More success came to the group whose teased hair, tenor vocalist, guitar solos and positive messages fit right in with the hair bands of the day. A year later, Firehouse released the single “Love of a Lifetime,” which hit No. 3 on the U.S. charts. The album went double platinum, and Firehouse won the American Music Award for Best New Hard Rock Band — beating Nirvana and Alice in Chains.
But it wasn’t long before grunge pushed hard rock off the charts and flannel replaced hair spray.
“What happened with our genre is that the door got slammed shut by program directors,” says guitarist and Richmond native Bill Leverty. (Leverty and drummer Michael Foster are both from Richmond. Leverty went to Douglas S. Freeman High School and Foster to Highland Springs High School.) Had Firehouse struck just a couple of years earlier the band probably would have had better luck. But considering the band hit its peak the same year Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was released, it really didn’t have a chance.
Despite the odds, Firehouse never broke up and continues to release albums — and with pretty impressive results. The band’s second album, “Hold Your Fire,” went gold, sold more than 1 million copies and reached No. 6 on the U.S. charts. Since then, though the sales figures have dwindled, Firehouse has released five more albums. The most recent in 2000 did well in Asia, where hard rock never lost favor.
“We’ve stayed true to our sound,” says Leverty. “We’re still making albums, still touring. We’re still going.”
Today, Firehouse is touring as part of the Metal Edge Rockfest 2002 with fellow metal bands Dokken, Ratt, LA Guns and Warrant. “We just played the first show of our tour in Grand Rapids, Michigan to 20,000 people,” Leverty says. “I haven’t played a show to that many people in a long damn time.”
Leverty is optimistic about the future. He notes that the band’s prime demographic now has buying power. “We appealed to 13-year-old girls [in 1991]; now our listeners are in their 20s. Our audience has matured and we’ve grown with them.”
Today the band members are spread out down the east coast, from Florida to Virginia. Leverty’s married with children, putting out a solo album this winter, and says he has no regrets. “We can still play music and make a living,” he says. “I didn’t get into this business to get rich. … I’m still not rich but I’m happy.” — Carrie Nieman