This article tells us the story of Grand Funk and their relation with their manager Terry Knight. Mr. Knight was quite a character with a lot of talents. He enjoyed great success as the manager for Grand Funk, but also worked as a singer, songwriter and radio personality. He died at the age of 61 after being murdered in his apartment by a young man that dated his daughter.
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Pete Makowski, in one of his better moments, gets his head together for at least an hour and takes a look at the story behind Grand Funk. Or, to cop a quote from the man himself, “… let`s look into the origins of this multi million dollar, almost corporation type affair, to stop us from taking the whole damn thing too seriously.”
The fact that Grand Funk have released their tenth and consecutive gold disc hasn`t raised many eyebrows but should still be observed as one of the rock and roll enigmas of our time. After the Stones, Cream and Beatles, this band arrived on the scene to cater for a new audience that was gradually appearing on the scene – the dawning of the teenybopper.
It`s interesting to note that around the same time Funk appeared, the new look T. Rex were beginning to break in a big way over here.
Many critics have said that it could have been anybody who stepped on that stage on that hot and eventful day in Atlanta. But the fact is, mister “right time, right place” Terry Knight, was on the scene, and these three guys from Michigan, Detroit made their mark on the rock scene.
No one can dispute that statement.
When the Beatles and Stones emerged on the music scene the “straight” press slagged them to the proverbial ground and the audiences turned to the music press for information and facts. Now, when Funk appeared, their fans couldn`t turn to the music press, the radio stations or even television. No form of media were prepared to turn to the band. Note since then how many bands have appeared and have had the same treatment. It was obvious that a whole new market was growing.
Kids who didn`t know or care that the Stones and Beatles contributed some of the greatest changes to music or weren`t interested where some of the great guitarists derived their styles from. All the kids wanted to do was to rock and roll, and at that time most of the bands were jamming.
Still, before we delve too heavily into the critical analisations of rock and roll, let`s look into the origins of this multi million dollar, almost corporation type affair, to stop us from taking the whole damn thing too seriously.
No one can verify the band`s history, even today the news about the boys is still very superficial and has elements of hype. Right from the start it was obvious that Terry Knight had the talent and cunningness to make it in some sphere of the music business and once you learn his past history the stunts he pulled with his boys become a little more understandable.
Knight and Funk have always been based around Detroit, after all, it was their birth place. The band still have farms there and guitarist Farner owns a paper. Knight first made his mark when he became a DJ on Detroit/Windsors CKWL. He became very popular because the majority of the records he played were British, and they were the rage at the time.
There were, apparently, scenes of hysteria when Knight left the station. The reason he gave for his departure was that he was “moving to England to become the sixth Rolling Stone.” But Terry was soon back on the air after an unsuccessful bid to make it as a folk singer.
Knight was still interested in forming a band and decided that his backing men would be a band called The Jazzmasters after seeing them at a gig in Flint. He approached them and they agreed. He eventually persuaded them to change their name to the Pack – Terry Knight And The Pack. At that time the only member of Grand Funk was the drummer – Don Brewer. They released a couple of singles that were instant flops. Then came their first hit, a cover version of The Yardbirds “Mister Your A Better Man Than I” which reportedly Terry said “the band wrote for him.”
This put the band in the big league along with other huge Detroit names like Mitch Ryder and Bob Seeger. At that time their bass player Herm Jackson was drafted into the army and this was when Farner appeared on the scene and replaced him for a while. Jackson conveniently developed a broken leg and Farner left to join Dick Wagners Bossmen. Dick Wagner along with Steve Hunter is presently one of the most wanted American session guitarists, and has played with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper.
Round about this time, The Pack`s guitarist Curt Johnson was dispensed with and Farner rejoined the band to play guitar. It`s interesting to note Knight`s views at that time. In an interview with Lorraine Alterman of the Detroit Press he completely contradicted his present day ideas with the following statement: “Right now music is reverting back to a pile of junk. The folk rock movement has quitened down since the last fall, and songs with a raucous big beat, sounding loud, seem to be making it to the top of the charts faster.”
The Pack kept producing fair imitations of British and soul songs and built themselves up a strong following. Eventually the band broke up and Terry And The Pack went their own separate ways. The Pack changed their name to the Fabulous Pack, which didn`t seem to enhance their success, and eventually the band split and Farner and Brewer found themselves stuck out in Cape Cod, Massachussetts, suffering from the regular rock and roll diseases.
They phoned up Terry for help and he agreed to manage them on the condition that they would let him do everything his way. Knight knew exactly what he wanted – a loud band. He got them to move about to make up for the lack of musicianship. To complete the band they got hold of bassist Mel Schacher, an ex-member of Mark And The Mysterians, another Detroit band who had a million seller hit on the cameo Parkway label titled “96 Tears”.
The band were rehearsed for a while, and soon after, when Mr. K. felt they were ready, he took them out to play every and any festival, free of charge. The following built up, and eventually the band released their first album and single on Capitol records.
The media began to condemn the band from the start, and that`s when the audiences started loving them.
Everyone was screaming hype, but to tell you the truth it seems hard to see where the hype was coming from. Okay, so there`s the famous Funk billboard that stretched across Times Square, but bands have done that before – and still do. There was definitely no assistance from the press and that`s the reason they were tagged “The people`s band”, because no one else would have them.
But Knight exploited that tag, to the extent that he was almost dismissing the music, and saying the fact that the band were on the stage with their “brothers and sisters” was enough. Also no one ever spoke to the band, everything was said through Knight from the bands inception right up till the release of “Phoenix” – their eight album. It`s logical to think that Knight was beginning to get up the boys noses, but then again he stipulated the conditions to them beforehand.
Another thing annoying the band was the fact that they had to release at least two albums per year along with the heavy touring schedules. This built up a pressure that led to an inevitable split between Knight and the band. Being a shrewd character that he is Knight made sure that it wouldn`t be an easy departure for the band.
No matter what Terry said about the band`s music, there`s no doubt that their albums became the biggest sellers in America, their live album was in the charts for almost a whole year and their total sales are unthinkable.
So what about the band`s music? It certainly didn`t change any trends, and it didn`t follow any either, but it did have that irrisistable punk feel about it. The same feel that`s been in bands like MC5 and Alice Cooper, who come from the same area.
It is obvious even now the band still hold their roots solidly in Detroit and I would never describe them as a heavy band, remembering that loud and heavy are two different things. It`s not true to say that Funk were talentless musicians, true they weren`t beaming with inspiration, but they fulfilled their job. I can`t say that I take them and their music 100 per cent seriously, but I must admit that I have gained some enjoyment from listening to their music, and I`m sure a lot of other people have, but aren`t too keen to admit it.
So why did they become a whipping post for the press? Could it be possibly because they made it so quickly that the media felt a bit left out, the people got there first and that`s not right? Immediately holes were picked in their judgement, as if they were saying `no you naughty boys, this is not a rock and roll band` and everyone was ready to slam them into the ground.
The same thing happened with people like Glitter, Budgie, and Sabbath, etc. Or could it be that they were attacking Knight via the band? – which would be understandable.
Well no one can really say, but it just seems strange that bands who are at peak success get slagged by a media that is supposed to acknowledge their success.
Anyway back to Funk saga. The split was announced and Terry Knight issued a ridiculous amount of lawsuits that were capable of bleeding them of every penny. He owned their name, their shares, the lot. It seemed that the band were destined to split and apparently for a while they did. Farner was going to release a solo composition on a Detroit record label and the whole story was about to sink into oblivion.
But while things were sorting themselves out, the band recorded an album titled “Phoenix” which gained respect from the scribes and got some airplay and also proved that even without Knight`s guidance the band had a chance.
This also introduced their new member, keyboard player Craig Frost, who played with them in the old days. The band`s manager was now their old road manager Andy Cavaliere and their publicity agent, Lyn Goldsmith. Gradually the lawsuits were sorted out and Knight almost let the boys off, by getting 2,7 million dollars and letting them keep their name.
We all know how they`re doing now, their audience seems to have grown larger and their albums are beginning to show what they`re capable of with the assistance of Todd Rundgren, and it`s hard to guess how long the story will go on.
The way their fans have stuck solidly with them I wouldn`t be surprised if we saw them doing seasons in Vegas in the years to come.
Not forgetting Terry Knight, who is currently taking his business brain to the aid of his old friend Twiggy, who nearly got him signed onto Apple many a year ago. Rumours are also drifting around that Knight is back with Funk, which, if true, could result in a touch of Deja Vu.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rod Stewart, Jim Capaldi, Ray Davies, Lowell George, Sweet, Bruce Springsteen, H. B. Barnum, Mike Flood Page, Denny Laine, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas, Badfinger, Strider, The Neutrons.
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