To the people of Marion, “Be ready to smile, and be ready to sweat,” said Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer, “we’re coming to your town.”
Brewer said he meant every word of the last part of the quote, which comes from a line in Grand Funk’s multi-million selling hit, “We’re An American Band.” That’s because, he said, he loves festivals and the people who come to them, “the kids, the parents, the grandparents, just everybody.
“I just love it when the crowd gets into it with us, and pretty soon they’re singing the lyrics, and out there dancing. God, it’s a great thing.”
Brewer, one of two original founding members of the band still playing (the other is bassist Mel Schacher), called the Free Press last Thursday from his home in Jupiter, Florida, just after going to the dentist.
He and the other members of Grand Funk Railroad will perform for Chingawassa Days in Marion Central Park at 9 p.m., June 7.
He was asked if he realized that after all the big gigs Grand Funk still does, places like New York City and Los Angelas, that Marion is a very small town.
“Oh, we do a lot of small towns,” Brewer said, “Des Moines, Cedar Rapids…..” No, it had to be said, Marion is smaller than those.
“It doesn’t matter,” Brewer said, “I’m there for the people.” He named off country festivals from Rockfest in Wisconsin to Com Stock in Nebraska that could make you reminisce back to Woodstock.
“We do a lot of fairs, a lot of casinos, we enjoy them all. (40 gigs this year)”
They've come a long way since the band’s 1960’s founding in Flint, Michigan, when they played many small venues.
When he was told that a favorite here is the Grand Funk song, “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Brewer said he loves singing that one, and seeing the crowd get into it.
Besides being the band’s drummer, he is a song writer and singer, the lead singer on “We’re An American Band,” which he also wrote.
Joining him and Schacher are singer Max Carl, “the best blue-eyed soul singer on the planet,” who was with 38 Special, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, formerly with KISS, and keyboardist Tim Cashion, known as Dr. Tim for his degrees in music from the University of Miami and stints with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and English soul man Robert Palmer.
How did it all begin? “Way back there in the ‘60’s,” Brewer said, “we wanted to move from The Pack (a former band called Terry Knight & The Pack) to something new.
“A new term , ‘funk’, had come into use. You know, people would say they were in a funk, and then later they started saying funky. We grew up in Flint seeing the trains go by on the Grand Trunk of the Western Railroad. From all that we came up with Grand Funk Railroad.
“We were faced with what we wanted to do, our own stuff. But at the same time people wanted to hear cover tunes. We didn’t want to be just another cover tune band. So, we would do our own stuff, and do new arrangements of cover tunes, jazz them up.
“We were big Mo-town fans. We liked people like Wilson Pickett, Arethra Franklin, Otis Redding…..We turned it up, and cranked it up.
“We wanted to be a power band. We were cranked up R&B really. We lined up some great singles. Now, after 40 years, we’e still a cranked up R&B band, we get the intensity.”
Grand Funk Railroad has produced new songs continuously throughout its history, Brewer said. Usually a member of the band will create lyrics and a melody, and the band will jam and coordinate to put the entire tune together, he said.
Brewer said the golden oldies rock radio stations, the internet, and people’s simple enjoyment of the type of music have helped bands like Grand Funk stay in the limelight.
There isn’t anything like being a “has-been” band in the group’s history, he said. “We’ll play all old tunes that people love, but we’ll throw in three or four new ones too. We’re always coming out with new music.”
With other mega-hits like “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home” and “Locomotion,” Grand Funk is credited with laying the groundwork for other bands such as Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi.
The tune “We’re An American Band,” has been used in film such as a recent General Motors television advertising campaign, the Disney feature film “The Country Bears,” the movie “RADIO,” and the movie “SAHARA.”
Copyright 2008, The Hillsboro Free Press