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How Grand Funk Railroad came up with their band name

Grand Funk Railroad


How Grand Funk Railroad came up with their band name

Grand Funk Railroad was formed in Flint, Michigan in 1969 by Mark Farner (Vocals, guitar, keyboards, harmonica), Don Brewer (Drums and vocals) and Mel Schacher (Bass). They quickly became one of the biggest bands in the United States in the early 70s and have sold an estimated amount of more than 25 million records worldwide. They are best known for albums like “Closer To Home” (1970), “We’re an American Band” (1973) and “Shinin’ On” (1974).


Like many Rock and Roll bands, they also picked a really unique name for the group and the origin of that is quite simple.

How Grand Funk Railroad came up with their band name

Before forming GFR alongside Schacher, Don Brewer and Mark Farner were members of Terry Knight and The Pack. Soon after the group was formed, Knight was invited to become their manager and as Farner recalled in an interview with Radio Wasteland Records in 2022 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) the name came from a song written by Knight.

Originally, they would be called “Grand Trunk Railroad”, because of the “Grand Trunk Western Railroad” that ran through the city of Flint.

“‘Grand Funk’ came from a song that Terry Knight wrote called ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ and he asked the band ‘Why don’t you guys just name yourself the name of my song? And we went: ‘Ok!” That was it,” Mark Farner said.

Born in Lapeer, Michigan in the United States in 1943, Terry Knight was a producer, promoter, singer, songwriter and radio personality. He had some success as a musician and was the leader of Terry Knight and The Pack. The group lasted from 1965 to 1969 and had Don Brewer and Mark Farner, who would then go on and form Grand Funk Railroad.

Knight managed them until 1972 and produced their first five albums.

Terry Knight was accused of stealing money from the band and the publishing rights

Although Terry Knight was their ex-bandmate and helped them during their first years, he was accused of stealing the band. Without Mark Farner knowing, Knight had put in a contract that Farner’s publishing rights belonged to him. So Mark, who was Grand Funk’s main songwriter, never owned the publishing rights to the songs he wrote. They always belonged to Terry and Farner also accused him of stealing a lot of money from the band.

In an interview with Rock History Music in 2022 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Farner talked about Knight. “I’ve talked to Terry Knight (1 year) before he was murdered. It was his daughter’s boyfriend. She was like 17 and he was 28. I told (Terry Knight) that I wanted to let him know that I had forgiven him. (Also) I said I haven’t forgotten, of course, you would never want to forget. I just told him I wanted to set it straight between him and me, that I wasn’t holding any unforgiveness.”

He continued:

“I did let him know that I didn’t appreciate him taking my publishing and he just kind of changed the subject. I was wanting him to man up and give my publishing back to me but that didn’t happen. (…) The first European tour that we didn’t, we netted like a million and a half dollars. Back then that was a lot of money. I mean, seriously. He said: ‘You don’t want this on your taxes, you’re gonna have to pay (a lot). Let’s leave it in the world’s most stable currency: A Swiss bank account’. We said: ‘Ok, do that for us’.”

“He did it but it wasn’t for us. We never saw a dime of it. The contract between Terry Knight and Capitol Records was exposed to the band when they forced us into either borrowing 400.000 dollars from them. We were near the end of the three-year management contract and they had compromised us to the band. We were frightened because of the infernal revenue service.”

Mark Farner continued:

“They said: ‘We will lend you the 400.000 dollars, if you sign another three-year contract’. (…) In his contract, Terry was taking 10% (of our money with the contract), letting the band split 6% and taking a management commission of that 6% he was paying us. Did he steal money from us? Did he abuse us? Yeah, he couldn’t help himself,” Mark Farner said.

As Farner said, Terry Knight was murdered in 2004 at the age of 61 by the boyfriend of his daughter. The producer was trying to intercede in an argument over the use of methamphetamine by him. His killer claimed that he was high at the time because he had used the drug in an attempt to mitigate his sentence. He was the sentenced one year later to life in prison.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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