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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