Grand Funk Railroad concert to benefit local veterans
Rock and roll super group Grand Funk Railroad, “The American Band,” will perform on the Tioga Downs outdoor summer concert stage on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. The 1970s top-selling American rock group is “Comin’ to your town to help you party it down.”
Proceeds will benefit the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, which offers assistance and services to veterans, service members and their families while partnering with upwards of 70 organizations throughout multiple counties within the southern tier of New York and northeast Pennsylvania region. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated to the Vestal, N.Y., based non-profit in recent years through the annual benefit concert.
Grand Funk Railroad first shook the music world in 1969 with their raw, real rock, and the original power trio of Mark Farner, Don Brewer and Mel Schacher produced multiple top 10 hits and albums. The name of the band, coined from the Grand Trunk Western Railroad which ran through their hometown of Flint, Mich., evolved into Grand Funk Railroad, the word “funk” chosen as a play-on-words while also giving a nod to funk music of the day.
Now 47 years later, Brewer and Schacher carry on the legacy, and for the past 17 years have toured with three “all-star” musicians who individually own remarkable resumes: Max Carl, a lead vocalist and songwriter with .38 Special, Bruce Kulick, a guitarist with KISS and Billy Squier, among others, and Tim Cashion, a keyboardist and vocalist who toured with Robert Palmer and Bob Seger.
During a phone interview, Brewer explained that Tioga Downs’ fans will hear all of GFR’s popular hits as well as a few new songs, and shared, “It’s going to be a high-energy, rock-and-roll-foot-stompin’ show.”
The band will open the concert with a more recent song entitled “Bottle Rocket,” which will put the spotlight on Brewer’s drum talent, along with other members performing solos and adding percussion. Brewer realizes that fans look forward to hearing the hit songs, yet he said “Bottle Rocket” and other new selections will still deliver the vintage Grand Funk sound that fans enjoy — just loud American rock and roll.
Brewer commented about the band today, “We all get along and have a great time.”
Brewer referred to Carl as the “best blue-eyed soul singer on the planet,” and affectionately called Cashion, “Dr. Tim,” because he’s the only member of the band with a music degree. Kulick’s 12 years with KISS adds a significant dimension to the band, and bassist Mel Schacher is well-known as the “God of Thunder.” For Brewer, the drums have been a part of his life since age 13.
Going back to September 1973, “We’re an American Band,” penned and sung by Brewer, was GFR’s first number one, multi-million dollar hit. Brewer explained that he wrote the lyrics before he came up with the tag line.
When asked how he feels about the song now being recognized as a rock and roll classic, Brewer replied, “It’s amazing,” and added that when he wrote the song, he wasn’t thinking about its longevity. In recent years, the song has been used on television and in movies and other advertising campaigns.
Throughout their career, GFR has accumulated 19 charted singles, eight Top 40 hits and two number one singles, along with 13 gold and 10 platinum records that exceeded $25 million in sales worldwide.
Brewer agreed that GFR’s version of “The Loco-Motion,” their second number one, is probably the most recognized version by music fans today and also offered his opinion about the fan-favorite, “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home.”
“When Mark Farner wrote that song, he may have been experiencing a spiritual moment. ...I’ve heard stories of Veterans leaving Vietnam, playing the song over and over again while on the ship home,” Brewer said.
Brewer further commented that part of the beauty of the song is that it can be interpreted in many different ways.
“When we play the song live, I look out and see veterans in the audience with tears in their eyes. It gives me chills every night,” Brewer added.
Tickets for GFR are on sale through Ticketmaster and the Tioga Downs Gift Shop for $15. Jeff Gural, CEO of American Racing and Entertainment and owner of Tioga Downs, has pledged to match every ticket sold.