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.
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