Grand Funk Railroad
Synopsis of Pop Music
“We’re comin’ to your town,
We’ll help you party down,
We’re an American band...”
Though many people think of them as a hard-rock band, Grand Funk Railroad were actually much more. Though they started out as a power-trio, they would eventually go on to explore blues, soul, heavy metal and even pure pop. In the process, Grand Funk Railroad fully lived up to their nickname: 'The People’s Band.'
Like most overnight sensations, Grand Funk Railroad had a long climb to the top. All the members had been in several Michigan garage bands when they decided to form a power-trio that would play heavy music in the style of Cream. The new group took their name from Michigan’s Grand Trunk Railroad and won a record contract after hitting big at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival. By the end of the year, their first album On Time was in stores and on the charts.
Grand Funk Railroad had their first hit the next year with “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home,” a ten-minute, orchestra-backed epic about a captain taking his ship to his port that climaxed with a “Hey Jude”-style coda. It went to #6 on the charts, as did the album of the same name. The band toured constantly, connecting with a massive fan base and perfecting their unique mix of hard-rock and soul as they earned their nickname 'The People’s Band.' They also made rock history when they sold out a Shea Stadium concert in 72 hours, breaking a record previously set by the Beatles.
The combination of constant touring and recording made Grand Funk Railroad instant superstars in the rock and roll world. They produced one hit album after another, mixing their epic originals with high-volume covers of songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “Inside Looking Out.” Their high-energy concerts were grand, emotional affairs with bare-chested frontman Mark Farner whipping the crowd into a frenzy that matched the band’s powerful wall of sound. Appropriately, they had one of their biggest successes with their concert recording, Live Album.
In 1972, Grand Funk Railroad moved into the second phase of their careers. The now-seasoned band added a keyboard player and began to experiment with shorter, more commercial songs. The result was a memorable string of hit singles that married the group’s hard-rock and soul influences to pop melodies. They reaped their first rewards of this new approach with “We’re an American Band,” a sharp autobiographical rocker that became their first #1 single.
In 1974, Grand Funk Railroad had a second number #1 with a stomping, fuzz-heavy cover of the 60’s dance classic “The Loco-Motion.” They also hit big with a spacey, keyboard-driven original tune, “Shinin’ On.” The next year, the group continued their hit streak with two consecutive Top-5 hits, the soulful “Some Kind of Wonderful” and the orchestral “Bad Time.” They also became one of a select few groups to be produced by Frank Zappa with their 1976 album Good Singin’, Good Playin’.
Grand Funk Railroad disbanded in 1977 when the members decided to pursue new directions. Brewer and Schacher formed Flint, while Farner recorded as a solo artist. Farner and Brewer also briefly reformed Grand Funk Railroad for two albums between 1981 and 1983. However, Grand Funk fans got the reunion they had been waiting for when the original line-up reformed to play a series of benefit concerts in 1997 for the Bosnian-American Relief Fund.
The Bosnian charity concerts were an overwhelming success and led to further touring for the happily-reunited Grand Funk Railroad. They also released Thirty Years Of Funk, a 3-CD retrospective including three new songs, in 1999. This wave of recent success is proof positive that Grand Funk Railroad will always be 'The People’s Band.'
Artist Release History1969 - On Time
1970 - Grand Funk/Live Album
1970 - Grand Funk
1970 - Live Album
1970 - Closer to Home
1971 - E Pluribus Funk
1971 - Survival
1972 - Phoenix
1973 - We're an American Band
1974 - Shinin' On
1974 - All the Girls in The World Beware
1975 - Masters of Rock
1975 - Caught in the Act (live)
1976 - Born to Die
1976 - Good Singin', Good Playin'
1981 - Grand Funk Lives
1983 - What's Funk?
1991 - Capitol Collectors Series
1997 - Bosnia
1998 - Closer to Home
1998 - Shining On
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsWe’re An American Band (Capitol)
Capitol Collector’s Series: Grand Funk Railroad (Capitol)
Band MembersMark Farner vocals, guitar, organ
Mel Schacher bass
Don Brewer vocals, drums
Craig Frost (1972-77) keyboards
Dennis Bellinger (1981-83) bass