Grand Funk Railroad – Behind the Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Learn the story behind the American rock band Grand Funk Railroad and how they became one of the best-selling bands of the 1970s.

The Early Years

Grand Funk Railroad’s career started off slow. The band was formed in 1968 by three musicians who were relatively unknown at the time. Mark Farner was the lead singer and guitarist, Mel Schacher played the bass, and Don Brewer was the drummer. The band’s first few years were spent playing small clubs and bars in their native Michigan.

The band is formed

In 1968, teenage friends Mark Farner (guitar, vocals) and Don Brewer (drums) decided to form a band. They recruited bassist Mel Schacher, who had recently moved to the area, and began playing local clubs and high school dances. The band quickly developed a following in Flint, Michigan, and began calling themselves Grand Funk Railroad (taken from the Grand Trunk Western Railroad that ran through the town).

The band’s first album is released

Their first album, On Time, was released in August of 1969. The album didn’t sell well, but the band was undeterred. They continued to gig relentlessly, building up a strong live following. They even opened for some huge acts, like Led Zeppelin and the Who.

The Band’s Rise to Fame

Grand Funk Railroad’s first album, On Time, was released in August of 1969. It was an instant success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The band’s popularity continued to grow throughout the early 1970s with the release of several more successful albums. By the end of the decade, Grand Funk was one of the biggest bands in the world.

The band signs with Capitol Records

Grand Funk Railroad was originally formed in 1968 by Mark Farner and Don Brewer, who had both been members of the group Terry Knight and the Pack. The band’s first album, On Time, was released in 1969 on the Capitol Records label. The album was a moderate success, reaching #27 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band’s second album, Grand Funk, was released in early 1970 and was a much bigger success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album featured the hit single “Closer to Home/I’m Your Captain (100%,),” which became a Top 10 hit. This album helped to launch the band to mainstream success.

The band releases their self-titled album

On December 29, 1969, the band released their self-titled debut album, which generated the hit single “I Can’t Get Enough of Your Love”, which peaked at number four on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The album was an instant success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart in February 1970. It would eventually be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The Band’s Commercial Success

Grand Funk Railroad’s first three albums were all huge commercial successes. Their debut album, On Time, went to number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified gold by the RIAA. The band’s second album, Grand Funk, was their biggest selling album. It was certified platinum by the RIAA and went to number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified gold by the RIAA. The band’s third album, Closer to Home, was another huge success.

The band releases their third album, “We’re an American Band”

The band’s third album, “We’re an American Band”, is released in July of 1973. The album goes to #1 on the Billboard charts and produces the title track, which becomes the band’s first and only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album is certified gold by the RIAA.

The band goes on tour

In order to capitalize on their newfound success, the band hit the road for an exhausting series of dates, playing as many as three hundred shows a year. The constant touring took its toll on the band members, who began to argues and fight with one another. Balin soon grew tired of the grind and left the group, although he would return for occasional guest appearances.

The Band’s Later Years

After the release of their third album, Survival, the band’s popularity began to wane. They released a few more albums in the 1970s, but they were unable to achieve the same level of success as they had in the early years. The band continued to tour throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, but they eventually disbanded in 1996.

The band breaks up

By 1979, tensions between Farner and Brewer had come to a head, and Brewer decided to leave the band. He was quickly replaced by Billy Elworthy, but the new lineup failed to reignite the band’s commercial success. In 1981, Farner left the band to pursue a solo career, and Grand Funk returned to being a three-piece band with Mel Schacher taking over on bass. The band struggled on without their two primary songwriters and failed to find any sort of significant success. They disbanded in 1983.

The band reunites

After years of failed attempts at a reunion, the original band members of Grand Funk Railroad finally got back together in 1996. They released a new album, entitled “Grand Funk Lives,” and even went on tour. However, the reunion was short-lived; once again, things just didn’t seem to click and the band members went their separate ways.

In 2001, Mel Schacher announced that he was leaving the band for good. He was replaced by Bruce Kulick, who had previously played with Kiss. With Kulick on board, the band released a new album, “Survival,” in 2002. The album was met with mixed reviews, but diehard fans were happy to have new music from their favorite band.

The following year, Mark Farner left the band again (this time for good) and was replaced by Randy Jackson. Jackson had previously played with ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others. With Jackson in the fold, Grand Funk Railroad released a live album in 2004 and embarked on a successful tour.

As of 2021, the current lineup of Grand Funk Railroad consists of Bruce Kulick (guitar), Don Brewer (drums/vocals), Max Carl (vocals), and Tim Cashion (keyboards). The band continues to tour regularly and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

The Band Today

The band is still touring

Today, the band is still touring and recording, with a lineup that includes two of the original members: drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher. The current version of Grand Funk Railroad was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame in 2007.

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