A rockin’ good time

Mark Farner plays char­ity show in Ne­wark

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMIL­TON ca­hamil­ton@ches­pub.com

Mark Farner belted out songs in a soul­ful voice, wailed on his elec­tric gui­tar and strut­ted around the stage like a man bliss­fully pos­sessed by the mu­sic, back when he was the 20-some­thing front­man of Grand Funk in the 1970s.

From a per­for­mance stand­point, lit­tle has changed since those days when Grand Funk (orig­i­nally Grand Funk Rail­road) sold out sta­di­ums and are­nas and re­leased chart-topping al­bums and sin­gles, be­fore dis­band­ing in 1976.

On Satur­day, a fit-look­ing Farner, now 69, hit the stage at the Ne­wark Coun­try Club and gave an en­er­getic, hour-long char­ity con­cert that had the crowd of ap­prox­i­mately 300 peo­ple danc­ing, singing along and video­tap­ing his ev­ery mag­netic move. The show ben­e­fited the Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hame of Fame.

Backed by Club Phred, a Ne­wark-based band that has seven mem­bers, Farner opened his set with “Are You Ready,” a romp­ing song that set the fes­tive tone for the rest of the show.

Af­ter run­ning the band through a few more Grand Funk fan-fa­vorite deep cuts, all of them foot-stomp­ing tunes, Farner de­liv­ered some of the eas­ily rec­og­niz­able gi­ant hits that trav­eled fre­quently over the ra­dio air­waves back in the ‘70s.

The list in­cluded “The Loco-mo­tion” and the epic “I’m Your Cap­tain (Closer to Home).” Ar­riv­ing at the sig­na­tory cho­rus of that multi-part song – “I’m get­ting closer to my home” – a beam­ing Farner led the sin­ga­long crowd. Farner ded­i­cated that song to all the U.S. troops serv­ing over­seas.

Farner also gave an im­pas­sioned per­for­mance of his self-penned “Bad Time,” which, he told the au­di­ence, re­ceived “more air­play than any other song in 1975” and earned him an EMI award. Farner then noted, with comedic tim­ing, that “Bad Time” charted at No. 2, un­able to claim the top spot.

In ad­di­tion, he per­formed a gritty cover of “How Come My Bull­dog Don’t Bark,” a 1967 hit by Farner’s mu­si­cal hero, the late Howard Tate, a soul singer Farner dis­cov­ered dur­ing his for­ma­tive years grow­ing up in Flint, Mich., and lis­ten­ing to R&B and Mo­town records spun by WTAC disc jock­eys in On­tario.

Farner re­mem­bered tak­ing up an of­fer for free records, in­dis­crim­i­nately reach­ing into a box filled with them and snag­ging a few. One of them was a Howard Tate record, which, af­ter he played it back at his home, gave him a pro­found rev­e­la­tion.

“I said, ‘I want to sing like him,’” Farner told the au­di­ence, re­call­ing that piv­otal mo­ment.

When Farner wasn’t singing at his mi­cro­phone stand dur­ing Satur­day’s show, he was mov­ing rhyth­mi­cally back and forth across the stage, mak­ing per­sonal mu­si­cal con­nec­tions with each Club Phred band mem­ber.

Farner stood side-by-side with lead gui­tarist Brian Scott, 26, on a few of the lead gui­tar so­los. Farner also vis­ited Fred Daw­son on at least one num­ber, play­ing his key­board as if it were a drum. He wan­dered from the stage and into the crowd a few times in mid-per­for­mance, too.

Af­ter the gig, Farner said he and Daw­son struck up a friend­ship af­ter meet­ing sev­eral years ago at a rock ‘n’ roll fan­tasy camp. “He is a gen­uine, real per­son,” Farner said. It wasn’t un­til later in their friend­ship, how­ever, that Daw­son re­vealed that he was in a Delaware band, ac­cord­ing to Farner.

“I found out he was a B-3 (or­gan) player,” said Farner, who was im­pressed be­cause the B-3 was a sta­ple in­stru­ment in 1960s and 1970s rhythm & blues, rock and even reg­gae.

Satur­day marked the 12th time that Farner per­formed with Club Phred, so a fa­mil­iar­ity has been estab­lished. Farner and the band held a short re­hearsal on Satur­day morn­ing to pre­pare for the late af­ter­noon show.

“He’s com­fort­able with us,” ex­plained Kathy Lay­field, a Club Phred vo­cal­ist and syn­the­sizer player.

Club Phred’s sax­o­phone player, Gaetano “Vince” Vin­ciguerra – his en­ergy be­lies his age, 79 – de­scribed Farner as an af­fa­ble “reg­u­lar guy.”

For Scott, the baby of the group, which he joined about a year ago, play­ing his elec­tric gui­tar along­side Farner on stage was thrilling.

“It was amaz­ing be­cause of the en­ergy that he has. His en­ergy is con­ta­gious,” Scott said, adding that, con­trast­ing Farner’s stage charisma, “He’s a real down-to-earth guy.”

Round­ing out Club Phred are rhythm gui­tarist Mark Sisk, bassist Brian Dar­ing and drum­mer Jim Palmer.

Farner said he was happy to per­form with Club Phred to help the Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

“This is not a spinoff of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleve­land. It has a dif­fer­ent brain,” Farner said, not­ing that mu­sic fans will have a strong say when it comes to nom­i­nees for the Delaware one. “There are some (in the na­tional hall of fame) that don’t be­long, and there are some that do be­long and have been kept out.”

The brain­child of Ne­wark residents Ge­orge and Paula Wolkind, the Delaware Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame started about three years ago with the cou­ple cre­at­ing a Face­book page to share mem­o­ries of the lo­cal mu­sic scene. It took off from there, with nearly 900 peo­ple now fol­low­ing the page and con­tribut­ing to the con­ver­sa­tion.

The Wolkinds’ long-term goal is to se­cure a build­ing that would dou­ble as a mu­seum, where the legacy of Delaware mu­si­cians could be re­tained and a school where up-and­com­ing mu­si­cians could learn from older mu­si­cians.

In the general spirit of that nos­tal­gia, Mike Hill, 57, of Ne­wark, turned out to see Mark Farner on Satur­day with a worn cover for Grand Funk’s 1972 al­bum “Phoenix,” for Farner to sign.

It was emo­tional for Hill, whose brother, Joe, died from cancer four years ago, shortly af­ter their mother died.

“Joe was my older brother and he had a big in­flu­ence on my mu­si­cal tastes. He turned me on to Grand Funk, and I’ve loved their mu­sic ever since. My brother’s two most fa­vorite bands were Grand Funk and Yes,” Hill said. “I want Mark Farner to sign this al­bum and ded­i­cate it to my brother.”


Mark Farner loses him­self in a gui­tar solo dur­ing a char­ity per­for­mance at the Ne­wark Coun­try Club on Satur­day.

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