Everybody seems to remember when the Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, but fewer recall when Grand Funk Railroad did the same thing in 1971, reportedly even faster then the Fab Four did.
Grand Funk Railroad, formed in 1969 out of the dissolved Flint, Mich., band Terry Knight and the Pack, had taken some time to get there, but established a formidable following through relentless touring. The group reached its peak years in 1973-75 with Top 10 singles such as “American Band” and covers of “The Loco-Motion” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
The band, whose name is a play on the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (a line that ran through Flint), plays tonight at Thunder Valley with an impressive lineup. Founding members Don Brewer (drums and vocals) and Mel Schacher (bass) are to be joined by Max Carl (38 Special and Jack Mack and the Heart Attack), Bruce Kulick (12 years with KISS), and Tim Cashion (who logged time with Bob Seger and Robert Palmer).
Whether the current tour heralds any kind of new beginning for Grand Funk Railroad has yet to be seen, but this roster definitely has been carrying on with vigor for the past decade. After all, their promise remains the same: “We’re coming to your town. We’ll help you party it down. We’re an American band.” And besides, they’re also one of Homer Simpson’s favorites.
First billing for the Thunder Valley concert goes to what some might consider the “bigger” band. That would be Foreigner. But if influence was the criteria, that order might be reversed, as GFR laid the ground work for Foreigner (as well as Van Halen and Journey, among others).
Nevertheless, there are plenty of well-worn vinyl copies of “Double Vision” and “Foreigner 4” out there (just to name two of the Foreigner’s seven multiplatinum albums). The band arrived on the scene in 1976. Formed by three Americans and three Brits, Foreigner picked its name because it essentially applied wherever it played. (7 p.m.; tickets $34.75to $87.75; thundervalleyresort.com)