Grand Funk still rolling 

Please excuse my giddiness that may show through in my columns at various times when I’m able to interview Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner or Jorma Kaukonen, or — in this case — Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad. Sure, these aging artists now are mostly doing festival dates with free shows and the like. To the folks a lot younger than me, they’re yesterday’s news. For me, however, they were among the reasons I found music as a kid, picking out “Someone to Love” on acoustic guitar or “Into the Sun” and “I’m Your Captain” (badly, I might add) on my first electric guitar. More than 30 years ago, getting to see a Grand Funk Railroad show at Barton Coliseum was huge. Friday night at the State Fairgrounds, they’ll be playing outside Barton for free, part of the State Fair’s series of free concerts. “We’re doing 35 to 40 shows a year and having a good time,” says Brewer, the group’s longtime drummer. We laughed about those early-1970s days, when Grand Funk was a Clyde Clifford “Beaker Street” staple late nights on KAAY-AM 1090, and then on the early underground FM stations, before FM took over the AM playlist. Far removed from the groupie days, Brewer says the only girls who surround him today are his wife, two daughters and his sister. Mark Farner, the group’s singer and guitar player during GFR’s heyday, has gone his own way following a reunion tour in 1995. It’s not an amicable parting, either, the way Brewer describes it. Farner still retains business interest in the band. In Farner’s stead, Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher call on former .38 Special member Max Carl for singing. Bruce Kulick, who played with Meatloaf, Billy Squier, Michael Bolton and with KISS when that band “took off the makeup” for a while, is the guitarist. The keyboardist is Tim Cashion from Bob Seger’s band. “It’s a great band,” Brewer said. “We focus on doing the hits and some new stuff. It’s a high-energy rock show.” The Flint, Mich.-based Grand Funk Railroad survived many changes in music. Brewer and Farner were in The Pack playing ’60s rock when music began shifting to album-oriented, underground FM rock. Schacher, who had played with ? and the Mysterians, joined the new power-trio creation, Grand Funk Railroad (a play on the Grand Trunk and Western Railroad name and also “a gimmick” on using a word that sounded like the four-letter word for sex, Brewer said). “Those were great days,” Brewer said. “That was some of the most creative music ever done, not just us, but by a lot of artists … Now, music is like a disposable piece of candy — chew it, swallow it and move on. When we came up, music was our life. You’d read the album covers, knew the entire band and who played what. Now, I’m not sure anybody cares … I don’t sense the same passion from music from the public as I did way back in the 1970s.” By the mid-’70s, GFR had another decision to make, moving from seven-minute album tracks to hit radio, and successfully negotiated that change thanks to Todd Rundgren coming aboard as producer. Brewer started out as a music fan and played in the high school band for an instructor “who only wanted to play waltzes and marches. I ragged him, when were we going to play some of that newfangled rock ’n’ roll. He said never, so I quit the high school band and started my own band.” Now, his composition, “We’re an American Band,” has held its own for 30 years and is often played by high school and college bands on the football fields of America. Brewer just laughs at the irony.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Jim Harris

Most Shared

  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
  • Who needs courts?

    Not since the John Birch Society's "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards littered Southern roadsides after the Supreme Court's school-integration decision in 1954 has the American judicial system been under such siege, but who would have thought the trifling Arkansas legislature would lead the charge?
  • Bungling

    If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration.
  • UPDATE: Campus carry bill amended by Senate to require training

    The Senate this morning added an amendment to Rep. Charlie Collins campus carry bill that incorporates the effort denied in committee yesterday to require a 16-hour additional training period before university staff members with concealed carry permits may take the weapons on campus.
  • Director to resign from state court administrative office

    Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp announced today the resignation of J.D. Gingerich, long-time director of the administrative office of the courts.

Latest in Jim Harris

  • What a great, fast eight years

    Eight years. I’ve really been “at the job” of newspapers for much longer, it just focused on entertainment during these past eight years. Starting next week, it will focus on sports. Again. Where I started eons ago.
    • May 4, 2007
  • Mickelson goes by the numbers

    It's all in the short game, Phil Mickelson says s at Alotian.
    • Apr 26, 2007
  • Back to what I really love

    Where was I, the sports lover, the guy who couldn’t wait for Dickey-Stephens to open, a few of you may ask? I was checking out one of my other loves: a local, original music show at Juanita’s that the University of Central Arkansas Honors College had pull
    • Apr 23, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation