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Grand Funk Railroad is an American rock band. The Grand Funk Railroad lineup was highly popular during the 1970s, having sold over 25 million records and selling out arenas worldwide and having been awarded four RIAA gold albums in 1970, the most for any American Group that year. They were often cited as "the loudest rock and roll band in the world." The current Grand Funk Railroad lineup uses the nickname "The American Band", from their hit song "We're an American Band".
The band was formed in 1969 by Mark Farner (vocals, guitar) and Don Brewer (vocals, drums), from Terry Knight and the Pack, and Mel Schacher (bass) from Question Mark & the Mysterians in Flint, Michigan. Former bandmate Terry Knight soon became their manager and named the band after the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, a well-known rail line in Michigan. First achieving recognition at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival, the band was signed by Capitol Records. Patterned after Cream, but developing their own populist style, in 1970 they had sold more albums than any other American band and had become a major concert attraction. In that same year they earned their second gold record award for the album "Grand Funk" (aka the Red Album) and a hit single, "I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home)", from the album Closer to Home, which was stylistically close to the old Terry Knight and the Pack. A year later, they broke the attendance record set by The Beatles' at Shea Stadium, selling out in just 72 hours.
Despite critical pans and lack of radio airplay, the group's first eight albums, released in three years, were successful. Knight launched an intensive advertising campaign to promote the album Closer To Home, reportedly paying $100,000 for a huge billboard in New York City's Times Square. That album was certified multi-platinum despite the lack of critical success. In 1972 Grand Funk Railroad fired Knight; Knight sued for breach of contract, resulting in a protracted legal battle.
In 1972 Grand Funk Railroad shortened their name to Grand Funk as a result of the ongoing legal battles, and added a fourth band member. First, they had requested Peter Frampton to join them. He wasn't available, due to a just-signed solo-record deal, so they asked Craig Frost (keyboards), whom they knew from their time in the Pack (1968). This brought on a stylistic shift from their original raw rock & roll roots to a more rhythm & blues oriented style that was not universally accepted by their fan base. Grand Funk released its sixth album Phoenix.
The band hired musician Todd Rundgren to refine their sound. Two successful albums and two hit singles resulted, "We're an American Band" (from We're An American Band) and "The Loco-Motion" (from Shinin' On, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin for Little Eva).
They switched to Jimmy Ienner as producer in 1975, reverted back to "Grand Funk Railroad", and released the album, All the Girls in the World Beware!!! which showed the band's pictures on top of the bodies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bobby Columbo and spawned the top ten hits "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Bad Time". A major tour and a live album, Caught in the Act, followed. Pressures between the band members mounted and they made what they thought was a final album, Born to Die.
In 1976 they had the opportunity to join forces with musician Frank Zappa, which renewed the band's spirits. This was, however, short-lived. After finishing Good Singin', Good Playin' (1976) Grand Funk Railroad disbanded.
Farner began a solo career, while Brewer, Schacher and Frost formed the band "Flint" with the addition of Billy Ellworthy. Grand Funk Railroad reunited in 1980 without Frost and with Dennis Bellinger replacing Schacher on bass, and released two albums on the Warner Bros. Records label Full Moon. Neither album achieved much success. After disbanding a second time, Farner continued as a solo performer, eventually converting to Christianity and becoming a Christian recording artist, while Brewer joined former Grand Funk bandmate Frost in Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band.
In 1996, Grand Funk Railroad (including Schacher) reunited once more, playing to 250,000 people in 14 shows during a three month period. In 1997, the band did three sold out Bosnian benefit concerts with a full symphony orchestra and released a live two disc benefit CD called Bosnia. In Auburn Hills and on the CD, Peter Frampton joined them on stage. In 1999, after three years of touring, Farner left the band to continue his solo career.
In 2000, Brewer and Schacher decided to recruit lead singer Max Carl (of .38 Special fame), former Kiss lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, and keyboard player Timothy Cashion, and continue as Grand Funk Railroad. Touring steadily since then, Grand Funk Railroad has built a new audience while still drawing fans of the original band.
The newest incarnation of Grand Funk Railroad plays around 30 concerts per year, recently breaking attendance records in Buffalo, New York and Orlando, Florida by drawing over 20,000 fans to both concerts. The band is allegedly writing new material, with plans for an upcoming release to include the 9/11 inspired ballad "Who Took Down The Stars" written by Carl and Kulick.