History Of Grand Funk Railroad: Rock’s Most Underrated Band

Grand Funk Railroad

Photo: Premier Talent Associates-on page 44. [Public domain]

When fans speak about classic rock music they always bring up bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, The Doors etc. etc. It’s so sad that one of rock and roll’s greatest 1970’s bands is hardly ever mentioned anymore. That band is Grand Funk Railroad and they rocked just as hard as anyone, if not more. The band’s official name was Grand Funk Railroad  but they were more commonly referred to as just Grand Funk. The band broke out into the music scene in 1969 with the album On Time. Grand Funk Railroad was signed to Capitol records. The label of The Beatles and so many other great rock and roll bands knew how to market their groups. The first single from the On Time album was a track entitled “Time Machine.” The album quickly went gold. The album featured just three musicians but they sounded like a rock and roll orchestra. Mark Farner played guitar piano and sang his heart out. Mel Schacher played bass and the incredible Don Brewer was on the drums. Rock and roll fans went nuts when they first heard this band. They had no idea what was soon to come.

Grand Funk Railroad’s second album was also released in 1969 simply entitled Grand Funk. The album is often referred to as the red album because of its red cover. After releasing two great albums in 1969, the magnificent trio of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher and Don Brewer released the phenomenal album Closer to the Home in 1970. Closer to the Home was the album that punched you in the face, stared you down and said wake up people! Grand Funk’s arrived. The album contained the epic 10 minute closing piece of music, “I’m your Captain/ Closer to Home.” It would become one of Grand Funk Railroad’s most loved pieces of music.

From 1969 to 1970 Grand Funk Railroad released three albums that all went quickly gold. None of the albums had a major top ten hit. The records were just packed with ferocious rock and roll melodies, incredible playing and singing and just great songs that people went nuts over. True rock and roll fans know the real deal the second they hear it, and Grand Funk Railroad rocked their worlds.

In 1971, Grand Funk Railroad released the album Survival. The album cover depicted the three musicians dressed up as caveman, hence the survival concept. The album contained two incredible cover songs. The band covered Dave Mason’s iconic song “Feeling Alright,” and The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter.” Each cover song closed their side of the album. It was impressive that Grand Funk Railroad were covering songs that were incredibly popular at the time “Gimme Shelter,” and “Feeling Alright,” we’re not old songs, yet Grand Funk Railroad felt they could put their own mark on them, which they did.

Later that year in 1971, Grand Funk Railroad released their fifth album entitled E Pluribus Funk. Five albums in just three years fueled the band to be one of the most popular rock and roll groups in the world. They were so loved that they actually sold more tickets to the Shea Stadium concert that they performed in Queens New York than The Beatles had. It was an achievement that they were very proud of since they featured it on the back cover of their record. Back then, nobody beat The Beatles in anything. Grand Funk Railroad had its own little victory. At the time in 1971 The Beatles were done, and Grand Funk Railroad stepped in to take took control. In the early 70s it was Grand Funk Railroad and Elton John who dominated the airwaves. Once The Beatles had broken up there was a void to fill and  Grand Funk Railroad and Elton John both stepped in magnificently.

The band’s 5th album E Pluribus Funk contained the killer cut “Footstompin’ Music.” If there ever was a great concert opener it was “Footstompin’ Music” and Grand Funk Railroad utilized that song for many years to open their shows. Five albums in three years and Grand Funk Railroad was just getting started.

In 1972, Grand Funk Railroad released their sixth album entitled Phoenix  It was the first Grand Funk Railroad album not produced by Terry Knight. The Phoenix album was a turning point  in the history of Grand Funk Railroad because of the addition of Craig Fost to the band. For the first time, Grand Funk Railroad were no longer a power trio.

In 1973, the band released the album We’re an American Band. Grand Funk Railroad  had already developed an incredible loyal following among rock and roll fans. However with the release of We’re an American Band. album,Grand Funk Railroad became a household name and one of the biggest bands in the world. The album featured the mega hit single “We’re an American Band,”which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was produced by the multi-talented Todd Rundgren.

Grand Funk Railroad followed up their incredibly successful We’re an American Band.album the following year in 1974 with their eighth album entitled Shinin’ On. Once again, Grand Funk Railroad blew audiences away with another number one hit. Grand Funk Railroad’s cover version of Carole King’s The Loco-Motion” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. It was huge! Once again Todd Rundgren produced the album while also playing guitar and lending some vocals to the record.

1974 was the year of Grand Funk. No band was bigger than Grand Funk Railroad in 1974.  The band followed up the Shinin’ On album that same year with their All the Girls in the World Beware!!! record. The group had two more huge hits on the record. The first single released was entitled “Some Kind of Wonderful” It was a cover version written by John Ellison in 1967. The song hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Mark Farner composed the band’s next big single off the record entitled “Bad Time.” The song reached all the way to the number four position on the Billboard Top 100. In 1974, Grand Funk Railroad  had successfully landed three songs in the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100. For Grand Funk, it was a very good year!

In 1975, Grand Funk Railroad released a two record live album entitled Caught In The Act. The record opened with a killer version of “Foot Stompin Music!” that was to die for. The album defined the Grand Funk sound well on record. Anyone who had been to a live Grand Funk show knew how exciting the band was on the concert stage. Caught In The Act. was a great testament to their live show.

Grand Funk’s hit “Bad Time,” would be the last song the band would release that would break the Billboard Top 40. The next album Born To Die was a bit darker than their previous work. Even though the album was not a commercial success, the record showcased a more mature sound with the occasional sweet pop song mixed in like “Sally.” The band broke up after the release of Born To Die. It was Grand Funk Railroad‘s tenth album.

In 1976, Frank Zappa convinced the band to get back together and record another album. The result was one of the band’`s finest studio albums they ever recorded entitled Good Singin’ Good Playin.’ It was not a commercial success, but Frank Zappa captured the band’s energy on record in a brilliantly produced album. Frank Zappa himself performed a screaming guitar solo on the killer track “Out To Get You.” The album’s first single “Can You Do It” failed to reach the Billboard Top 40. That was a shame because it was a great song. The album’s second single “Just Couldn’t Wait” failed to even chart.

After the album Good Singin’ Good Playin’ was released, Grand Funk Railroad broke up for the final time. Farner and Brewer would later release two more Grand Funk albums but Craig Frost and Mel Schaefer were not part of the band.

The original members of Grand Funk Railroad reunited for one short tour in 1996. After the tour Mark Farner left the group to continue to focus on his solo career. In 2000, original members Mel Schacher and Don Brewer reformed Grand Funk for performing purposes without Mark Farner. No studio albums or singles have been released.

Grand Funk Railroad was one of the most popular rock bands in the world in 1974. They released 10 great rock and roll albums in a period of less than 10 years. They had multiple top 10 hits including three top fives and a number one, all in 1974. They outsold The Beatles at Shea Stadium. They were one of the most dynamic bands to ever grace the concert stage. So why are they not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? That is what we mean by stating that Grand Funk is rock’s most underrated band.

 

3 Comments

  1. Matt The Axxmann MacDermaid March 29, 2019
    • CrashTestChris April 5, 2019
      • John March 2, 2020

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