“Grand Funk Railroad: The American Band”

by | Jun 6, 2022 | Entertainment, Music | 0 comments

RX Magazine

RX Magazine

So when I was a kid growing up in Sioux City, most of the music I listened to was introduced to me by my Aunts; Debby, Cathy or Uncles Jeff & John. This band is no exception to that situation. My Uncle John used to babysit us on Saturday nights, he would let me stay up and watch “(Don Kirshner’s) In Concert” and one night ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ was one of the artists on the show early 1973, (the other artist I remember from roughly the same time period was ‘Black Oak Arkansas) and Farner walks out with his long straight hair and shirtless at the time HE was the epitome of “Rock Star” Farner & Jim Dandy (BOA) we the coolest looking guys on the planet Earth! Then it was Summer ’73 my Aunt Cathy used to babysit my sisters while my Mom worked, one weekend Cathy brought over the 45 Single (w/ picture sleeve & pressed on yellow vinyl) “We’re An American Band” this song moved me! I was now a fan of Grand Funk. Signed to Capitol Records in 1968 they had 19 Billboard Charting songs, and released 17 albums and 25 Singles And so let us  begin, a brief history of ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ 

 > The Pack: 1964 – 1967 <

   The story begins with the artist one Terry Knight (Terrance Richard Knapp: 9 Apr 1943; Lapeer, MI – 1 Nov 2004) a former DJ on WTAC, who made the 1st big USA push early on for ‘The Rolling Stones” who later went on to a music career had a #46 billboard hit with”I Who Have Nothing b/w Numbers” in Jan 1967 and also released 3 albums & 10 Singles from 1965 to 1967 as ‘Terry Knight & The Pack’ . The band’s Drummer was Donald George Brewer (3 Sep 1948; Flint, Mich.) and later the band’s 2nd Guitar player was Mark Fredrick Farner (29 Sep 1948; Flint, MI.). When Terry left to go solo, Brewer & Farner carried on as ‘The Pack’ and later ‘The Fabulous Pack’ until in 1968 they recruited the 2nd Bassist for “? Mark & The Mysterians” Mel Schacher (Melvin George Schacher: 8 Apr 1951; Flint, MI.) to form ‘Grand Funk Railroard’ as play on words from the ‘Grand Trunk Railroad’ that ran through their hometown of Flint. 

> Are You Ready: 1969 -1970 <

    The band make their major debut in July 1969 at the “Atlanta Pop Festival” with the help of Terry Knight, who is now a Producer at Capitol Records, the band is signed to Capitol and they release their 1st album in Aug 1970 ‘On Time’ with their 1st charting 45 Single “Time Machine b/w High On  A Horse” which hits  #49 in Nov 1969 followed by their 2nd single “Heartbreaker b/w Please Don’t Worry” the “B-Side” sung by Brewer, which goes to  #72 in March 1970 (yes after their 3rd single is released)   

In the 60s & 70s some bands, though not many released more than 1 album a year (starting in the 80s that switched to 1 every 2 years) the band release their 2nd album ‘Grand Funk’ in Dec 1969  with the 45 single “Mr. Limousine Driver b/w High Flaootin Woman” which charts at #97 in  Dec 1969. Grand Funk Railroad was known for touring non-stop. One concert appearance they made here in the Twin Cities was: 

20 March 1970 Wednesday: Bloomington, MN. Met Center Rock Festival  

Are You Ready
Paranoid
In Need
Mean Mistreater

Mark Says Alright  
I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)
Hooked on Love

Inside Looking Out  

Into the Sun  

This is the setlist, as far as I can tell for this show 

One thing worth noting is Brewer would run around his drumset during his drum solo.  While I am a huge fan of the band I not sold on Farner’s choice of a guitars a Musicraft Messenger, as far as I can tell this is a cheap hollow-body heavily doctored and a Micro Frets Guitars Custom, which may be a great guitar, to me it has a ‘cheap’ sound to it, but this is what gave Farner a distinction in his guitar tone, I have seen photos of Farner playing a white Gibson SG, also Farner played Keyboards live in concert..    

Their 3rd album is the one that really hooked me. ‘Closer To Home’ was released in June 1970 with the singles “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother b/w Nothing Is The Same” and one of their most famous songs “Closer To Home/ I’m Your Captain b/w Aimless Lady” which rose to  #22 on the charts in Oct 1970, worth noting the single version 5:31min, about half the length of the album version. the band being known so well for their “Live Concerts” release a double album  ‘Live Album’ in Sep 1970, though released in Sep, the material for this record was recorded in June, before the ‘Closer To Home’ LP was released. The single was a “Live Version” of “Mean Mistreater b/w Mark Says Alright” which reaches #47 in Jan 1971. 

> 1971 – 1972: I Can Feel Him In The Morning <

The band’s 5th LP is probably one of my favorites; ‘Survival’ is released in Apr 1971 and  came with 3 photos one of each member, dressed as a “Caveman” in the album. The singles for this LP are: “Feelin Alright b/w I Want Freedom” that charts at #54 in May 1971, followed by “Gimme Shelter b/w I Can Feel Him In The Morning” the “B-Side” sung by Brewer, that makes to #61 in Sep 1971. As mentioned earlier a few bands back then released 2 albums a year, Grand Funk was able to pull this off as they occasionally recorded cover songs as well as every album seemed to have a song that was 7 to 10min long! ‘E Pluribus Funk’ (mine is signed by Farner) is released in Nov 1971 with 3 singles released from this LP  “People Let’s Stop The War b/w Save The Land” the 2nd one “Footstompin Music b/w I Come Tumblin” which makes it to #29 in Feb 1972,

followed by “Upsetter b/w No Lies” that charts at  #73 May 1972. 

In late ’71 the band became dissatisfied with the control their manager Terry Knight had over the band, for example Knight releases the 1st “Best Of” with the double LP ‘Mark, Don & Mel’ in early 1972, seemingly without their permission, so the band fired Knight. Due to this entangled legal battle with  Knight the band adds a 4th member and resumes as ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ the add Keyboardist Craig Frost (20 Apr 1948; Flint) before this Farner played the keyboards, later both Brewer & Frost would end up in Bob Seger’s band from 1977-96. Their 8th LP   ‘Phoenix’ is released in Sep 1972 with the single “Rock N Roll Soul b/w Flight Of The Phoenix” which makes  #29 on the charts in Nov 1972.

> 1973 – 1974: Stop Lookin Back <

   The band makes a TV appearance on ABC’s “In Concert” on 19 Jan 1973. The band battling Knight, needed a hit so they recruit Todd Rundgren for the next 2 LPs, they were correct in choosing Todd, ‘We’re An American Band’ is released in  July 1973 with their 1st “#1 Hit” with the single “We’re An American Band b/w Creepin” the “A-Side” sung by Brewer, in Sep 1973  followed by a 2nd single “Walk Like A Man b/w The Railroad” this “A-Side” is also sung by Brewer, that charts at #19 in Jan 1974.The band are on fire in late ’73 into ’74, they make a 2nd TV appearance on the show “In Session” in ’74 (probably for the video of “We’re An American Band”). The band’s 10th LP ‘Shinin On’ is released in Mar 1974 with a 3D cover and a punch-out pair of 3D Glasses. Their 2nd #1 Hit is “Locomotion b/w Destitute And Losin” is released in May 1974 followed by the #11 Hit;  “Shinin On b/w Mr. Pretty Boy” the “{A-Side” sung by Brewer, in Aug 1974. their 2nd album of ’74 is ‘All The Girls In World Beware’ produced by Jimmy Inner in Dec. this is also released on  and Quad 8-Track (the precursor to 5.1 stereo) with 2 more Top 10 singles in: “Some Kind Of Wonderful b/w I’ll Be Loving You” a  #3 in Feb 1975, followed by   “Bad Time b/w Good And Evil” charting at  #4 Jun in  1975, this song was written about Farner’s divorce. 

> 1975 -1976: Dues <

After several years on top, things start to wind down for the band in ’75. They release their 2nd “Live Album” with ‘Caught In The Act’ released in Aug 1975. The 1st LP to be released in ’76 was the last of their original Capitol releases, ‘Born To Die’ was released in January of that year, with the singles; “Take Me b/w Genevieve” the “A-Side” sung by Brewer, which charts at #53 in Feb 1976, followed by “Sally b/w Love Is Dyin” the “A-Side” was written for Actress Sally Kellerman that hits #69 inApril 1976. It was Frank Zappa that convinced the band to release 2nd LP this year is ‘Good Singin Good Playin’ released in Aug 1976, and the one and only on MCA Records, with the singles; “Can You Do It b/w 1976” their last charting single at  #45 in  Sep 1976, followed by “Just Couldn’t Wait” b/w “Out to Get You”  with Frank Zappa on the “B-Side” their 3rd LP for the year was more of an epitaph to the end of Grand Funk Railroad, as ‘Grand Funk Hits’ is released by Capitol Records in 1976, containing only post ’72 material, due to the legal entanglement with Terry Knight. Then it was the end of an era, as Farner released his 1st solo LP in 1977 & Brewer, Schacher & Frost, continued on as “Flint” until 1978. 

There you have it folks, a brief history of Grand Funk Railroad, check in next time for another installment of “Dr. Rox Remember When?” 

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