most famous of Roth-era songs. Unlike the band's subsequent 2004 and 2007–08 tours, Van Halen toured outside of North America in 1998, playing dates in Japan, Europe, and for the first time, Australia and New Zealand. One date in Australia was filmed and aired on MTV.
Plans progressed for a follow-up album, rumoured to be called Love Again, which was to be released at the end of 1999. Releasing a new studio album a year after the previous one had not been done by Van Halen since 1982, when the band released Diver Down. Reportedly, Van Halen's then-record company Warner Bros. sent back the new album twice because they did not hear a "hit" pop single on it. Frustrated by the rejections from the record label, Cherone left Van Halen amicably. Since then, he has remained on good terms with his former bandmates, going on record numerous times with his thoughts on why the collaboration failed to work out.
After his departure from Van Halen, Cherone returned to Boston and put together a new project, Tribe of Judah. The band played several shows in the Boston area and released a CD on Spitfire Records entitled Exit Elvis.
He has on occasion guested with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony during their The Other Half performances, and Nuno Bettencourt's recent projects, as well as with the Boston Rock Opera.
In February 2003, just one week after The Station Nightclub Fire, Gary and his brother, Markus, performed "More Than Words" during a memorial service for the victims. The memorial was broadcast live on WHJY in Providence, RI.
In 2005, Cherone released a four song sampler CD, Need I Say More that was written and produced by Steve Catizone and Leo Mellace. This album was recorded by Jeff Yurek at Sanctum Sound in Boston, Massachusetts and mixed by Carl Nappa in New York City. Musicians including Dave DiCenso (drums), Baron Browne (bass) and Steve Hunt (keyboards) are also featured on the record.
In May 2006, Cherone sang in three shows as part of Amazing Journey, a tribute to The Who created by ex Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, featuring Paul Gilbert on guitar and Billy Sheehan on bass. Not long after, Gary and his brother Markus Cherone created their own tribute to The Who, Slip Kid. Presently the band continues to perform regularly in the Greater Boston area.
Later that year, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cherone's three-year stint with the group did not establish him as a band member eligible for induction. However, at the televised induction ceremony, the group's former bassist Michael Anthony thanked Cherone for his contributions.
Back to Extreme
Since 2004 Extreme have re-united with Cherone on several occasions for "one off" shows in their home town and in New England, but in November 2007 they announced plans to do another world tour along with a new album.
The album Saudades de Rock was released in August 2008.
In 2016, the band released Pornograffitti Live 25: Metal Meltdown, an audio/video presentation of its 2015 concert at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Casino.
Cherone has toured with SlipKid, a tribute to The Who. Cherone's former Extreme bandmate, Paul Mangone, is the bassist, and his brother, Markus Cherone, is the guitarist.
Cherone has formed a new band with his brother Markus on guitar, Joe Pessia on bass/mandolin and Dana Spellman on drums. They have released a self-titled debut album in early 2011 and have toured to promote it.
1989: Extreme – with Extreme US #80
1990: Pornograffitti – with Extreme US #102x Platinum
1992: III Sides to Every Story – with Extreme US #10US Gold
1995: Waiting for the Punchline – with Extreme US #40
1998: Van Halen III – with Van Halen US #4US Gold
2000: The Best of Extreme – An Accidental Collocation of Atoms? – with Extreme, compilation
2002: Exit Elvis – with Tribe of Judah
2005: Need I Say More – as Cherone, EP
2008: Saudades de Rock – with Extreme US #78
2010: Take Us Alive - Boston 2009 - with Extreme, live album