Mark Farner Brings American Band to Southwestern Ontario
As one of the founding members, singer, lead guitarist and author of most of Grand Funk Railroad’s music catalog, Mark Farner has always been known as the energetic driving force behind the scene. In a sense, it’s known as the engine that propelled the original Grand Funk Railroad to the top of the charts.
From his soulful voice and his power rock riffs, to fuel the Funk with his atomic presence on stage. His history and imprint on music begins with Flint and since 1969, from his humble beginnings and blue collar prospects, Farner has led a worldwide crusade for love and freedom and has become a rock and roll icon. .
50 years later, he still commands the stage with the same intensity, performing epic hits that defined a generation – “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)”, “Bad Time”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, âFoot Stompin ‘Musicâ, âHeartbreakerâ, âLocomotionâ, âMean Mistreerâ and âWe’re An American Bandâ.
He will bring Mark Farner’s American band, along with Windsor guitarist Dusty D’Annunzio to Sarnia’s Bluewater Borderfest on Saturday August 10 to perform with formerly Styx Dennis DeYoung.
Mark sat down with 519 for a conversation about music, Detroit and Dusty.
It’s your 50th anniversary for the On Time and Grand Funk albums. Is there anything you remember about recording these recordings?
Well, all of that early ’69 through ’76 stuff was all before FCC deregulation, and so a lot of our music was played not just on AM, but it was changing at that time and FM. was playing. Follow your captain – it’s nine minutes and something. And, I’ve been complimented and thanked by so many DJs over the years who have said, “Dude, you gave me the chance to smoke, get a leak, grab a bite to eat before I had to go home. my microphone.
You’ve created some of the great rock classics like “I’m Your Captain”, with that particular song it resonates with the rock generation. What made this song so unique and special?
I believe the music videos took away the effect that the music had before them which is all the videos that we personally had as fans listening to that music and imagining that movie of the song that was going on in Your spirit. And, I remember a guy in New York telling me that they interviewed 100 different people and asked them the meaning of the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon and Garfunkel, and they got 100 different definitions. . Well, you wouldn’t have that if they watched the video. They would have a hold, and that’s it. And, when somebody reads a book and they go to see the movie, they say, “Man, this movie sucks compared to the book.” It is because their film crossed their imagination. And, that part of us, I think, is suffocated by just being entertained to death. We have lost our ability to think freely and to break away from this stuff.
Speaking of the time, you were recording about two albums a year. From ’69 to ’76, you released 12 albums which today would be unheard of. Do you think this formula has helped or hindered your creativity?
It couldn’t do anything other than help as it brought Grand Funk to the fans who were really waiting for it. And, I spoke to them at every performance. They’re still there, people. We were just in a casino in upstate New York, and the people at Shea Stadium were there and showed us the tickets, and that was great. It’s about the influence of people on what we listened to on the radio back then, but now we have no influence on what we listen to on the radio because it’s controlled by companies, companies. conglomerates, and I’m sorry, but these guys don’t have ears.
You are 100% American and proud. Where does this sense of pride come from?
My father was a WWII veteran and a firefighter for the town of Flint. He died when I was nine, he and another firefighter were boarded by a train, and they were both killed. So my mom anyway was the first woman to weld on Sherman tanks, which was the type my dad drove of course. And, at Fisher Body in Flint, Michigan, and so, their involvement, and the love that they had through it all, and passed down to us kids, is what drives me, and that’s my patriotism for the family, and for the freedom to have a family, and to express love, and to express it unconditionally, and to have the freedom of religion, and to have the security of that freedom. That’s what makes me proud to be an American.
This year, a judge ruled in your favor and denied Grand Funk’s injunction to prevent you from using the name American Band.
That certainly didn’t stop them from trying to prolong this thing and trying to tell me that we are going to give evidence. That’s a whole bunch of horse bullshit because they’re getting their butt kicked right now, and I never went out and proclaimed that I was Big Funk. I wouldn’t do that. I’m honest I wouldn’t do that to a fan. But, other people will, and I don’t tolerate it, I never did, but they just jumped on the bandwagon of a bunch of other bands, a bunch of fake bands out there.
They announce a certain name of the band, and there’s not even an original member in there. It’s because someone owns the copyright to that name. And, when it’s recorded like that, the federal recording, there’s a guy, Gunnar Nelson from the Nelson Twins, we were doing a radio interview, and he told me. He said, âFarner, there are 126 bands called The Platters coming out, and this guy allows them all, and he gets some of what they think collectively.
And, they can do it legally because it is owned by the company. It’s just crazy. To me it’s crazy because any true Grand Funk fan knows that it’s not Grand Funk that comes out like this without the guy who wrote and sang over 90% of the music. How could anyone say that?
But, there are a lot of fans who just follow the name. They don’t know the individual members. They’re not really die-hard fans, so they’re going to see all these other fake bands. We call the guys who played with it, The Faux, FAUX Funk. But, I really want to take it back and give it to the fans.
I tried to give back to the fans because I’m a Beatles fan. I was disappointed because these guys couldn’t put anything to bed. They couldn’t bury the hatchet and do it just for us fans. We just have to get back together and go play so we can come and see them. And so, I have that in me, and I know for the sake of the fans that we could make a lot more money as Grand Funk, the original Grand Funk, and come out and do what we should, than separately. go out. And, I’m dating, Mark Farner’s American band, but I do a lot of all of my Grand Funk music because that’s what fans know me for, and that’s what they expect.
I can’t imagine the pressure something like this causes, especially from old friends and band mates.
Absolutely, but the guys I have with me, we all feel the same way. We’re just blessed to be able to take this step, and we’re so grateful to be where we are. There is no sort of departure from these journeys or pretending to be something that we are not. We go in and have lunch with the crew. I don’t see any separation happening in our industry, but I don’t want to be part of it.
I’ve always wondered if the Detroit R&B and Motown vibes led to your Locomotion recording?
In fact, what led to this recording was that Todd Rundgren was in the studio, and we were recording, doing the bed tracks for the album back home which was affectionately called The Swamp. And, it was a small recording studio that we had a tape recorder, but it was in the country. And, I crossed the road, I walked up the alley, it was a little winding alley, so that people couldn’t just look back, and, I come back from lunch, and I start to sing, âEveryone’s doing a whole new dance now.â And, I hear the guys smoking in the parking lot, they’re doing the backdrops, âCome on, baby. Do the locomotionâ¦â And, Rundgren, because the door to the studio was open, they let in some fresh air, and Rundgren comes out, and he said, “What was that? And we said,” What do you mean, what What was it? It’s Little Eva, it’s La Locomotion. He said, “Everyone here right now, come in. We’re playing this song.” And, we were the ones who got on it instantly. , and we just did it off our heads, and it was a big hit. I mean, it was just a party song. He came out, he was slamming ashtrays, he was singing everything like real f stuff acute. We had a great time and it really transferred to the tape.
Being so close to Windsor, have you ever been to the Canadian side?
Oh yes. I went to Windsor, I went to a few clubs. My partner is from Windsor, Dusty D’Annunzio goes out and does the acoustic concerts here in the US and Mexico wherever we are booked. I first saw him at The Dugout up there in Windsor. It’s a funky club, and, when I walked in, he was playing the song, Superstition, and the place was rock. And I say, “Yeah man, this guy got it all.” And I asked him if he wanted to go out and do some of my solo stuff because I was doing it myself, and I thought, “Damn, a two-part harmony would be better than a single guy singing.” this thing. “
And then we have my bassist from the band who is accompanying us now. So, we’ve got a three-part harmony, and we’re going to do some acoustic stuff all over the place.
What does Dusty bring to the music?
It brings an energy seasoned by youth. He plays everyday, he goes to bed playing, wakes up playing, and at first someone says, “If you want to add to what you’re doing, make sure you have someone who’s better than what you’re doing. you. So I have someone who is a better player than me. So he can express that even beyond my expectations, and he did it because he will play the bass part, he plays the flute part and the harmonics on the guitar.
He plays all the roles, and very convincingly over time. Crazy, but a great addition, and a really great guy. It is historically connected. He’s a patriot of who he is and of the country of Canada, and I appreciate him for his knowledge of what’s really going on.
Photo: Robert Alford