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The Sound

Grand Funk comes to your town



Grand Funk (Grand Funk Railroad, if you’re nasty) became mega-stars in the 1970s with hits like “We’re an American Band” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” but infighting, personal conflicts and frontman Mark Farner’s desire to pursue a solo career led to the band’s breakup in late 1975, soon after putting the finishing touches on its 1976 releases, “Born to Die” and “Good Singin’, Good Playin’.”

There was a brief reunion in the early 1980s with a slightly reconfigured lineup,

Grand Funk plays the Des Moines Arts Festival Saturday, June 25 at 8:30 p.m.

Grand Funk plays the Des Moines Arts Festival Saturday, June 25 at 8:30 p.m.

but the Grand Funk sound that most people think of when the band comes to mind would remain dormant until 1996. It was then, two decades after its original split, Grand Funk’s founding members — bassist Mel Schacher, guitarist Farner and drummer Don Brewer — would reunite and open up the band’s music to a new generation of live music fans.

Prep Iowa

“(The original trio) had gone from 1975 until 1996, so 27 years really,” Brewer said in a phone interview. “CDs had come around, and classic rock radio had come around. All of a sudden, you see all these bands on the road, and there’s demand for this old music again. Classic rock radio was a huge driver. All of a sudden, there was an audience for this music, and it was selling again.”

Since the two albums in ‘76, Grand Funk’s revamped lineup released two albums in the ‘80s, with 1983’s “What’s Funk?” standing as the band’s last full album of original material. Since then, the band has written more material, but Brewer said the idea of another studio album has always been on a back burner for the band for a number of reasons.

“We’ve tossed that question around for the past 20 years,” he said. “Do we want to go into the studio and record a bunch of stuff that radio won’t play? Look at every time that Bob Seeger or Bruce Springsteen releases an album now. Paul McCartney releases an album and winds up selling it at Starbucks. We play our new music live — we love playing it. But to go in and record and spend the money and time and effort for something that would only sell at our shows and wouldn’t get any play, that just doesn’t seem like a good investment for us now.”

The reunion of the original lineup would not last. After touring with his former bandmates for two years, Farner once again left Grand Funk to focus on his solo material. However, rather than call it quits again, Brewer and Schacher went on the hunt for a new vocalist. That new voice eventually came in the form of former .38 Special frontman Max Carl.

“I came to know Max through a mutual friend and thought he was perfect,” Brewer explained. “I ended up having to call him about three times before he’d return my phone calls, because he didn’t believe that Grand Funk was calling him. We flew him up to Traverse City, Michigan, and we jammed for a few days, and this guy just knew it. We didn’t have to tell him anything. He just got the music.”

Now, Grand Funk continues to hit the road as hard as ever. The band plays dates around the country, all year long, thrilling long-time fans and showing new ones what an American band is all about.

“It’s certainly a different type of thing from what we experienced in the ‘70s,” Brewer said. “You go back out 20 years later, and it’s a whole different experience. Your hardcore fans are now adults with children. Now, as we go farther, it’s grandchildren who are discovering Grand Funk for the first time. It’s quite a sight. Were we expecting it? We weren’t really expecting anything. It’s just a terrific feeling, and I’m happy to be able to do it every night.” CV



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