History & BiographyThis band was formed in the industrial town of Flint, Michigan and was initially the idea of one Terry Knight (born Richard Knapp) who was a famous Windsor, Canada DJ with singing ambitions on CKLW radio. The band’s name was inspired by a Michigan railroad called Grand Trunk Western Railroad. The band changed its monicker to Grand Funk Railroad following the addition of singer Mark Farner who was also in Terry Knight & The Pack - Knight becoming the act's manager - and had its breakthrough at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival. Terry Knight & The Pack had had a hit single called I (Who Have Nothing), which was a cover of Ben E. King’s hit. As legend had it, the band begged its way onto the roster of the 1969 festival having waived its usual fee. They then proceeded to deliberately turn up the volume to white noise levels immediately making the promoters regret their decision. The band played four more Southern festivals that year. The crowd, however, loved it! Don Brewer wrote the song We're An American Band as he was flying from town to town on the Phoenix Tour in 1972. The band was being sued by its former manager Terry Knight who was trying to stop them from performing.
In 1973 they shortened the monicker - possibly consequent to the firing of manager Knight - to Grand Funk and soon added a keyboardist just in time for We're An American Band. The band was one of the biggest American draws at this point.
Grand Funk Railroad was initially the subject of much bad press, but always managed to capitalize on the fact. The group was boycotting the press for the longest time as well. However, when in May of 1971 it would finally announce a press conference it would taste its own medicine when members of the press would boycott the band. Regardless, Knight’s unorthodox method of promoting the band included billboards, aeroplanes and buses.
Regardless, On Time topped the American album charts. The next three albums would be similar successes.
Following the release of All The Girls Of The World Beware! it was back to Railroad; and again off the train when the band reformed in 1981 having split once in 1977. How appropriate that the cover of Born To Die had depicted coffins. 1976’s Good Singin' Good Playin' was produced by Frank Zappa, but the band’s popularity had certainly waned by then.
The band had gone from success to success peaking with the 1973 album and single, We're An American Band. Grand Funk epitomized the ethic of the '70s seemingly always on the road and releasing an album once or twice a year.
The reformed band of 1980 was a trio and appeared on the Heavy Metal soundtrack. The group disbanded three years later. The line-up featured new bassist Dennis Bellinger. The band made yet another appearance in 1997 and recorded a benefit CD called Bosnia. A successful tour accompanied the album. Farner left again amidst acrimony. The band was still active at the turn of the century. The group featured .38 Special singer Max Carl and former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and continued to tour.
Farner became a gospel singer. He had a solo career beginning mid ’70s. Terry Knight was murdered in Texas on November 1, 2004 by the boyfriend of his daughter. Grand Funk Railroad used The American Band Tour 2019 monicker "Celebrating 50 Years of Funk" beginning January 17, 2019. A US judge in Michigan denied Grand Funk Railroad's request for a preliminary injunction to bar former singer Mark Farner from using the Mark Farner's American Band monicker in 2019. The man and his band would tour Brazil and Russia while the court proceedings continued. Bassist Stanley Sheldon, formerly of Peter Frampton, filled in for Schacher after the latter’s wife Dena died of cancer in 2018. Grand Funk conducted a 2020 tour called Some Kind Of Wonderful Tour. Between March and July 2023, the band toured on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its 1973 We're An American Band song and album. The tour’s monicker was The American Band Tour.
Born again Christian Mark Farner, the original singer and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad, expressed dismay at the band’s tour for the 50th anniversary of the 1973 We're An American Band album. The man had not been in the band and would like to be a member again. Farner had not been in the band since the turn of the century.