Exclusive interview with Grand Funk Railroad

Singer/Drummer/Songwriter Don Brewer shares story

Grand Funk Railroad is coming next Saturday, May 2, to play at Keystock Music Festival at Truman Waterfront and the Keys Weekly was lucky enough to interview original band member, singer, drummer and writer of “We’re an American Band” Don Brewer. He shared some of the details of being a rock ‘n’ roll superstar and his feelings about the concert.

Q: So “We’re an American Band” is about the rock star lifestyle, what was your greatest night as a rock n’ roll musician?

A: My greatest times are in that song “We’re an American Band.” Each one of the verses came from different experiences I had touring. I really was up all night with Freddy King and he does stay up playing poker. All of his musicians had to play poker so when he paid them he could win the money back. Omaha was another true story in the song. We checked in the hotel and there were four girls waiting in the lobby.

Q: How do you go from starting a band at 12 years old to being one of the great rock n’ roll drummers of all time?

A: I have always been a big fan of rock n’ roll. I saw Elvis Pressley on the Ed Sullivan show as a kid. When I was playing at school with the band, it wasn’t as interesting. Then I started playing with friends in the basement of my house. We played songs like “Johnny B. Goode.” My parents were very supportive. One band went transformed into another and Grand Funk Railroad was born.

Q: Playing drums and singing lead is pretty physical. Does it take a toll on you?

A: Both things take a lot of wind capacity, so I try to keep myself in top shape. It always came naturally. I did not learn one after the other. There is not a lot of singing drummers, but Don Henley (from the Eagles) does a great job.

Q: Is there a song you particularly like on one of your albums?

A: One of the big ones is closest to home, “Foot Stomping Music.” And in the mid ‘70s I wrote a song called “Pass it Around” and it has always been a favorite song because of the story content. It is about a guy leaving a girl. You don’t want me — so I am going to pass it around.

Q: How do you feel about coming to Key West and putting on a show?

A: I am looking forward to it. I have not been in quite a number of years and it is a destination my wife and I both love. It is going to be my first time performing in Key West.

Q: What is the trick to having a band stay together for 45 years?

A: There is no trick. It’s like a marriage; you have to work at it. It seems like one crisis goes to another crisis. That has gone all these years but we managed to make it work.

Q: Any new releases?

A: We have some new songs over the past 15 years; we focus on doing the big hits — a classic rock experience.

Q: How did the band create such a diverse sound including, funk, rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll?

A: I think we were all influenced very early on by a lot of different kinds of music like blues and R&B, and pop and rock and Motown.

Q: Why did you name the band Grand Funk Railroad?

F: We were in Michigan and there was the Grand Trunk and Western Railroad that came through town. Funk music was new term. It was kind of risky. It stood for powerful music.

Tickets for Keystock are available at Keystix.com. All active military, veterans and their spouses get in free with military ID and driver’s license. Children under 17 get in free, too. The event is put on by Lazy Lakes RV Resort, Howard Livingston, Homes for Veterans Inc. and Rotary Club of Key West.

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