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Interview:
Grand Funk Railroad at Arts, Beats & Eats, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

It’s been nearly 50 years since Grand Funk Railroad hit the tracks out of Flint, Mich. -- and never looked back.

The group was among the most successful rock acts of the early and mid-70s, with 10 consecutive gold and platinum albums and a slew of enduring hits such as “We’re An American Band,” “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home” and covers of Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion” and Soul Brothers Six’s “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

Grand Funk has been going again since 1996, following a 13-year hiatus, and these days is under the direction of the founding rhythm section of Don Brewer and Mel Schacher -- still telling everybody they know they’ve got a rock ‘n’ roll soul...

• Brewer, 68, reports that Grand Funk is “having our best years in 20” during the past couple of years, for which he’s grateful. “I feel extremely fortunate. I’ve been doing this my whole life,” he says by phone from his home in Florida, “and I see grandparents and parents and kids and grandkids in the audience and they’re singing along to ‘I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home’ and ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ and “Loco-motion’ and ‘American Band.’ I don’t know if I could’ve ever dreamed this was going to happen. When you’re 20 years old you can’t see in the future, or even speculate. So here it is and, wow, it’s amazing.”

• Brewer says one of the biggest surprises during Grand Funk’s history was the chart-topping success of “We’re An American Band,” which he wrote and sung. “When I first wrote the song I was very kind of doubtful about it,” he explains. “And we finished the track and everyone in the control room -- the band, people from Capitol Records -- were cheering up and down and I’m going, ‘Wow, you guys really like that?’ I was kind of surprised. It really didn’t hit me until the first time I heard it on the radio; I was driving from my house over to Mel’s house by Ortonville and it came on the radio and I pulled off to the side of the road and cranked it up and I just couldn’t believe how good it sounded on the radio. That’s when I got it. It just sounded like a hit record.”

• This year marks 45 years for “Phoenix,” a pivotal album for the band that marked Grand Funk’s acrimonious split from longtime manager/producer Terry Knight and the first time the group had ever produced itself. “We were being sued in every city we were playing in across the country and we had multi-million dollar lawsuits against us in New York and we were working on an album,” Brewer recalls. “Luckily we got ‘Rock & Roll Soul, which was kind of a Top 40 hit. It kept us going in that bridge between the Terry Knight days and hitting it big with ‘American Band.’”

• “Phoenix” also introduced fans to a new musical philosophy within Grand Funk. “We were looking for new territory, where we were gonna go from being the power trio to pop music,” Brewer says. “We needed to get into pop music because radio had changed; It was no longer FM underground, it was FM hit radio, and you had to produce hit records. When we finished that record we realized that we needed a producer; That’s when we started looking around and we hooked up with Todd (Rundgren). We needed someone to help us make that transition, and Todd was that guy.”

• In addition to Grand Funk, Brewer has been touring regularly with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band. Not this year, however. “I wish I could’ve done it,” Brewer says. “In the past Bob has always kind of toured in the November, December, January, February timeframe, which is really good for me. They wanted to get going early this year, and Grand Funk is having our best years in the past 20 and I just couldn’t do it at all. It was hard to say no. It’s a great gig and I love those guys, and it’s kind of been my second gig since back in the 80s. It’s just the way things worked out this year.”



If You Go

• Grand Funk Railroad

• 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3.

• Michigan Lottery National Stage at Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak.

• Admission is $3-$7, depending on time of day.

• Visit artsbeatseats.com.

Web Site: www.artsbeateseats.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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