Grand Funk

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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A Lesson From A Young Rod Stewart

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!

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.

Wise Words From Kristofferson

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. 

The Rascals Hit #1

"Dad, can I borrow the car for the night?"

Only, in this case it was more like , "Dad, can I borrow the car and drive several hundred miles with The Staccatos to do a show, then go to Toronto to see The Beatles"  I should be home in a few days".

And he said yes.

 

The Ottawa based Staccatos were, many years later, to be known as Five Man Electrical Band and to have a #3 North American hit with "Signs". They had a gig, in Barrie, Ont,, about… miles west of Ottawa, the origin of the journey and…. miles north of Toronto. Part of the traveling party was Nelson Davis, one of if not THE top DJ in Ottawa at the time .

 

Barrie, a small town known for ….. nothing, that I can remember. Well, wait. Jump ahead to 2005 to Barrie's Park Place and it's the site of Live 8 starring Neil Young. The Tragically Hip and Deep Purple.  Other Live 8 locations and performers around the world included London (Coldplay, the final appearance of the classic Pink Floyd line up), Philadelphia (The Black Eyed Peas with Rita Marley and Stephen Marley, Sarah McLachlan - with Josh Groban), Berlin (Green Day), Rome, and Paris. 

I'dbeen there as a pre-teen when driving back to Ottawa with my family from seeing cousins in Windsor, just across from Detroit. I remember sweltering heat, no air conditioning while trying to sleep in a hotel and my dad actually getting the car up to about 60 miles an hour on the highway before my mom told him to slow down.   

 

This gig turned out to be an interesting show in several ways. The Staccatos were the opening act in a show seemingly featuring "stars of the future" but they all had experienced a level of success in the music world. The venue was what seemed like a kind of ski chalet…the crowd was on the floor and the bands were about two stories up from there. Well, that's how I remember it.

 

Another interesting point were the performers themselves. 

Well, let's see. There were The Staccatos as I mentioned, and they went on first. Then this guy came after them with a voice only a God could provide…BJ Thomas, years beforeraindrops kept falling on his head, but he'd hit the charts with his exceptional but pop version of a Hank Williams tune, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".  That got this Texan's career going and evidently got him on the road, now including Barrie. At the end of the day he was to turn to The Staccatos as he left the building saying, "See you in the big time". I guess he liked them.

 

Next, a band but really a singer with a back up band. I remember seeing them drive into the parking area before the gig….one very packed station wagon…the whole band and crew and instruments. In one station wagon. But I wanted to see this guy because I had enjoyed his great song " Solitary Man", a kind of folk-rock tune with just a beautiful feel. His name? Neil Diamond. And he wasn't the headliner. He barely had recorded any hits but "Solitary Man" got him going. And I have absolutely no memory of his performance.

 

And then the headliner. While we were in Barrie they were informed their latest release had gone #1 in the U.S. A song called "Groovin'" . I"m not sure if they had changed their name from The Young Rascals to The Rascals yet, but it didn't matter. Despite the fact their guitarist was Ottawa-born and New York raised, I, as a percussion freak from the age of five wanted to watch, not just listen to, but watch their drummer, Dino Donelli. Prior to his rock days he had played in lounge bands, mostly soft jazz and had performed in Ottawa at times. But now he was a rock drummer extraordinaire..a show drummer who not only drove the band with his solid approach to percussion but also moved in such a way you couldn't take your eyes off him.

Due to my status as…..driver, I guess…. for The Staccatos … I got a ring side seat, right off stage left and was able to observe Dino as up close as you can get without being out there with him. He had these moves, very sudden yet smooth, where he'd not only hit the drum, cymbal and back again but his head would follow on the beat. It was like he was conducting the band from behind with his head. 

Remarkable drumming and a great show by the band in general.

 

The next day, a bunch of us were out in the hotel parking lot after a rain storm and The Rascals' van was up to its axles in mud. It was a good thing we were on site at the time. The bunch of us kept pushing that thing until it finally got free and off went The Rascals to the next gig. But not before someone yelled from the hotel wind.."Stop!!!" Everybody stopped. " Groovin; : just went to #1 on the charts". 

Covered in mud we all cheered. I should have taken the hint there…covered in mud when they heard they were #1.

That's show biz. 

 

We left for Toronto in a rain storm, had a flat tire which Nelson and I changed while getting drenched and then made it to Toronto. I bought tickets the afternoon of the show to see The Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

Nice trip.