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Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad

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Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad

July 22, 2017

You cannot talk about rock in the 1970s without talking about Grand Funk Railroad!” 

--David Fricke, Rolling Stone Magazine, April 3, 2003


Originating from Flint, Michigan in 1969, this top selling American rock group of the '70s is “COMIN’ TO YOUR TOWN TO HELP YOU PARTY IT DOWN."  Grand Funk Railroad is extremely excited to be touring in 2017 marking a 48 year milestone. After playing to millions of fans on the band’s tours from 1996 to 2016, Grand Funk’s 2017 Tour will continue to reach both new and long-time fans.


Known as “The American Band," the high-energy five-piece group will play forty shows all over the USA this year. Grand Funk Railroad includes original founding members Don Brewer (vocals and drums, writer and singer of the multi-million selling hit, We’re An American Band) and bassist Mel Schacher, “The God Of Thunder." Joining Don and Mel are true “All Stars." Singer Max Carl is a rock veteran from 38 Special. Max penned and sang 38’s biggest hit “Second Chance” and was co-founder of California’s legendary Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Don refers to Max as “the best blue-eyed soul singer on the planet." Lead guitarist Bruce Kulick is best known for his 12 years with KISS and has credits with Michael Bolton, Meatloaf and Billy Squier. (KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were influenced early on by Grand Funk.) Keyboardist Tim Cashion has a master’s degree in music from the University of Miami. Affectionately called “Dr. Tim," his credits include stints with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band and English soul man Robert Palmer. 


Grand Funk laid the groundwork for such bands as Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi with its signature hard driving sound, soulful vocals, muscular instrumentation and forceful pop melodies. The fact that Grand Funk’s legacy still reigns over the Classic Rock landscape forty years after its 1969 birth in Flint, Michigan is a testament to the group’s influence and staying power. Mega-hits We’re An American Band, I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home, Locomotion, and Some Kind Of Wonderful still receive continuous airplay on Classic Rock radio. We’re An American Band has received notoriety in recent years being used in movie sound tracks and in television/radio advertising. The huge hit was featured in a recent General Motors national TV ad campaign and in Disney’s animated feature film The Country Bears. In 2004, We’re An American Band was featured in the Cuba Gooding Jr. film RADIO, and in 2005 it was featured in the swashbuckler SAHARA starring Matthew McConaughey.


Internationally acclaimed Grand Funk has toured the world, selling out in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and South America. A 1971 performance at New York’s Shea Stadium sold out faster than the Beatles. The group’s widespread appeal is also evident in its prestigious recording achievements. Over their career, Grand Funk has had 19 charted singles, 8 Top 40 hits and two Number One singles (We’re An American Band and Locomotion, both selling more than one million each). The group has now accumulated 13 gold and 10 platinum records with record sales in excess of 25 million copies sold worldwide. The most recent gold CD award was presented to the band May 10, 2002 for their greatest hits package Grand Funk Railroad The Collectors Series.


The multi-talented band carries on the tradition of Grand Funk hits and creates a new chapter in the legacy of Grand Funk Railroad. In August of 2005 the band drew 20,000 in Albany, New York, and in September drew 20,000 fans to downtown Orlando, Florida. In April 2006, EMI/Capitol released a new Grand Funk Greatest Hits package that includes a bonus DVD of rare concert footage. In July of 2011, GFR drew 25,000 people to their Molson Canal Series Concert outside Buffalo. Grand Funk’s 2016 tour was a huge success and now, with the group’s 2017 tour, seasoned Grand Funk lovers and contemporary rock fans discovering the group for the first time will be able to celebrate with GRAND FUNK RAILROAD!         


G-Note Entertainment Magazine talked to founder, drummer and sometime singer, Don Brewer before they hit the stage at this year’s Ribfest Kalamazoo On August 5th at the Downtown Kalamazoo Arcadia Creek Festival site.


G-Note: We really appreciate your time today, let’s get right to it, Grand Funk Railroad has endured for 50 years, what do you credit your longevity and continued success to?


D.B.- “Thanks for having me today! We are all very much looking forward to being back in Kalamazoo, it’s been a while. I think we are playing right in downtown, that will be fun!”


“There is a long answer and there is a short answer. I’ll give you the short answer, I think it is all about timing. Back when we started, there was pretty much 2 outlets for our music, AM pop radio and some underground FM station playing our songs like ‘I’m your Captain’. Then FM became more and more commercial and we had to move fast to keep up with the changes. Some of our biggest hits were ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’, ‘Locomotion’ and ‘We’re an American Band’ you know, the 3-minute songs. Those were the songs that were in rotation on some AM stations across the country but we were also on the new formatted FM radio stations which gave us a larger audience.”


G-Note: Is that when Todd Rundgren came in and help you change and refine your sound for the new commercial FM market?


D.B.- “Exactly, we called in Todd because we heard so much about him for people in the industry and we were familiar with his songs and we really liked what he was doing musically. We called him up and eventually flew him in from his home in New York at the time, to our studio in Michigan. “


“Believe it or not, he really just let us do our thing, of course he made suggestions on where to put the bridge in a song and other helpful ideas, but what I appreciated was he just let us do that it was that we did. Just listening to the songs without all the editing, and EQ and fades, etc. through your headphones in the studio to what you hear in the record, is amazingly different and so much better. Todd was a great influence in our recordings and making us radio friendly.”


G-Note: Can I ask about the origin of your song, ‘We’re An American Band’? The story I heard was it originated from an argument you had with a couple of guys from ‘Humble Pie’ on who had better bands, Britain or America.


D.B.- (Chuckling) “That is NOT true! I’ve heard that too, I have no idea where that came from, Wikipedia or something. it just goes to show you things that are not true become fact after it gets on the internet.”


“No, we did a tour with Humble Pie, and we never had a fight or argument about anything, besides there isn’t any argument on who is better between American or English bands…Of course it the American bands without any question!” (Chuckling)


“The true story is, we were going through a lot of legal issues and we had lost everything to our former manager and some crooked attorneys and FM radio was changing form an ‘Underground’ commodity to more of a ‘Pop’ format so we needed hit records.


So, as we were flying to a show one day, I had this thought as we were getting ready to land…“We are coming to your town -we’ll help you party down.” I thinking hey, that sounded pretty good so I wrote the song around that.” I didn’t even finish the tag ‘We’re an American band” because I couldn’t think of anything, I was racking my brain trying to figure out something then one day I was just practicing the song and it sang well and It just came out of my mouth, ‘We’re an American Band.”


“I wasn’t trying to wave the American flag in front of anyone or anything like that, that is what Grand Funk Railroad is, we’re an American Band, and we were playing poker with Freddie King, we had groupies in Omaha, little Connie in Little Rock and I’m writing all of this stuff down about who we are that is really were it came from.”


G-Note: I still see the video circulating around the internet you shot for “We’re An American Band” recently from the early 70’s, way before MTV. Why did you do a video if there wasn’t a commercial platform for it?


D.B.- “Sure, it was pre-MTV, just when bands were doing videos to showcase their music. Ours was a little different in the way that it had a “Monkee’s” feel to it with us having fun riding motorcycles and just having fun with a little hipper take on it, that’s what we were trying to do with that video. And we were experimenting a little bit too. Most of that was for promotion to show buyers and venues and that kind of stuff, Capital Records would use them for promotional purposes to sell records.”


G-Note: Are you surprised by how popular Grand Funk Railroad still is after all this time?


D.B. - “Yes I am, I’m very blessed. We are coming up on 50 years of Grand Funk Railroad and my career goes 10 years before that. I’m shocked and very humbled and very thankful that we still have the opportunity doing something I love.”


“I tell people all the time that something magical happens when you get on stage, it’s hard to describe but I never get tired of playing the same songs over and over the decades because I love the watch the audience and now I see multi-generations of fans of grandparents and their grandkids out there dancing and singing our songs and just having a great time! How can get you tired of that?”


G-Note: Looking at the rapid rise of technology today, do you think Grand Funk Railroad would exist or co-exist in today’s computer-age world?


D.B.- “That’s a great question, all I can say I’m so glad we started and recorded in the era that we did. Look at the drum machines and synthesized instrumentation that is out there. I told someone the other day, recording isn’t about how perfect you can sound, it’s about the magic you can capture in that moment in the studio. I believe it’s for that reason why our songs are still around and are as popular today as they were when we recorded them!”


“Some Kind Of Wonderful” is probably the biggest wedding reception song in the world! It’s just a song that reflects how people feel with all the emotion and love on their very special day- You know you are “Some Kind Of “Wonderful and you are too Kalamazoo, we’ll come to your town and help you party down! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone and having a great time!”      


Don Brewer and the rest of the guys from Grand Funk Railroad will be performing on Friday, August 4th at 9:30pm


For more details and other entertainment scheduled on Kalamazoo Ribfest 2017,

Go to: www.kalamazooribfest.com/2017

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