Sunday, Aug 28, 2016
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Music-Theater-Dance

All aboard! Grand Funk revisits glory days

Drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher will lead the newly revamped Grand Funk - minus singer-guitarist Mark Farner - in concert tomorrow night at the Lenawee County Fair in Adrian, Mich.

From 1969 until 1976, the Flint, Mich., group produced 19 hit singles and earned 13 Gold Records and 10 Platinum Records.

In 1971, Grand Funk was such a hot commodity that it sold out a Shea Stadium concert faster than the Beatles did at the same venue six years earlier.

With such radio hits as “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Loco-Motion,” “Footstompin' Music,” and “We're an American Band,” Grand Funk has sold more than 25 million records in its career.

In 1971, the power trio added keyboardist Craig Frost, a childhood friend from Flint who now lives in suburban Toledo. But by 1976, facing changes in the radio industry and the onslaught of disco music, the musicians decided to disband.

Each artist went his own way. Frost became a permanent member of Bob Seger's band. Brewer joined that Detroit-based group for a stint in the 1980s. Schacher left the music industry for a while and opened an auto-restoration business. Farner switched to Christian rock.

In 1996, the original trio announced it would reunite for a concert tour, backed by a symphony orchestra conducted by Paul Shaffer, to raise funds for victims of the Bosnian war.

Capitol Records helped fuel a new Grand Funk Railroad revival, opening its vaults to compile a box set in 1999 and reissuing the band's entire catalog.

But after playing for more than 2 million fans between 1996 and 1999, Farner decided to switch gears.

“Mark chose to go solo after we had gotten the band back together and toured pretty extensively for three years,” Brewer said in a recent interview. “Capitol Records had reissued the entire catalog. We were featured on VH-1. We had all these pieces in place when Mark decided to go solo and quit. It was very inopportune timing.”

He and Schacher felt there was still enough fuel left in Grand Funk's tank to give it another go.

“We sat back and said that if we could find the right guys, we'll go forward,” Brewer said.

The veteran musicians felt they found the key piece of the puzzle when they hooked up with singer Max Carl, formerly with 38 Special.

“Max is an incredible talent,” Brewer said. “He's a great songwriter and probably the best blue-eyed soul singer on the planet, which is just what we needed because Grand Funk is a combination of R&B and rock and roll.”

The next step was finding a lead guitarist, and Brewer turned to a longtime friend, Bruce Kulick, who had performed with Kiss, Seger, and Michel Bolton. The new lineup was completed with the addition of Tim Cashion, another Seger alumnus, on keyboards.

“Everybody sings so we can have three-part harmony,” Brewer said. “We can re-create anything we want to now, plus, with the instrumentation we've got, we are not just looking to the past, but going into the future.”

Grand Funk is working on a new single with hopes of crossing over from classic rock to contemporary radio, Brewer said, but on the current tour it is focusing on fan favorites.

“We do about four new songs in the show but this is Grand Funk and we do a Grand Funk show - `Walk Like a Man,' `Shining On,' `Loco-Motion,' `We're an American Band,' `I'm Your Captain,' `Rock and Roll Soul,' Brewer said. “We do all the hits.”

Grand Funk Railroad performs at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Lenawee County Fair, 602 North Dean St., Adrian, Mich. Opening is Secret Weapons. Tickets, $21 plus $5 fair admission, are available at the fair box office, by phone at 517-263-3007, or online at www.lenfair.com.

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