Why Grand Funk Railroad is Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Grand Funk Railroad

Grand Funk Railroad as they appeared from 1969 until 1971

By Phill Marder

(No. 49 in a series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

Happy 2012 everyone!

In spite of popular demand, we’re back!! And that means offering sure-to-be-ignored suggestions to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concerning who really should be inducted.

In this episode, we’re going to pitch a band that sold millions and millions of records, sold out huge concert venues regularly and boasted countless fans around the world…and, naturally, were hated by most critics. Sorta like most of the bands not yet in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The topic of discussion is Grand Funk Railroad.

Now usually, The Hall of Fame’s rejection of certain acts is totally befuddling. But not in the case of Grand Funk. And it has nothing to do with the critics.

Sometimes, as in this case, the answer to a mystery is so obvious you can’t see it. Now, it will be revealed. Just look at the covers of their early LPs. Then compare them to the cover of the 1974 LP “All The Girls In The World Beware!!!”

For years, I missed it. You probably missed it, too. But, to its credit, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame didn’t miss it. There’s a valid reason Grand Funk Railroad is not in the Hall of Fame.

They were on steroids !!

And we all know the chances of getting into the Hall of Fame, even if just suspected of steroid use. Just ask Barry “US” Bonds.

I know, I know, this all sounds silly. It’s supposed to. It’s just a joke. But does it sound as silly as Grand Funk not being in the Rock Hall of Fame?  Considering the unworldy numbers they amassed, I don’t think so.

Grand Funk

By 1974, the evidence was obvious, Grand Funk had added body mass & a completely new body

Between 1969 and 1972, the power trio of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher and Don Brewer placed seven albums in the top 30, four reaching the top 10. And they did it without the benefit of a smash single, 1970s “Closer To Home” being the closest they came to a blockbuster, reaching #22. In 1971, they sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall without having a hit record in Britain and New York’s Shea Stadium in less than 72 hours, reportedly breaking the Beatles’ record. The Mets couldn’t sell it out in 72 games. Of course, they weren’t as good, at least not in 1971.

Keyboards became a major shaper of Grand Funk’s sound, dominating the 1972 single “Footstompin’ Music,” which helped propel the band’s 1971 “E Pluribus Funk” album to No. 5. Eventually, keyboardist Craig Frost, who had played as a sideman with the band, was made a full-time member. The next album, “Phoenix,” reached No. 7 but 1973’s “We’re An American Band,” did even better, climbing to No. 2 as the single of the same name became the group’s first No. 1.

The first, but not the last.

In 1974, their remake of Little Eva’s 1962 smash, “The Loco-Motion,” equaled the original’s No. 1 finish and helped lift the band’s “Shinin’ On” album to No. 5. The aforementioned “All of The Girls In The World Beware” was the last GFR long-player to hit the top 10, yielding two more huge singles, “Some Kind of Wonderful, which reached No. 3, and “Bad Time,” which peaked at No. 4.

The former was a cover of a somewhat obscure tune that had been released by both The Soul Brothers Six and The Fantastic Johnny C without much chart impact. It was not the same as the big Drifters’ hit. The latter, referred to as a “one-of-a-kind power ballad” by the All-Music Guide, was written by Farner, proving the group still capable of top-flight original material.

The usual impediments, contract squabbles, personal differences etc., that occur when a band is together for an extended period, eventually knocked Grand Funk Railroad off track.

But success continued for the group members because they were a lot more talented than Rock scribes gave them credit for. Farner played a raw, biting guitar, part of its appeal being the enthusiasm he conveyed through his playing. He also was a fine vocalist, going on to a successful solo career in Christian music.

The rhythm section of Schacher on bass and Brewer on drums was one of the finest in Rock history. It had to be. When you’re playing major stadiums as a three-piece, you’d better have great chops…and they did. Brewer and Frost eventually ended up with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, while Schacher has continued to keep GRF in the mix, appearing with Farner and Brewer on occasion as well as with other GFR lineups.

Though they were constantly degraded by the press, the Rolling Stone Album Guide rates their first two LPs – consisting almost entirely of original material – four stars each. Their fifth LP also gets four stars. The All-Music Guide added their third LP, “Closer To Home,” as a four-star effort and said of their live album, released the same year, “they were the live performing act of the time, and this album is a testament to their in-concert power.”

But you can judge for yourself. The Animals were one of the great bands of the ’60s. In 1966, they released a fair-sized hit with Eric Burdon’s “Inside-Looking Out.” On their second album, “Grand Funk,” Farner, Schacher and Brewer covered it. Listen to both versions side by side. Then tell me Grand Funk wasn’t a great band.



9 thoughts on “Why Grand Funk Railroad is Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

  1. Your article is correct,GFR richly deserves to be in the Rock Hall of Fame;you did make one tiny mistake,Footstompin Music was off the E PLURIBUS FUNK album,a great album by the way,and not the PHOENIX album.ROCK AND ROLL SOUL was the only single off the PHOENIX album to chart/
    Thanks Larry…now corrected

  2. love the article, one small mistake is that Craig Frost was not in the band on E Pluribus Funk, and therefore could not have played keyboards on Footstompin’ Music, that was, and still is Mark Farner playing keys on that track….
    Thanks Lee…though, according to Wikipedia…”In 1972, Grand Funk Railroad added Craig Frost on keyboards as a full-time member. Although Farner and Brewer had known Frost from the Terry Knight and the Pack days and Frost had both recorded and toured with Grand Funk as a sideman…

  3. Excellent article and I agree 100%, they is something very wrong at the Rock And Roll Hall of fame, how could bands be getting it that site GFR as an influence bit not GFR? For example Ten Red Hot Chile Peppers site GFR as an influence and even said there song Breaking the Girl was dedicated to GFR, It would be what they sounded like if they were still a band, this was back before GFR reunite in 1995. Members of Van Halen another HOF member have cited GFR, David Lee Roth said when he saw GFR thats when he knew he wanted to be a rock star. Bon Jovi sites GFR as well. I can go on and on. If the rock and roll hall of fame keep’s GFR out it will remain a joke institution.

  4. The Rock & Roll Hall of Shame or Sham…. Tell me, what other Bands toured 6 months or more out of a year and put out Two Albums a Year… Not Manny Bands I Know About, Maybe None! Mark, Don & Mel, Your Fans Love Ya! Please come Back as the Orignal GFR Band One More Time… The American Band…. Next Tour, 2013, The Back On Track Tour!

  5. Craig’s first contribution was on the Phoenix album. Thw whole Hall of Fame thing is a sham. Let’s go by record sales, concert attendance and Gold/Platinum albums. The ORIGINAL Grand Funk Railroad would be in for sure. Mark Farner alone as well as GFR needs and deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Until the day comes when he is or they are, I would never set foot in there.
    Thanks John

  6. Grand Funk was one of the greatest American rock bands. The entire Michigan music scene of that era — Nugent, Seger, Cooper, Stooges, GFR — was a powerhouse. Thank God Cooper finally made it last year. But what about the others?

    GFR certainly deserved induction many years ago. Mark Farner’s voice and guitar playing alone deserves recognition, but then add the bombastic groove of Don and Mel…and you one of the most awesome and thundering groups of all time.

    I’m a music journalist and former scribe for Goldmine and other national mags. I say it loud and proud – “I love GFR and always have.” To my peers in print, I say – the critics be damned. Induct GFR.

    Thanks! Rock On Goldmine!

    Tom Lounges

  7. Madonna and ABBA are in the RRHOF. Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Rush, Kiss, Jethro Tull, Yes, Motorhead, Free, John Mayall, Joe Cocker and Little Feat are not. Now tell that ain’t a pathetic institution.

  8. Had GFR played their cards right, they would be in the HOF and they would mentioned alongside bands like Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles and Pink Floyd…..Many critics and morons think they got better after Craig Frost joined – oh man what a crock because that is when they lost their edge and that dirty sound that they were known for, and that is when they abandoned their real fans!!! CF is a great keyboardist, but GFR did not need him. Phoenix was their last decent album, and even that record shows indications of the poppy cock poop music style that would follow on subsequent records. Say what you will, but GFR derailed the day that Terry Knight was kicked out. TK gave them balls. Mark, Don and Mel, you guys are IDIOTS for turning pop and forgetting that it was the early primal sludge rock sound that your REAL fans want to hear and that nasty hardhitting rock is what represents GFR at their best!
    I’ll take “Got This Thing on a Move” over “Bad Time” or “Locomotion” ANY DAY! Peace to all!

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