Interview with Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad

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don brewer, grand funk railroad
Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad

Interview by Scott Preston

Grand Funk laid the groundwork for such bands as Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi with its signature hard driving sound, soulful vocals, muscular instrumentation and forceful pop melodies. The fact that Grand Funk’s legacy still reigns over the Classic Rock landscape more than thirty-five years after its 1969 birth in Flint, Michigan is a testament to the group’s influence and staying power. Mega-hits We’re An American Band, I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home, Locomotion, and Some Kind Of Wonderful still receive continuous airplay on Classic Rock radio. We’re An American Band has received notoriety in recent years being used in movie sound tracks and in television/radio advertising. The huge hit was featured in a recent General Motors national TV ad campaign and in Disney’s animated feature film The Country Bears.

Internationally acclaimed Grand Funk has toured the world, selling out in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and South America. A 1971 performance at New York’s Shea Stadium sold out faster than the Beatles. The group’s widespread appeal is also evident in its prestigious recording achievements. Over their career, Grand Funk has had 19 charted singles, 8 Top 40 hits and two Number One singles (We’re An American Band and Locomotion, both selling more than one million each). The group has 13 gold and 10 platinum records with record sales in excess of 25 million copies sold worldwide. The most recent gold CD award was presented to the band May 10, 2002 for their greatest hits package Grand Funk Railroad The Collectors Series. (from grandfunkrailroad.com)

Cincy Groove: Is Grand Funk working on any new projects right now?

Don Brewer: We have 4 new songs we perform in the shows and we are always working on ideas and performing them live. Its really a whole new ballgame out there in the recording world. The recording industry as we knew it is gone. We are very happy to be a classic rock act and happy to be able to play live.

Cincy Groove: How did the original members of Grand Funk get together?

Don Brewer: Grand Funk was a result of three bands that came before. First we were called the Jazzmasters, then we were called The Pack, then Terry Knight and The Pack, then we went back to The Pack again for a while. Then Mark Farner and I had the idea to put together a trio. We then got Mel Schacher from Question Mark and the Mysterians to play bass and started the trio. Then we changed our name to Grand Funk Railroad.

Cincy Groove: As I understand it now yourself and Mel are from the original lineup, when did everyone else you have now come in?

Don Brewer: Yes, myself and Mel are original members of the trio. We had gotten back together with Mark, the other original member in 1997-98, then he wanted to go back to being a solo artist after 1998. Mel and I weren’t really sure what we wanted to do. Then we got into 2000 and I came across a guy named Max Carl through a friend of a friend type of thing. As soon as I heard his voice I knew he would be perfect for Grand Funk. So Mel and I invited him up to Traverse City and started working out some stuff. That led us to thinking, well lets put this together and go out on the road. So I contacted another old friend of mine from when I was playing with Bob Seger back in the 1980’s, Bruce Kulick. Who happened to be playing with Michael Bolton back then, who was the opening act on the Bob Seger tour. So I thought he was a great guitar player, so I contacted Bruce and he flew him up. Then we got Tim Cashion on keys and have had this lineup since 2000. I think its a really, really great band.

Cincy Groove: Did you have a good time playing with Bob Seger in the 1980’s while Grand Funk was on hiatus?

Don Brewer: Yeah I did, I did two tours with them back in the 1980’s. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot by playing someone else’s music. I’m still very good friends with them, and in fact when Bob went out last year and played 50 shows I played with them.

Cincy Groove: How many shows does Grand Funk play in year?

Don Brewer: We usually play about 40. Not too many shows anymore, but just enough. Most of the shows are over the summer and on the weekends. We all live all over the country, so we all just fly in, meet up, then fly back out again. We generally have a couple times a year where we get together and have rehearsal sessions.

Cincy Groove: I noticed next year is Grand Funk’s 40th anniversary, are there any big plans?

Don Brewer: Not yet but I’m sure we will come up with something.

Cincy Groove: Did Grand Funk have any expectations when you went to play the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969?

Don Brewer: Very low expectations, we were really nobody at that point. We had just changed our name to Grand Funk Railroad and nobody knew who we were. A friend of ours who had an agent friend who was working the Atlanta Pop Festival got us on the bill. He said there was no pay, but if we could get down there they would put us on. Opening day, opening band of the Atlanta Pop Festival. So we all jumped in the van drove down there hauling a trailer. We actually rolled the trailer on the highway on the way down and had to pick up our equipment and load it back on. We got there and got on stage, I mean here we were in front of however many thousands of people were there and they have no idea who we are. By the end of the show they were giving us a standing ovation. When got off the stage and the promoter said come back tomorrow and we will put you in a better time slot. We ended up going on third the next day. Then we came back on Sunday and they gave us an even better time slot.

That was really our big break, we got a lot of exposure from being the unknown band who everyone loved at the Atlanta Pop Festival. We started to get gigs all over the south. Capitol Records then took notice of us and thats really how it all got started.

Grand Funk Railroad (2008):
Max Carl – vocals
Don Brewer – drums, vocals
Mel Schacher – bass
Bruce Kulick – guitar
Tim Cashion – keys

Upcoming Grand Funk tour dates:
For complete show details visit grandfunkrailroad.com
06/27/08 Niagara Falls ON Fallsview Casino Resort
06/28/08 Niagara Falls ON Fallsview Casino Resort
07/03/08 Mason OH Red Rhythm & Boom Celebration
07/04/08 Ennis TX Texas Motorplex
07/05/08 Marksville LA Paragon Casino Resort
07/12/08 Lansing MI Common Ground Music Festival
07/19/08 Muskegon MI Muskegon Bike Time Rally
07/25/08 Royalton MN Halfway Jam
07/26/08 Williamsburg VA Busch Gardens Williamsburg
07/27/08 Williamsburg VA Busch Gardens Williamsburg
07/31/08 Paso Robles CA California Mid-State Fair (two shows)
08/02/08 Atlantic City NJ Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort
08/09/08 Webster MA Indian Ranch
08/16/08 Idaho Falls ID Summer Days
08/22/08 Smith Mountain Lake VA Mariners Landing Summer Concert Series
08/23/08 Ft. Wayne IN Parks & Recreation Department Concert
08/29/08 Sacramento CA California State Fair
09/06/08 Ft. Benning GA Army Concert Tour Series
11/22/08 Riverside IA Riverside Casino & Golf Resort