Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

Craig Frost has played with Grand Funk Railroad and Bob Seger

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Craig Frost holds the platinum award from 'Like a Rock', earned by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

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Craig Frost doesn't know when he'll get the call. In fact, it may never come. But when it does, his suburban life of leisure will be turned upside down.

A 12-year member of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band, Frost has been spending his days mowing his seven-and-a-half-acre lawn just north of Toledo, watering his flowers, taking joy rides on his salmon-pink Harley, and tinkering with his collection of exotic cars like a 1963 split-window Corvette and a pristine 1972 DeTomaso Pantera.

Sitting on a white sofa in a sunroom he built onto his spacious stone ranch, Frost admits he's getting a bit restless. Wearing jeans, boots, and a black T-shirt with skulls and thorns, the keyboard player said he is ready to crank up the rock and roll.

Seger, however, has not said much about a new tour, Frost notes. The band recorded an album of new material two years ago in Nashville, but it's been sitting on a shelf. He's hinted at releasing it in January and then going on tour, but there's no firm commitment.

When the 57-year-old Detroit rocker has had his fill of sailing (winning a recent race to Mackinaw), playing golf, and hanging out with his young children, he'll release the new disc, book the tour, and call up his band members.

“This is where it usually starts,” said Frost, standing in the middle of his music room.

His keyboards are plugged in and ready to go. There's a drum set in one corner and some guitars and amplifiers in another. On one side is a weight machine where Frost keeps in shape. Against one wall is a bed where his son, Matthew, 15, likes to sleep when he's at the house.

Dominating the music room is an array of Gold Records lined up in rows covering two of the room's wood-paneled walls. There are dozens, all engraved with “Presented to Craig Frost for .”

The Gold Records include such Seger classics as “Like a Rock,” “We've Got Tonight,” “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Turn the Page,” and “Night Moves. “

A large number of the gleaming LPs are from Frost's years with another of the biggest bands in American rock history, Grand Funk Railroad.

It's been a long and fascinating journey for the keyboardist from Flint, Mich.

When Frost was in his mid-20s, he went from playing in nightclubs to performing before arenas packed with 20,000 screaming Grand Funk fans.

He has never had to hold another job in addition to playing rock and roll. And he has never toured by bus -only by jet.

He lived live in the fast lane when he was with Grand Funk, spending more money than the average Joe will see in a lifetime. “I tried to keep up with [original trio members] Mark, Don, and Mel,” he said.

“Fortunately, I got a second chance. “

By the time Seger hired him in 1980, Frost had learned from his mistakes and invested his money wisely. Now he can afford to wait in comfort for the next tour or recording project, no matter how long it takes.

“I feel very fortunate,” says Frost. “I've been to every state of the Union except Alaska. I've been to Europe and Japan.”

He moved to the Bedford-Temperance area 15 years ago because his wife was from Toledo. The couple divorced, and he moved about a mile away. Their son recently left to attend a music school in Florida.

Without Matthew in town, Frost ponders the possibility of moving.

“Toledo's fine,” he said. “The Midwest has always been my home. But now I can live anywhere I want. I don't have massive amounts of money, but if I want to live by the mountains, I can. If I want to live by the beach, I can. “

He shrugs. It's a new thought and he's in no rush to decide.

A doctor friend drives up on a gleaming BMW motorcycle. Frost cranks up his custom-painted Harley-Davidson - it's salmon, but bikers kid him that it's pink - and they'll take a day trip to Ann Arbor.

Away from the concert stage, few Toledo music fans would recognize the unassuming artist.

With his curly hair, booming voice, and hearty laugh, Frost seems like the guy who would be sitting next to you at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Trimming his grass, riding his Harley, or shopping in the grocery store, few people would recognize him as a member of two of the best-known bands in American rock and roll.

Fame and recognition are not pressing issues for the low-key Frost.

“I'm just glad to have been a part of it all, “ he said.

He is philosophical about being largely overlooked as a member of Grand Funk Railroad, although he appears on the covers of some of their biggest hit albums.

Most people will always think of Grank Funk as a trio because they were already at the peak when Frost joined them, he said, and because original manager Terry Knight promoted them as a power trio.

He's been with Seger since 1980 and does not mind being part of the supporting cast rather.

Toledo is also just a short drive from Detroit, where Seger lives, and about an hour and a half from Flint, Mich., where Frost grew up. He was in high school when he first ran into fellow Flint musicians Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, and Don Brewer - the three original members of Grand Funk.

Frost grew up in a musical family, and his first instrument was the drums because his father was a professional drummer. He made a career move at 18, switching to piano because “everybody was drummer where I lived. I think I had more fun playing drums but piano because a thing where it just kept going for me.”

He enrolled at a University of Michigan branch in Flint, studying electronics technology, and paid his way through his first year of school by playing keyboards in local bands.

“I was playing here and there, working to get money to go to school,” Frost said, “and I started playing with the guys in Grand Funk, although they didn't call it Grand Funk yet. And I thought, well, I'll get back to college as soon as I'm done. But it just kind of kept getting better and better and I never did get back.”

Farner, Brewer, and Schacher gave Frost a call in 1972, after Grand Funk had a falling out with their manager, Knight, and invited their high school pal to join their power trio.

The trio wanted to add organ and synthesizer work to its gritty, blue-collar rock hammered out by Farner on guitar on vocals, Brewer on drums, and Schacher on bass.

“By then, they were already established,” Frost said.

Grand Funk had already scored such hits as “Heartbreaker,” “Mean Mistreater,” “Closer to Home,” and “Foot Stompin' Music.”

Frost went from playing bars and nightclubs in Flint and the surround area to performing before audiences of 20,000 on a regular basis.

“It was terrifying!” Frost said. “I remember playing, the first week, I was so nervous playing in front of those big crowds that my fingers would cramp up,” Frost said. “I was basically playing with three fingers because the other ones would be so cramped up. You can imagine the butterflies. The adrenaline's got to be up.”

Frost made his recording debut with Grand Funk in 1973 with the release of “We're an American Band,” produced by Todd Rundgren. The title song topped the Billboard singles charts and the album reached No. 2.

Unlike many of the top rock bands of the time, the guys in Grand Funk were not into illegal drugs, Frost said. He remembers seeing other bands snorting cocaine that was lined up for them as they made their way to the stage.

One of the wildest things he recalls from his Grand Funk days was a cake fight.

“Capitol Records threw this big Golden Record party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and to this day they've never let another rock band stay there because of this,” Frost said with a laugh.

“ We all had these wonderful leather suits on from North Beach Leather, and they brought out a seven-tiered cake.”

The top Capitol Records honchos were all there along with assorted music and Hollywood stars. “Todd Rundgren was sitting there with us. And Dustin Hoffman, I think he was getting ready to possibly do a movie about a rock and roll band.

“And somebody yelled `Throw the cake!' I don't know what happened but Brewer, Mel, and I and Todd Rundgren started picking up pieces of cake and throwing them. I don't know why, it just seemed like the thing to do.”

He remembers seeing Grand Funk singer-guitarist Mark Farner run and hide behind the drapes.

“Maybe he thought it was too much. `I'm drawing the line here, guys.' Or maybe he just didn't want to get cake on his beautiful white leather suit.”

Grand Funk broke up in 1976, Frost said, because it was too difficult for four people to see eye to eye. “It was like four people trying to stay in the same marriage. It's tough enough for two.”

After the split, he kept busy playing music, including a short-lived band called Flint with Brewer and Schacher.

He got his second shot at the big time when he got a call asking him to audition for Seger's band in 1980.

“Auditions? My God, I've never done that!” Frost said, taken aback.

He practiced the piano parts, playing along with Seger records, but when it came time to play, the musicians switched everything to different keys. Frost said it was a difficult test but he forged ahead.

Afterward, Seger told one interviewer that Frost “just fit in. He was flailing artlessly like we all do.”

Frost joined them for the Against the Wind tour, playing 106 shows in the United States and Europe. “I remember taking the Concorde over there. Nice. Three hours and you're there.”

His favorite song to play now is “Roll Me Away,” with its motorcycle theme. He also enjoys the piano part on “Come to Papa” and “Against the Wind,” but the song that the crowd really reacts to, he said, is the ballad “Turn the Page.''

Frost is waiting for the next page to turn, awaiting Seger's call.

“With Seger, we always stay at nice places. If there's a Four Seasons in town, we stay there. On our nights off, we go out to a nice restaurant, have some wine. . . . It's not exactly a grueling tour,” he said with a laugh.

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