- - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grand Funk Railroad burst out of Detroit and onto the national music scene in the early 1970s with an aggressive, distinctive sound and a slew of radio hits. Grand Funk continues to tour, with a revitalized lineup and a nonstop schedule.

Don Brewer, the band’s longtime drummer and lead singer on hits “We’re an American Band” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” checked in before Grand Funk plays the Delaware State Fair on Saturday. Mr. Brewer reflects on the band’s rich history, selling tickets faster than The Beatles and what fans can expect when they come to the show. (Hint: you’re going to need a towel.)

Question: How did Grand Funk Railroad form in 1969?

Answer: We had been in a couple of Michigan bands, and [guitarist] Mark Farner and I [decided] that we didn’t want to be a cover band. We wanted to be an original band. We enlisted bass player Mel Schacher from Question Mark and the Mysterians and started Grand Funk Railroad.

Q: Where did the name come from?

A: We named it after the Grand Truck and Western Railroad in Michigan. We figured that was appropriate because, as we were growing up, we would see all these [boxcars] going by every day.

A new term in music to come along in 1967 was “funk” music. We combined Grand Truck and funk together, and that was it.

Q: Was the band’s rise to fame as meteoric as it seemed?

A: If you don’t take into account all the stuff that we did for years prior to that. Once we changed over to Grand Funk Railroad and came up with the formula, doing original material as a power trio. Going after the Cream, Hendrix, Blue Cheer stuff that was going on. We put it on steroids, took our R&B roots and cranked it up with reckless abandon. [laughs]

Q: How did you come to sing lead on “We’re an American Band” and “Some Kind of Wonderful?”

A: We would always kind of say, “Whoever comes up with the song, or is writing the song, they’re more equipped to be the singer.” As I started writing and arranging and coming up with ideas, I started singing. When you write something, you are more equipped to do it than tell someone else, “Do it like this.”

Q: Is it true you sold out Shea Stadium faster than The Beatles?

A: It is true. I always like to tell people it was, because they probably got their ticket-selling process together in the years between The Beatles’ show and our show. I don’t think it was because we were more popular than The Beatles. Look at how fast you can buy tickets now.

Q: That event was filmed but never came out. Why?

A: We still have it. We have a master but never really found an appropriate time, monetarily or marketingwise, to put it out. We probably missed our time to release it back in the mid-1990s when we put together our first reunion tour in 1996. That would have probably been the best time to do it.

There are plenty of outlets out there, but nobody wants to pay for it. It’s simple economics.

Q: Why did Mark Farner leave the band again after the mid-‘90s reunion tour?

A: We did the reunion tour. We did VH1’s “Behind the Music,” and Capitol Records reissued all our CDs and a box set. It came to 1998, and Mark announced that he was going to go back to being a solo act. Mel and I said, “Oh, OK.” Over the next couple of years, we really pursued Mark and said we wanted to continue to tour. But he kept saying, “No, no, no.” Finally, we decided we would take a stab at trying to see if we could come up with some other guys to continue on.

Q: How did you get [.38 Special guitarist] Max Carl and [Kiss guitarist] Bruce Kulick to join the band?

A: I met Max through a friend at Peavey Amps. Max is probably one of the last “blue-eyed soul” singers on the planet, which makes him perfect for Grand Funk.

Bruce was a friend of mine back from when I was touring with Bob Seger in the 1980s. Bruce was touring with Michael Bolton, who was the opening act on the Seger tour. He came aboard, and that started working pretty well. We have been touring now 15 years with this band, and it’s terrific.

Q: Is the band’s name Grand Funk or Grand Funk Railroad now?

A: It is either one. People thought there was some legal reason we changed our name, but it wasn’t. The first two albums were Grand Funk Railroad, and the third was just Grand Funk. That was just because the fans called us Grand Funk. The official name is Grand Funk Railroad, but Grand Funk is fine too.

Q: What can people expect when they come out to see Grand Funk at the Delaware State Fair?

A: I like to tell everybody, “Be ready to sweat, be ready to smile, and be ready to have a good time. Because that is what you’re going to do.”

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