Mark Farner's American Band
“You can’t talk about rock in the 70s without talking about Grand Funk Railroad.”
- David Fricke, Rolling Stone Magazine
Mark Farner is the reason. As one of the founding members, lead singer, lead guitarist, and wrote 90% of the Grand Funk music catalog, Farner has always been known as the energetic driving force on stage, the engine that pulled the original Grand Funk Railroad to the top of the charts. From his soulful voice and power rock riffs, to fueling the Funk with his atomic stage presence. His story and his imprint on music starts with Flint and since 1969 from his humble beginnings and a blue-collar outlook, Farner has captained a global crusade for love and freedom and became a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
50 years later – he 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”, “Foot Stompin’ Music”, “Heartbreaker”, “Locomotion”, “Mean Mistreater” and “We’re An American Band”.
Today, Farner’s amplifying his remarkable career another full decibel selling more than 30 million records worldwide, including 16 gold and platinum albums. Mark Farner’s American Band will honor Farner’s golden anniversary in music, as well as shine a spotlight on his legendary contributions to society, in his 2019-2020 50th Anniversary Tour. Farner, 70, is also about as real as they get: he’s a husband, a father and grandfather and in his fourth decade of marriage to wife Lesia. He’s a family man.
“I am who my songs say I am,” Farner said.
Farner’s first years in music were with the band Terry Knight and the Pack and The Bossmen. When GFR formed in 1969 they named the group after the Grand Trunk & Western Railroad that runs through Flint. Like a Spartan, Farner was intent on bringing rock destined for arenas. What began as rehearsals at Flint’s Federation of Musicians Union Hall led to some of rock music’s watershed moments. At the 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival, they shared the stage with rock luminaries such as Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. GFR thrilled the audience and further cemented its place as a live band full of loud, ferocious rock, soul, and funk!
“I think our fans connected to our songs because we were sincere,” Farner said. “My lyrics were about Mother Earth, stopping the war, and all about love. They still have a point of reference with me in their heart.”
The same year they formed – 1969 – the band further defied expectations by releasing two albums (via Capitol Records) in a four-month period. Farner wrote all but two songs from On Time and the platinum-selling Grand Funk. He said they wanted to take advantage of the meteoric rise that was building in terms of the band’s popularity.
“It wasn’t much pressure because the songs were coming fast,” Farner said. “I had nothing but time for songs.”
By 1970, Farner’s songs were pivotal to the band’s success. The epic composition, “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” became an anthem for Vietnam War Veterans and audiences alike. Farner would later perform the iconic song at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, on the 25th Anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Farner also received the Vietnam Veterans of American Presidents Award for Excellence in the Arts.
“That was a cold day temperature wise,” Farner said, of performing at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. “But the warmth of the hearts of the people that actually showed up, not just the US GIs, we had Canadian Nam vets there, as well…I’m thinking…how am I gonna sing with a softball in my throat?’ I was so choked up because I’m watching, looking out in the audience and watching these guys that were standing there, crying.”
The son of a World War II veteran, four-time bronze star recipient and career fireman also knows the importance of brotherhood and commitment. On his mother’s side, he champions his Cherokee heritage and the fact that his mother was the first women welder in the United States to weld on a tank during World War II. It just happened to be the same type of Sherman tanks his father drove. Farner’s work on and off the stage is focused on honoring service personnel and veterans and offering support to American farmers, individuals with disabilities, and downtrodden populations. Farner, the rock patriot that he is, continues to work tirelessly to honor service personnel and Veterans everywhere. He wants everyone to remember the huge sacrifices the men and women of our armed services give up to protect our amazing country and our freedoms.
In July 1971, the trio sold out Shea Stadium in New York; 55,000 tickets were sold in a record 72 hours – besting The Beatles’ previous record.
Farner’s penned composition “Bad Time” was Grand Funk’s last Top 10 single reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, in June 1975. Although it never topped the charts, the song was the most played tune on radio that year due to demand.
Farner released his first solo record in 1977. He has also enjoyed success in Contemporary Christian music with the No. 2 and Dove-nominated “Isn’t It Amazing” in 1988. He’s a three-time Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame member – inducted as a solo member in 2015 and an inductee as part of Grand Funk Railroad and Terry Knight & The Pack.
More than 50 years later something magical still happens when Farner takes the stage. His voice still strong and on key, his guitar playing slick and lighting quick and his trademark prancing all of which is still memorizes his audiences around the world.
“Love is unconditional,” he said. “Just like when you hold a baby, the love transfers. I feel that when I’m on stage from the audience. It’s all about the fans, and all about love.”