“I just love it when the crowd gets into it with us, and pretty soon they’re singing the lyrics, and out there dancing. God, it’s a great thing.”
Brewer, one of two original founding members of the band still playing (the other is bassist Mel Schacher), called the Free Press last Thursday from his home in Jupiter, Fla., right after going to the dentist.
He and the other members of Grand Funk Railroad will perform for Chingawassa Days at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 7 in Marion Central Park.
Asked if he realized that after all the big gigs Grand Funk still does—places like New York City and Los Angelas—that Marion is a very small town. Brewer said, “Oh, we do a lot of small towns: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids….”
No, it had to be said, Marion is smaller than those.
“It doesn’t matter,” Brewer said, “I’m there for the people.”
He named off country festivals from Rockfest in Wisconsin to Com Stock in Nebraska that could make some reminisce back to Woodstock—40 gigs this year.
“We do a lot of fairs, a lot of casinos, we enjoy them all,” he said.
They’ve come a long way since the band’s founding in hometown Flint, Mich., in the 1960s, when they played many small venues.
When he was told that a favorite here is the Grand Funk song, “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Brewer said he loves singing that one, and seeing the crowd get into it.
Besides being the band’s drummer, he is a songwriter and singer. He is the lead singer on “We’re An American Band,” which he also wrote.
Joining him and Schacher are singer Max Carl, “the best blue-eyed soul singer on the planet” who was with .38 Special, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, formerly with KISS, and keyboardist Tim Cashion, known as Dr. Tim for his degrees in music from the University of Miami and stints with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and English soul man Robert Palmer.
How did it all begin?
“Way back there in the ’60’s,” Brewer said, “we wanted to move from The Pack (a former band called Terry Knight & The Pack) to something new.
“A new term, ‘funk,’ had come into use. You know, people would say they were in a funk, and then later they started saying funky. We grew up in Flint seeing the trains go by on the Grand Trunk of the Western Railroad. From all that we came up with Grand Funk Railroad.
“We were faced with what we wanted to do, our own stuff. But at the same time people wanted to hear cover tunes. We didn’t want to be just another cover tune band. So, we would do our own stuff, and do new arrangements of cover tunes, jazz them up.
“We were big Motown fans. We liked people like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding…. We turned it up, and cranked it up.
“We wanted to be a power band. We were cranked up R&B really. We lined up some great singles. Now, after 40 years, we’re still a cranked up R&B band, we get the intensity.”
Grand Funk Railroad has produced new songs continuously throughout its history, Brewer said. Usually a member of the band will create lyrics and a melody, and the band will jam and coordinate to put the entire tune together, he said.
Brewer said the golden oldies rock radio stations, the Internet and people’s simple enjoyment of the type of music have helped bands like Grand Funk stay in the limelight.
There isn’t anything like being a “has-been” band in the group’s history, he said. “We’ll play all old tunes that people love, but we’ll throw in three or four new ones too.
“We’re always coming out with new music.”
With other mega-hits such as “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home” and “Locomotion,” Grand Funk is credited for laying the groundwork for other bands such as Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi.
The tune, “We’re An American Band,” has been used in film such as a recent General Motors television advertising campaign, the Disney feature film “The Country Bears,” the movie “RADIO,” and the movie “SAHARA.”
Admission to the Grand Funk Railroad requires a Chingawassa Button, which will sell for $20 per button through May 31. On June 1, the price goes up to $30. The button will gives admissions to all events.