Grand Funk Railroad

Grand Funk Railroad’s early days were met with a love-hate attitude. Their many fans loved them, but the press seemed to almost hated them! A bad choice in managers was most likely the cause of the press’ intolerance of the band.

Knight’s take on the media, was that any publicity whether it was good or bad, was better than no publicity at all. He’d told the band members that the press would write about them just as much if they hated them as they would if they like them!

Their manager, Terry Knight, was a local D.J. in Flint Michigan. He’d left the radio business to get into music and became lead singer for “The Jazz Masters”. Other members of the band included, Don Brewer on drums and Mark Farner on bass. Eventually Knight left the band and landed a job at Capital Records.

In 1968, Brewer and Farner decided to strike out on their own and form a band. Bass player Mel Schacher was asked to join and the group called themselves “Grand Funk Railroad”! The name taken from The Grand Trunk Railroad, a Michigan landmark. The band’s funky style of music inspired them to replace “Trunk” with “Funk”!

The trio asked Terry Knight to be their manager and he accepted. The three unknown artists began hitting the festival circuit. Their first performance on July 4, 1969, at the Atlanta Pop Festival was a huge success and they quickly landed a record deal with Capital Records.

They continued performing at festivals in different cities such as Los Angeles and Nashville. Every performance earned a larger collection of devoted fans, the bands popularity grew so fast that Capital Record’s had to rush the release of their first album, “On Time”, to August 25, 1969.

Although, critics wanted to dub the album and example of how simple the band was. The perfect combination of funk and blues expressed in “On Time”, proved the critics wrong when the album went gold by October 12, 1970!

Grand Funks second album released on December 29, 1969, self titled “Grand Funk”, showed an even stronger blues style performance. The album didn’t produce any hit singles, but to this day is still one of the most popular with hard core fans. By July 6, 1970 the album had hit gold and turned platinum on December 3, 1991!

Their third album released June 15th, 1970, showed the band music heading in the rock direction! “Closer to Home” was an instant success, it reached at #5 on the charts within a month. It also reached gold status, marking Grand Funk’s third gold record in a single year!

With yet another album in 1970, the bands “Live Album” went gold before it was even released! And, preceded to reach #5 on the charts within the month. Two December performances at Madison Square Garden, both sold out within eight hours!

Grand Funk sold more tapes and records than any other U.S. band in 1970, reaching sales of almost 10 million! And, without ever having a single record played on British radio, their show at London’s Royal Albert Hall sells out!

April of 1971 brought the release of the album “Survival”, one million copies were sold on the day it was released! Within two weeks it’s at #6 on the charts and becomes the 5th gold album for the group!

A concert at Cobo Hall in Detroit for April 30th sold out the 12,000 tickets in less than two hours! The media with their usual dislike for the band, called the crowd of fans trying to get tickets a RIOT!

When the Beatles performed at Shea Stadium, it took eighty days for the tickets to be sold out! But, when Grand Funk performed there, all 55,000 tickets were gone in less than 72 hours!

In November of 1971, “E Pluribus Funk” already had over one million advanced sales before it was even released! Topping out at #5 on the charts, it held it’s reign in the charts for thirty weeks!

The band changed management in 1971, due to disagreements in the way Knight was handling their publicity and their money. Knight wasn’t happy with the decision and preceded to have writs issued against the band, the legal issues continued through most of 1972.

Knight was among the crowd watching their October 72′ concert. Bent on revenge Knight walked on stage with deputy sheriff’s holding a judges order to confiscate all of Grand Funk’s equipment!

He claimed the band owed him a million dollars, he even sued the television station that was there to film the concert. Preceded to sue Madison Square Garden in order to tie up the money made on tickets for the concert. The proceeds of which Grand Funk had pledged to charity!

Out of fear of the fans rioting, an agreement was made to let the concert continue and the equipment would be confiscated afterward. Once the last performance was ended, the deputies walked on stage and took the equipment, even taking the guitar picks and drum sticks!

With the band determined to carry on as strong as ever, spare equipment was used to continue concerts. Knight once again retaliated and laid claim to all of the writing royalties as well as the bands name.

The dispute was finally settled when the band turned over fifty per cent of the earnings of the six albums Knight had been involved with and they shortened the Grand Funk Railroad name to Grand Funk!

The year 1972 saw the releases of two more successful albums for the band. But, in 1973, the band saw it’s most successful album in their career with the release of “We’re An American Band”! The album takes the #2 spot on the charts and the single “We’re An American Band” gave them their first number one hit! Both the single and the album strike gold!

Early the following year the band gets their 10th gold album and their second number one single with “The Loco-Motion”. In 1974, Grand Funk receives platinum awards for their ten previous releases!

January 1976, the band enters the studio to record what is meant to be the last album from Grand Funk! “Born to Die” only charts out at #47. But, the chance to work with Frank Zappa reunites the band to record one last album. In August, “Good Singin’ Good” is released and Grand Funk disbands in October!

The band reunited and finally released another album in July of 81′, “Grand Funk Lives”. Farner, Brewer and Bellinger tour throughout 81′ and 82′ having sold out shows in South America and Japan. “What’s Funk” was released in January of 83′ and one again Grand Funk disbands!

Brewer joined Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet band and completes several tours with them, as well as playing with other musicians. Schacher restores Jaguar’s, goes Into the construction business building custom homes and opens a record shop! Farner continues his music career in the Contemporary Christian genre and records several albums.

The band reunites once again and from May to July of 96′ they perform at 14 sold out shows! The band continues touring through 98′ performing numerous shows. It’s voted Pollsters Top 100 Tours of 1998 and also becomes one of the top ten grossing tours of that year.

Farner’s last performance with Grand Funk was in December of 98′, he continued to pursue his solo career. Brewer and Shacher waited almost two years for Farner to make up his mind to reunite the band, but he decided that he can no longer be a part of Grand Funk.

So, they recruited Max Carl who had experience with bands such as .38 Special and Bruce Kulick who had been a part of Kiss for many years. And, former Bob Seger member, Tim Cashion was brought in on keyboards.

The new millennium saw the “American Band” make their debut on December 2, 2000 in West Palm Beach, and immediately have the crowd under their spell! Determined to carry on the classic Grand Funk music, they’re also determined to make some new music to add to the legacy!
Grand Funk Railroad, spent most of their career as the both the most hated and most loved band. Radio stations denied them air time, the critics and media tore them down in the press.

Their music was said to be too loud, with a heavy beat that would never become popular! Critics claimed that, “no one in their right mind could possibly find anything interesting in this band or their music”! Rolling Stone Magazine even called them “the world’s worst rock band”!

Amazing how the “world’s worst rock band” could hold numerous gold and platinum albums, sell out concerts, and still after all these years, have millions of fans that are die hard Funkers!

Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2010

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