Never a critics favorites, but had a huge fan following even before they released a record.
Grand Funk Railroad Arrive in Detroit for First Visit
Mike Gormley, Detroit Free Press, 25 July 1969
THE STIGMA "local group" has been slapped on many bands and as a result several great groups have found themselves confined to their home territory. Michigan's Grand Funk Railroad were afraid of that, so they will be making their first Detroit appearance at the Eastown Friday, July 25, several months after their formation.
"We did the Michigan thing before in other groups," Railroad drummer Don Brewer said. "You just go in a circle appearing at the same places and being seen by the same people. You can't help running your group into the ground."
The group, made up of Don, Mark Farner on guitar and Mel Schacher on bass haven't been making many personal appearances in or out of Detroit. They've worked in Buffalo, the Atlanta Pop Festival, and Cleveland and recently signed to do the Houston and Nashville Pop Festivals. And they have yet to come out with their first record. This, however, will be corrected within a week when the Mark Farner composition 'Time Machine' is released to the public. "Without a record," Don says, "and a lot of exposure people just aren't going to hire you."
However the facts contradict what Don says. In the few places the group has appeared the reaction has been outstanding enough that they've either been invited back or have been asked to appear in other parts of the country. After the group received a standing ovation and walked off the stage in Atlanta unable to answer the yells for more, invitations came from all over. Several festivals expressed interest in the group and club owners in Georgia came up with offers. That's the sign of a good group. They aren't successful because their name has been advertised but because they are good enough to make money for club owners and promoters.
"ACTUALLY WE are trying to build something," Don said. "Instead of playing all the time and getting worn down we're cooling it until the record comes out. Hopefully then those who have heard us in the past will buy the record and those who have heard only the record will want to come out and see us."
Don isn't worried over the fact that it takes a group a certain amount of playing together in public to actually tighten up their sound and be professional in their work. "We aren't really together yet because of the lack of appearances but it won't take us very long. We've been playing together for so long" — in other groups — "that it should only take a few gigs or so to really get it together."
Contrary to popular belief, groups don't get rich off record sales, the money is in personal appearances. So where does that leave The Grand Funk Railroad? "It leaves us making just enough money to get by. But it doesn't matter too much because nobody has any real expense. We all live at home and none of us are married."
Each member of the trio is from the Flint area and they know the Detroit and Michi-music scene very well. Now that Detroit is getting national exposure as a music center beyond Motown, Don Brewer has a surprising thought. "I don't understand why it has to be, why this trying so hard to make Detroit stand out, is taking place."
Don explained that music is music and various areas shouldn't find it necessary to present themselves as something very different. There are distinct sounds from other cities. Don admitted that, but he isn't sure why groups have to be presented as strictly Detroit groups. "Why can't they be presented as groups playing music, not the Detroit sound or the New York sound? We have tried to get out of the Motown thing and we seem to be rid of that. I just don't know how much farther we can go.
"I think that Detroit people are getting spoiled," Don continued. "There are so many good groups here. But the groups develop themselves just to play for Detroit and not the whole country, therefore they're stuck in the area. There is sort of a break-through now, I guess with The Frost, MC5 and SRC going to the coast."
One would guess there is a breakthrough. One would guess The Grand Funk Railroad is part of it.
© Mike Gormley, 1969
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The young man, looking a little ragged approached Rod Stewart in a Holiday Inn hallway in Chicago. It was in the early 70s and Rod wasn't a household name yet, but he was a rock star. The kid about twenty years old approached him and admonished Rod for his "fancy" life style while he (the kid) had to struggle and scratch out a living. Rod, very seriously looked at him and, without any attitude in his voice told him about his time living on the streets, digging graves for a living, having doubts about his future. "I worked my way out of that. Don't give me shit for enjoying some success". Lesson learned. Don't envy others, it just holds you back. Most of the time triumphs come from hard work, sacrifice and determination that may not be obvious to you. Look at the people and their careers. Learn from their experiences and believe in yourself. That's power.
Musician suggestion...Lots of artists think this is old school. Wrong! I say email is still the most important tool at your disposal for marketing your music.
It’s the most effective way to sell your music, tickets, and merch.
It’s the ultimate permission marketing. Fans sign up because they want to hear from you!
One of the best ways to build up your email list is by making it your primary call-to-action on your website. Put the signup box in a very obvious location, and specifically direct people’s attention to it. You can even offer an incentive like a free song download or an exclusive piece of content to sweeten the deal.
You can also collect names and email info at gigs. Cumbersome, but people do sign up.
At age 32 it was getting a little frustrating being a "record executive" and going to meetings for no obvious reason than finding out what time the next meeting would be. While sitting in the Green Room with Kris Kristofferson at the old but great TV show The Phil Donahue Show I got chatting with him about my feelings at the time. "Ah man, you've got a long way to go with lots of things to do". Those words helped me decide to move on to other things because Kristofferson knew what he was talking about. He was in his late twenties/early thirties before he got Johnny Cash to listen to his music and really start his career. Lesson learned: don't ever think you are "too old" or be too set in your ways to try something new. Not long after the talk with Kris I joined up with Miles Copeland, manager of The Police at the time and started a great career as artist manager.