Grand Funk Railroad: Still the American Band
Post Independent Staff
Don Brewer has had butterflies for 35 years.
“I still get butterflies before I go on stage,” he said.
“When I start singing the words to ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and people start singing, I get chills up my spin.”
Brewer will be performing Saturday with his band Grand Funk Railroad at the Rifle Rendezvous Festival.
“I can’t wait to come up there,” Brewer said Tuesday from his home in Florida.
Though younger music fans may only think they know Grand Funk by name, they are sure to have the band’s hits, “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
Older or wiser music fans will remember Grand Funk from its rise to success from Flint, Mich. Grand Funk gained almost overnight success after a performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969. The band signed with Capitol Records and started to churn out hit singles and gold albums. In 1970 the band sold a record 10 million records, and sold out shows around the world, including Madison Square Garden and London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Grand Funk, which had enormous success in the ’70s and early ’80s, may be most well remembered for the song “We’re an American Band.”
“It’s just a great thought,” Brewer said of the song. “It’s just a snippet of everything that was going on.”
Brewer said the band was on the road much of the time when “We’re an American Band” was written. The musicians would show up in a small town late at night, play a show, have a local DJ play their record all night, and then move on to the next town.
That lifestyle was the inspiration behind the song’s most famous line: “We’re coming to your town, We’ll help you party it down, We’re an American Band.”
“That’s what we were doing,” said Brewer.
And for the most part, that is what Grand Funk is doing today.
After a long break in performing, Grand Funk reunited in 1996, performing on “Good Morning America,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Though Grand Funk still plays major venues, it is again playing mostly small towns, just like it did when “We’re an American Band” was written. The band plays fairs and festivals, such as the Rifle Rendezvous.
And the legacy of Grand Funk as a great, high-energy, live band lives on.
“We always say, ‘be ready to sweat and have a smile on your face,” Brewer said.
“It’s amazing how many people we get that come up and say, ‘I saw you guys in 1971 and you guys are as great as ever,'” said Brewer.
Changes since the heyday
Though Grand Funk plays with as much energy and as well as it ever has, fans will notice some changes during Saturday’s show.
The band was long-known as a power trio, but now it has five members, many with very big-name credentials.
Original members Brewer and Mel Schacher are still on drums and bass. They are joined by Carl Max (38 Special, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, Max Carl and Big Dance), lead guitarist Bruce Kulick (12 years with KISS, and credits with Michael Bolton, Meatloaf and Billy Squire), and keyboardist Tim Cashion (Bob Seger and Robert Palmer).
The additional members provide a fuller sound than the band had in the ’70s, but songs still have the rough edges that Grand Funk was known for, said Brewer.
The rough edges will carry through from the old Grand Funk hits to a few new songs this weekend’s audience is likely to hear.
The fact that Grand Funk’s songs have been popular for so long is “a tribute to that time period,” said Brewer, and the creativity of that era’s musicians.
Though the ’70s are long gone and Grand Funk is likely past its prime, its still good to be playing music for live audiences, said Brewer.
“It sure was fun, and it still is,” he said.
Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 520
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