Grand Funk Rail­road

Martin Cooper looks at a US blues-rock out­fit that out­sold The Bea­tles at Shea Sta­dium and whose de­but al­bum sold a mil­lion - Grand Funk Rail­road.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON: ROCK -

don Brewer (drums, vo­cals) and mel Schacher (bass). named af­ter the lo­cal Grand trunk Western rail­road that passed through their town, they be­came pop­u­lar af­ter play­ing at the At­lanta Pop Fes­ti­val in 1969, and their de­but al­bum went on to sell over a mil­lion copies dur­ing the early 1970s. they broke the Bea­tles’ Shea Sta­dium at­ten­dance record in 1971 by selling it out in only 72 hours.

there were sev­eral high-pro­file band fights, in­clud­ing the fir­ing of man­ager terry Knight, who al­legedly re­pos­sessed the band’s mu­si­cal equip­ment just be­fore they were due to play madi­son Square Gar­den in new York!

Grand Funk rail­road also worked with a num­ber of big-time pro­duc­ers in­clud­ing todd rund­gren, and also had songs such as We’re An Amer­i­can Band cov­ered by the likes of Poi­son.

As the 1970s wore on, the of­ten-cited mu­si­cal dif­fer­ences played their part, and the band went their sep­a­rate ways in 1976. When they re­united in 1981, the line-up in­cluded dennis Bellinger on bass, while the group’s latest in­car­na­tion fea­tures ex-Kiss gui­tarist Bruce Kulick.

Grand Funk have re­mained pop­u­lar in their home coun­try through­out all the break-ups and new begin­nings, and re­cently played 40 shows to com­mem­o­rate their history. they may not nec­es­sar­ily be house­hold names in the UK but they have al­ways been well re­spected by their peers. david Fricke, the editor of rolling Stone mag­a­zine, once said that you can’t talk about 1970s Amer­i­can rock mu­sic with­out men­tion­ing Grand Funk rail­road.

Mark Farner’s guitar style is set firmly in clas­sic rock ter­ri­tory, and his sim­ple riff­ing and Pen­ta­tonic and blues based play­ing is al­ways there to serve the song. He went on to be­come a suc­cess­ful con­tem­po­rary Chris­tian mu­sic artist af­ter his de­par­ture from the band.

this month’s piece fea­tures straight­for­ward rocky riffs in the key of e nat­u­ral mi­nor (e-F#-G-A-B-C-d) although it also hints at an A ma­jor sound along with the e mi­nor, giv­ing an e do­rian or A mixoly­dian sound. the solo largely uses the blues-rock sta­ple e mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scale (e-G-A-B-d). You need to make sure that you play with au­thor­ity, with­out hit­ting the strings too hard. the solo shouldn’t present any prob­lems, and fea­tures the kinds of phrases also used by the likes of Free’s Paul Kos­soff.

Mark Farner of Grand Funk Rail­road

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