Keep It “Shinin’ On”! Todd Rundgren Makes Grand Funk Railroad A Classic “Simpsons” American Band!!

Let’s begin with the obvious:



Yes, we are about to look at the career of a band that couldn’t keep their clothes on!


Time to celebrate one of the 70’s loudest rock bands – who achieved huge success with almost no respect! And they achieved their greatest success thanks to one of my favorite Artists: Todd Rundgren!

Todd Rundgren Jim Steinman

Time to give credit to the majesty of:


First of all, you have to LOVE THIS LOGO!

Grand Funk Railroad logo

Remember when you first heard a band’s music, and you were immediately hooked? Well for me, that happened when I was very young. My brother had a collection of bluesy, funky music from the late 60’s and early 70’s, and I first saw this album cover:

classic rock bands

Talk about psychedelic! Grand Funk Railroad was a raw, aggressive and LOUD “garage band” that burst onto the scene with what I call “slop rock”: funky, bass and drum driven blues that could – at any time – turn into a 10-minute song…here is one of those earlier jam efforts, the classic “Inside Looking Out”:

classic rock bands

Grand Funk Railroad’s first big top 40 hit was the classic “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)”. More hits followed, such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul” and “Mean Mistreater.”


As their popularity grew, Grand Funk Railroad toured to packed arenas worldwide. Here is a japanese single for their terrific cover version of “Gimme Shelter.”

Grand Funk Gimmer Shelter Cover

The band consisted of front man Mark Farner, who always seemed to enjoy performing without a shirt….

Grand Funk 1974-04-20-fr

He was joined by Don Brewer and Mel Schacher, which is why their first greatest hits album was called “Mark, Don & Mel”…as their popularity grew, it was clear that critics were not going to be as complimentary…their albums had a ramshackle feel to them…but the band’s popularity kept soaring. David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine said this:

“You cannot talk about rock in the 1970’s without talking about Grand Funk Railroad!”

grand funk classic rock bands

The Origin Of “Grand Funk!”

According to wikipedia, the band’s name is a play on words of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, a railroad line that ran through the band’s home town of Flint, Michigan. They were a pure, midwest working class band, which helps explain why they were so popular…they felt like a bar band!

grand funk best bar band

And they were incredibly popular live – more on that in a second…first, back to the hits that just kept coming…

Footstompin’ Funk!

While their earlier songs were lengthy jams, they began to settle into a pop single format, with the catchy, footstompin’ hit “Footstompin’ Music”. As you can see from this youtube concert clip, lead singer Mark Farner loved to perform without shirts!

Grand Funk American Band

The “Perfect Storm” Of Grand Funk, Todd Rundgren And #1!

The band decided to bring in an outside Producer to tighten up their sound, and they couldn’t have picked a better Producer than Todd Rundgren! His own career was soaring at the time with hits like “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw The Light” – he had a perfect pop touch – but with hard rock songs like “Black Maria” and “Heavy Metal Kids”, Todd also had a rock mentality that matched up perfectly with Grand Funk…

Grand Funk also brough on keyboardist Craig Frost, and his sound also energized the band….

Studio Todd

It was a match made in music heaven. Thanks to Todd’s incredibly focused production, “We’re An American Band” was the group’s biggest hit ever, with the iconic title track blasting to #1 on the single charts – the band’s first #1 single EVER – all thanks to Todd!

Here is that #1 song – the iconic “We’re An American Band”:


Yes, here is the inside cover of the album – the boys naked with American flags! As you can see, they decided going shirtless just wasn’t enough, so they got rid of all of their clothes – they also added a fourth member, Craig Frost on keyboards, and for the next few years they continued to have success…in fact many know them for this cover song, which also went to #1 – “The Loco-Motion”:

Grand Funk Caught In The Act

Drummer Don Brewer talks about working with Todd in this great clip I found on youtube:

shinin-on-3D cover

Todd also produced the follow-up album “Shinin’ On”, which was released with a 3D album cover! This album has more great rock songs, such as the title track – here is a great live version, performed of course by a topless Mark Farner:

Goodbye Todd!

The band made a big mistake and got rid of Todd as Producer – the followup album, “All The Girls In The World Beware!” was almost a parody of the band, and their creative decline began:


The band broke up in 1976, but not before releasing a strong comeback album produced by Frank Zappa, called “Good Singin’ Good Playin'”.

grand funk frank zappa

They also released one of the great double live albums, “Caught In The Act”, which is still a great way to enjoy them today!

Cue The Simpsons!

And of course, there is a way to embrace the band on TV too!

Homer Simpson music episodes

Grand Funk Is Homer Simpson’s Favorite Band!

Yes, Grand Funk lives on in the animated hijinks of “The Simpsons!” Thanks to wikipedia for compiling this list of “Simpsons” moments!

On the long-running series “The Simpsons”, Grand Funk Railroad is a favorite band of Homer Simpson. In the season seven episode “Homerpalooza”, upon hearing that Bart and Lisa do not know anything about GFR, Homer says:

“You kids don’t know Grand Funk? The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer? Oh, man!”

classic rock bands

Yes, even Homer Simpson knew that Mark Farner liked to perform without a shirt! And one of the best Grand Funk gags come when the seminal British band The Who guest star!

the simpsons the who

Homer And The Who!

In season twelve, The Who guest star and are given a list of songs to play, but Roger Daltrey states that most of the songs are by Grand Funk Railroad! I love that!

Home Simpson Grand Funk

Bart Simpson’s American Band!

Finally, in the series premiere of season 18, “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer”, Bart and Lisa get on the school bus, and Bart will not share his seat (the last available one) with Lisa. Instead of dealing with her problem, Otto puts a Grand Funk tape into his Walkman and sings to “We’re an American Band”.

classic rock bands

When asked in interviews, Don Brewer has confessed to being incredibly flattered about having Homer as a fan!

So there you have it, a lot of great reasons to dip into the library of Grand Funk Railroad – a great way to get this bar band’s music alive – and they are touring in 2014 as well!

Great band logos

Categories: 70's Music, Awards, Books / Media, Classic Rock, Memoirs, Music, Obscure Music, Talent/Celebrities, Technology, Todd Rundgren, Tokyo!, TV Show, Uncategorized

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12 replies

  1. where can we get a dvd of grand funk performances such as the above from the 1970s , i can’t believe they are not avaliable or don’t exist ???

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d update this , seems to be some bad blood about rights to the name and treating each other

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For anyone who is offended by the term “bar band”, I used it to describe a free form boogie style of musical performance, it was NOT in reference to the band’s success…I mean, I point out many times how much I love the band!



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