Grand Funk Railroad is still chugging, coming to your town to help you party it down.
The classic rock band rolls into Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Friday.
“We got going again around the beginning of July,” Founding Drummer Don Brewer told WTOP. “It was a long year and a half sitting at home waiting and wondering whether we’d be able to get back to some kind of normal touring again. We were very fortunate to kick off this new ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ tour, which was postponed in 2019. Here we go!”
Brewer and bass player Mel Schacher are the two remaining original members.
“Me and Mel Schacher are the original founding members of Grand Funk,” Brewer said. “We’re joined by some great people: Max Carl from .38 Special is playing guitar and singing lead, Bruce Kulick from Kiss is playing guitar, Tim Cashion from Bob Seger’s band is playing keyboards and singing backup. We’ve been touring with this band for 22 years.”
Formed in Flint, Michigan in 1969, Grand Funk Railroad was formed as a trio of Brewer (drums, vocals), Schacher (bass) and Mark Farner (guitar, keys, harmonica, vocals).
“We had been several bands before Grand Funk,” Brewer said. “We experimented with some different things. As music changed in the late ’60s from being a pop AM format, it became heavy rock with Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Blue Cheer, those three-piece power trios were happening, so we decided to make that change as well. … Things just clicked.”
They were signed by Capitol Records for the album “On Time” (1969), followed by a string of platinum sellers, “Grand Funk” (1969), “Closer to Home” (1970), “Survival” (1971) and “E Pluribus Funk” (1971), as well as a sixth album, “Phoenix” (1972), that went gold.
The title track of their next album, “We’re An American Band” (1973), was their first No. 1.
“It really just sounds like a hit record, doesn’t it?” Brewer said. “We needed to make a transition from FM underground radio to the new FM hit radio format in 1972. You had to change all of your seven-minute songs … to be three or four-minutes, so I came up with this idea: ‘We’re coming to your town, we’ll help you party it down.’ That was the first lyric.”
Their next album “Shinin’ On” (1974) featured a catchy cover of “The Loco-Motion,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin for Little Eva in 1962. Grand Funk took it to No. 1 again.
“It was kind of a joke,” Brewer said. “Grand Funk Railroad doing ‘The Loco-Motion’ was a silly idea, so we tried it. We had Todd Rundgren in the studio with us, he did his magic with all of his sounds on the board and, boy, it was just great. We were going after the same feeling The Beach Boys had with ‘Barbara Ann.’ It sounded like a party in the studio.”
Their next album, “All the Girls in the World Beware!!!” (1974), featured arguably their most iconic song “Some Kind of Wonderful,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“In Flint, Michigan, we had a local R&B radio station, WAMM, that played the Soul Brothers Six version of ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ all the time,” Brewer said. “That’s a song that we’d do in the back of the limousine as we went from the hotel to the venue as our warm-up. We’d do it a cappella. … One day our manager said, ‘You should cut that song!'”
It also featured the hit song “Bad Time,” which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“It was a very poppy song,” Brewer said. “It really doesn’t sound much like Grand Funk, to be honest with you, but it’s a love song. Most guys can relate to, ‘I must have picked a bad time to be in love.’ Mark Farner’s lyric for that song was right on. He nailed that feeling.”
The group disbanded in 1976 before reuniting in the 1980s.
“We kind of got burned out,” Brewer said. “We did two albums a year and two tours a year for six and a half years and it just got to be too much, so we disbanded. We got back together briefly in the early ’80s. … Then we put it to rest for a while until classic rock radio popped up in the ’90s. All of a sudden everybody was playing Grand Funk Railroad again.”
They did a reunion tour in 1996 and 1997, before the current incarnation started in 2000.
“We’ve been going ever since … touring with this band for 22 years,” Brewer said.
Looking back, Brewer is grateful for all of the great musicians he’s played with.
“I’ve had some great experiences over my career,” Brewer said. “I’ve worked with Frank Zappa, Bob Seger, I was his tour drummer for seven or eight years, I loved working with Todd Rundgren, so I’ve made a lot of friends and acquaintances over the years. You draw on those things as you go through life and different incarnations of what your work is.”