[A collage of early pictures of Mark, Don, and Mel]

Critics and Fans

The appeal of Grand Funk (as it was almost always shortened) is a bit difficult to understand. Critics, almost universally, panned the band as being too simple and loud. They said that the simple guitar chord progressions over the loud, heavy beat couldn't become popular -- no one in their right mind could possibly find anything interesting in this band or their music. But the fans didn't listen -- they saw a difference.

As anyone who was at one of those early concerts can tell you -- as anybody who saw the band live will attest -- in order to understand the Grand Funk phenomena you have to look beyond the skill and technique of the musicians themselves; you have to look beyond the guitar chords, the bass lines and the drum beats to something more. It sounds a little too cliche, but Mark, Don, and Mel had a special charisma that almost literally grabbed an audience, held them totally engrossed throughout an entire performance, and didn't let go until the last echo of the last encore had totally faded away.

What the critics failed to see, what the fans noticed immediately is that Grand Funk Railroad did not simply try to imitate the popular music of the day -- they were innovators. Other popular rock bands at the time usually consisted of musicians who were more interested in their musical technique than anything else. In concert, these musicians might be seen as playing for themselves, off in their own little world, occasionally talking with other band members on stage, almost completely ignoring the audience.

Grand Funk was different.

Although the members of the band were technically proficient; although the members of the band were becoming well known for several musical innovations; they wanted more. More than just musicians, the members of Grand Funk Railroad were also entertainers. They wanted to involve their audience with their music; they wanted their audience to have just as much fun listening to the music and watching the performance as the band had playing the music. Again, it was that charisma -- when they played, the audience believed in them; when they sang the audience understood and identified with them.

And what is even more amazing is the type of fans the band attracted. Many of the popular groups of the time attracted what was commonly referred to as the "teenybopper" fans -- young girls who idolized and fantasized about their heros in the band. Grand Funk quickly attracted fans from all age groups -- "teenyboppers" through thirty-somethings -- some without even having seen the band. Their music just had that kind of power. Once they started touring, concerts would often sell out weeks in advance. In fact, Grand Funk beat The Beatles records at Shea Stadium and sold out Madison Square Garden so fast that a second show had to be quickly scheduled.

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