The legendary band will play Dover today
Not only is Dover International Speedway celebrating their 50th anniversary, famed band Grand Funk Railroad is doing the same.
The illustrious band also turned 50 this year and will party it up on stage, getting race fans revved up with a free concert before the Drydene 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race Sunday, Oct. 6. The show will be held on the Xfinity Stage at Victory Plaza.
Grand Funk, formed in 1969, has hits including “We’re An American Band,” “Shinin’ On” and “The Loco-Motion.” One of the band’s greatest accomplishments was selling out Shea Stadium faster than The Beatles.
Don Brewer, co-founder and vocalist/drummer, dished on his group appearing on “The Simpsons,” a sponsor he’d love to have, and one of the silliest rumors he’s heard about the band.
If you were a NASCAR driver and could receive an unlimited supply of products from one of your sponsors, which company would you want to be that sponsor?
I’d choose one of the gas companies. I would love to have an unlimited amount of gas, especially with the gas prices going up. Let’s say I’d choose Exxon.
What did you think about “The Simpsons” showing Grand Funk some love on the music festival episode?
We’d been mentioned on “The Simpsons” many times. I would keep hearing people say, “I heard them mention Grand Funk Railroad on ‘The Simpsons.’” I think one of the writers for “The Simpsons” was a Grand Funk fan. So every chance he got, he’d throw in Grand Funk Railroad and put in a Grand Funk song.
They came to us and wrote a scene of Homer taking his kids to Lollapalooza. The scene was to include a Grand Funk Railroad song. Grand Funk’s coming onto the radio and he’s got his kids in the backseat and he’s telling them about the band. “Shinin’ On” comes on and they approach us about using that song in a “Simpsons” episode. Of course, that was great. That’s like Americana right there. Homer Simpson mentioned Grand Funk Railroad.
What are some of the strangest rumors you’ve heard about Grand Funk?
It just happened again a few weeks ago. There’s a story floating around that we came up with the song “We’re An American Band” because we were on tour with Humble Pie, the British band; we were in a bar one night and we got into a dispute about who’s better, American bands or British bands, and that’s why we wrote “We’re An American Band.” That never happened. That’s totally a falsehood.
What’s the real origin of that song?
I wrote the song basically around the line: “We’re coming to your town. We’ll help you party it down.” We’re flying into all of these towns and that’s what I based the song around. I came up with the tag “American band” simply because it sounded good when I sang it. It had nothing to do with Humble Pie.
Did that rumor cause any friction between Grand Funk and Humble Pie?
At one point we heard Peter Frampton left Humble Pie and we invited him to join our band [laughs]. So no, it was never a problem.
What are two moments that standout from your career?
Selling out Shea Stadium faster than The Beatles; flying in helicopters over Shea Stadium as Humble Pie is on stage and we’re looking down, knowing that playing a sold-out Shea Stadium is our next stop. That’s one of the highlights.
Another was probably going to Japan for the first time and being greeted at the airport like The Beatles on “A Hard Day’s Night.” We’re getting off the airplane and there’s just screaming girls everywhere. That was a surreal kind of moment.
Playing the Atlanta Pop Festival the very first time as a totally unknown band back in 1969 was an unbelievable moment. The audience gave us a standing ovation and invited us back the next day to play another show.
Despite reaching a level of success that only a few in your field achieved, what kept you from letting stardom go to your head like some of your peers?
We came up in Flint, Michigan. As we came up through the ranks and we saw other bands doing things that were like — “oh my, God, what are they doing!?” — shooting heroin and having dubious/seedy people around, accompanying them everywhere.
We saw what that did to them and their organizations. I think watching from those situations is what made us learn and say, “I don’t want to go that way.” We avoided moving off. A lot of the bands when they would make it, they’d move to New York and Los Angeles. Then they’d fall into [making bad choices]. We never did.
We stayed in Flint. We stayed with our families and that kept us grounded. I’m not saying we were angels. We participated in plenty of off-color situations. But you kind of learn where the line is. You get up to the line and say, “Do I want to step across it or not?”
I don’t know what it is that makes people step across that line. I don’t think it’s limited to just sports figures and celebrities. I’ve seen it happen to UPS drivers and other people. They don’t know where the line is.