Grand Funk Railroad

The sight and sound of 1970s rock is unmistakable.

Heavy guitar licks rule many of the songs, and were backed by a deep bass and a crashing drum kit that defies logic. The music was loud, in thanks typically to stacks of Marshall amps on stage and a penchant for distortion.  Keyboards – unpolished novelties in the 1960s – also came into their own during the following decade- in the hands of performers like Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Gary Wright. Self expression through music took on a whole new paradigm, eventually manifesting itself in a solid music style that continues today as “Classic Rock.”

Bow down to Grand Funk Railroad.

Starting as a Power Trio in 1969, Grand Funk drew enormous crowds to their shows throughout the 1970s.  Their sound, a loud stripped-down rock homage to their Michigan roots, was heavy, catchy, a bit sleazy, and filled with hooks that kept the fans coming.  Aside from having a solid repertoire of their own music, Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, Don Brewer, and Craig Frost weren’t afraid of doing covers – putting their own spin on Motown songs like The Locomotion and Bad Time.  Mark Farner had one of the cleanest rock voices I’ve ever heard, and Don Brewer’s vocals – quite frankly – are filled with testosterone.

So why do I call them America’s Band?

As a group, Grand Funk Railroad embraced both the life of the 1970s rock band, and the bluesy American style that tailored so many performers who came before them.  They were real, and not afraid to speak their minds.  They played hard, lived harder, and probably knew a “Sweet Sweet Connie” like the one in the song “We’re An American Band.”

And let’s be honest: Don Brewer had an epic Fro:

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Over the years Grand Funk experienced internal turmoil, breakups, makeups, and regroups.  Farner eventually left for good in 1999, moving successfully into Christian music.  Schacher and Brewer continue to perform today as Grand Funk Railroad with newer members, still bringing in the crowds.