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  • Grand Funk Railroad In Concert - Durant, OK - 2010

    Grand Funk Railroad In Concert
    Show Date: August 20, 2010
    Venue: Choctaw Casino
    Durant, Oklahoma

    The bedroom I had as a teenager growing up in the Phoenix area was the perfect stage for my many air guitar performances. In one corner of my room was a frameless mirror that measured about three foot wide and four foot tall. At one point or another, it was strategically hanging above my stereo.

    Within that mirror were some of the most magical and legendary venues an artist could play: Madison Square Garden. L.A. Forum. Woodstock. You name ‘em and I played ‘em.

    One of my performances for the history books was jamming to Grand Funk Railroad tunes. I was rockin’ out to We’re An American Band, Shinin’ On and Rock and Roll Soul, leaving the adoring masses screaming for more.

    Well, I left the grueling trials and tribulations of that touring life well over thirty years ago, having hung up my vast air guitar collection in order to pursue careers and married life. However, the music lived, and lives, on in me.

    Still finding myself still living in the real world, I was thrilled to recently be given tickets to see the legendary Grand Funk Railroad by their guitarist (and Boomerocity friend), Bruce Kulick (see our interviews with Bruce here and here). I was in for a real treat.

    The band opened with Bottle Rocket. Though original vocalist, Mark Farner, no longer fronts the band, former .38 Special vocalist, Max Carl, was phenomenal in delivering the GFR standards to the capacity crowd. His voice strong and his presence commanding, Carl pleased the crowd one hundred percent.

    Original band members, Don Brewer, on drums and the uber-cool, Mel Schacher on bass, gave the sense of steady familiarity to the band’s legendary song catalog that was performed for the Durant crowd. Brewer still pounds the skins like he did – scratch that – better than he did when he was in his twenties. If you don’t believe me, catch a GFR show and tell me that you don’t think so after his drum solo. Schacher complimented Brewer’s rhythm with his rock solid bass work. His lead-like style of playing bass is his signature and was shown at its best during the entire show.

    The band opened with Bottle Rock and segued right into Rock & Roll Soul. The band brought the crowd immediately to their feet and kept them there with all of the bands great hits like Footstompin’ Music, Shinin’ On, Some Kind of Wonderful, and, of course, We’re An American Band. The crowd joined the band by singing along with I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home.

    Max Carl wowed the crowd by singing one of the hits that he penned, sang and recorded for .38 Special, Second Chance. Judging by the ovation the capacity crowd gave at the end of the song, they were clearly pleased with that addition to the set list.

    Two additional standing “O’s” was given to Bruce Kulick. The first being for his rendition of Star Spangled Banner. While the tune always gets a crowd on its feet anywhere in the heartland regardless who performs it, Bruce had the crowd eating of incredibly talented hands. The second ovation was during Kulick’s awesome solo during Inside Looking Out. He performed his solo while mingling with the crowds to their utter delight.

    This was the first show that I’ve caught at any of the show venues at the Choctaw Casino in Durant. The Center Stage room, where GFR performed, was intimate but handled the band, the crowd and the sound to perfection. The Casino security and other staff were friendly and courteous while professionally carrying out their duties. I will definitely catch future shows there as it’s definitely worth the one hour drive from my home.

    Grand Funk Railroad tours year round. You can see if they’re coming to a town near you by visiting their website, www.grandfunkrailroad.com. Trust me: Their show is well worth the price of admission so, bring a friend!

  • Hippiefest - Detroit, 2011

    Hippiefest 2011
    August 18, 2011
    DTE Energy Music Theater
    Clarkston, MI

    On a warm Thursday evening, I travelled an hour up I-75 to attend Hippiefest 2011 at the old Pine Knob, corporately renamed years ago as the DTE Energy Music Theater. Hippiefest has been going on for a few years, the idea being to group four or five performers from the ‘60’s or ‘70’s together and have them perform concise sets, thereby eliminating the filler tunes that often bog down longer concerts of more seasoned acts. At tonight’s show, each act did about half an hour.

    At the start of the show, while there were a decent amount of people on the grass (I mean the lawn seating), those in the pavilion were few and far between. By the end of the night, most of the seats were filled. It was a mixed crowd of middle-aged, suburban types, younger kids who were either with their folks or on a ‘60’s lark, and a few old counter-culture holdouts that were still letting their freak flags fly. There was plenty of tie-dye and everyone seemed up for it.

    The night kicked off with Felix Cavaliere former lead singer of The (Young) Rascals. He accompanied himself on his well-known Hammond B3 backed by a band that played for most of the evenings’ performers. Felix was in fine voice as he won over the slowly entering audience. He opened with (I’ve Been) Lonely Too Long, segueing into In The Midnight Hour with a few riffs of Sly and the Family Stone and Michael Jackson tossed in. In fact, his style is to start with a verse or two and a chorus of a Rascals’ song followed by a line or two of tribute to other musicians.

    I don’t know if he specifically catered to the Detroit crowd, but there were a lot of Motown lines added. Groovin’ was augmented by a Temptations medley while my Rascals’ favorite, People Got to be Free, morphed into Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ No Where to Run. The people seemed to respond to Mr. Cavaliere’s appreciation of Detroit’s legacy, and by the time he finished his set with Good Lovin’, he met with warm applause and cheers.

    Rick Derringer was up next, opening with Still Alive and Well. The crowd liked the music, but a few appeared confused hearing Jesus mentioned in the lyrics. A tribute, of sorts, to “the troops” began with a distortion-laden version of Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Real American, which some of you might recall as Hulk Hogan’s WWF theme song. After being treated to Hang On Sloopy (which Rick recorded with The McCoys at age 17), he ended his set with his biggest hit, Rock and Roll, Hootchie-Coo, joined by Gary Wright on keyboards. The audience responded well to Mr. Derringer’s guitar pyrotechnics and gave him a good send off.

    The aforementioned Gary Wright began with a couple tunes from his days with the band, Spooky Tooth, the best of which was Better By You, Better Than Me. His songs were longer than the other artists of the evening with plenty of instrumental solos, although there seemed to be issues with his electronic keyboards throughout. The crowd favorites were Dream Weaver and his final song, Love Is Alive. He was joined on Alive by Rick Derringer, who saved his best guitar solo of the night for this song.

    After a short break, the night was wrenched into high gear by a Michigan native, the fabulous Mark Farner. He began on keyboards with Footstompin’ Music, being joined by the crowd on the “woo-ooo-oos,” before cranking up his guitar for The Loco-Motion. Mark’s performance was filled with energy, as he danced about the stage like a madman. His vocal ability hasn’t faded in the slightest; he’s still one of the greatest natural rock vocalists – ever! He was especially able to showcase his singing on Bad Time (To Be in Love), the only tune of the night that wasn’t “full steam ahead.” Several other Grand Funk Railroad songs were included, and when he finished with his set with I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home, the crowd burst into rousing applause and a standing ovation.

    Well done, Mr. Farner.

    The night’s last performer was Dave Mason. Let me retract that. I should say musician, instead of performer. His over 50 years in the business really showed: Dave’s set was the most musical of the evening. He brought out his own people to back him and it made a difference.

    He began with a few songs he recorded with Traffic, which he co-founded at age 18. Let It Go, Let It Flow and Dear Mr. Fantasy were both rich, melodic tunes with fine harmonies by the band. When he hit the 12-string chords for We Just Disagree, the people cheered and sang the entire song with him. After a fine Only You Know and I Know, I moved up into the crowd on the lawn to join the swaying, dancing masses experiencing a truly great version of All Along the Watchtower (Mr. Mason played acoustic guitar on the Jimi Hendrix recording).

    For the final song of the night, Dave was joined on stage by most of the other acts for his classic, Feelin’ Alright, which has been covered by many including Grand Funk and Joe Cocker. It was an appropriate rap-up tune since it appeared to convey the sentiments of both artists and audience: a good time was had by all . . .

  • Mark Farner

    Posted July, 2011

    markfarner1aAs I’ve written several times before in other interviews and pieces, when I was a teenager, I played a mean air guitar while accompanied by some of the best rock and roll to come across my stereo.  One of my favorite tunes to play some of my best air guitar to was Grand Funk Railroad’s, We’re An American Band.

    My sweet rock star, guitar god poses and moves were often best struck to that tune as a teen.  For those of you who are wondering, I refuse to answer if those same poses and moves are still being struck at my tender age of 50 – something. A guy’s gotta maintain a certain level of dignity.

    When the opportunity presented itself to interview the driving force behind those aforementioned moves, Mark Farner, I gently laid down my air guitar and replied with a resounding yes.

    Farner called me from his home in Michigan where he and his wife share the responsibility of caring for their son, Jesse, who was severely injured in an accidental fall.  Despite the very serious circumstances of his son’s condition, Mark’s chooses to maintain a positive, sunny disposition.  This is evident in his response to my typical phone greeting of, “How are you doing?”

    He has me laughing with his reply, “I’m doin’ but I’m not mildewin’!”

    Mark then slightly cracks open the door into the Farner household by sharing, “I’m so busy here at home. I’m ‘handicapping’ the house for my son. I didn’t know if you knew what happened to our youngest boy.  He broke his neck last July and he’s quadriplegic. So, we’ve had to revamp our home. We had to take all the carpet out because he’s a vent patient, too. Not only is he quadriplegic, it takes electricity to keep this boy alive.  But we’re praying for a miracle.  The doctors say he’s stuck where he’s at and to not expect any better but we do.

    “We feed him fresh juice and my wife is into all the alternative medicines. He’s only on a blood thinner.  He’s doing a whole lot better because he’s got a girlfriend in his life now. Yeah, man! It’s like a miracle there!  That’s an answer to prayer.

    “Anyway, I’m used up. When I’m home, you can’t imagine how busy I am.”

    I complimented him as to his selflessness in attending to the needs of his son in a day when we read about parents accused of abandoning or, worse, killing their own children.  Farner responds with continued positive perspective that is founded on a faith that might blow some peoples minds.

    “It’s spiritual growth and whatever it takes, that’s really to our benefit to allow it to be and to accept it. That’s where I think that I’m at with it. I have seen other things – other than what people normally see.  I’ve seen – in the supernatural  realm – I know of this realm – I haven’t seen the angels that stand on either side of me but people in three different states at three different times, of course, have seen them and identified them to-the-t!”

    Farner then quotes what the people in the three different states have told him.

    “‘Ten feet tall.  One has his hand on your left shoulder, the other one has his hand on your right shoulder and they’re just lookin’ out!  They’ve just got you.  They’ve got you!’  So, I’m thinkin’ that’s where I’m feeling that. Something besides what I feel when I looked up into the heavens.  Now I look into Heaven because that’s where Heaven is.  The kingdom is within. That’s what it says in Luke. That’s where love is. That’s who I really am. The original blueprint is down there. It has been obstructed by a few events.  I go back and recoil, and retreat and go back. But I’m coming back out because that’s what love does – coming out. I’m going in and it’s coming out!”

    We began chatting about more carnal things such as Farner’s participation in this summer’s Hippiefest tour along with rock legends, Dave Mason, the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere, Gary Wright and Rick Derringer.  I asked Mark if this the first time he has been involved with the show.

    “I worked with Hippiefest for a few dates – oh, man! – when they first got started a few years ago. But I haven’t been back out because I’ve been doing other things, of course.  This year, it happened to line up with the time they wanted me for. I hadn’t been booked yet. We worked it out and I’m glad to be on there with them.”

    With a stellar roster like Derringer, Wright, Cavaliere and Mason, I asked if he had ever worked with any of these giants before.

    “I worked with all those guys before. Gary – I didn’t work with him. When he jammed – he came out to one of the rehearsals when we were in Vancouver rehearsing with Ringo’s band.”

    Farner then goes on to share what fans can expect to hear from him at the Hippiefest shows.

    “It’s gonna rock, I know that!  They’re gonna hear the hits (from his Grand Funk Railroad days). That’s what the people want to hear – mainly the hits but there might be a couple of three piece numbers thrown in there because people want to hear that, too.”

    While the subject of GFR came up, I went ahead and asked Mark the obvious question that I know he’s been asked at least ten thousand times: Are there any plans at all for any kind of temporary reunion between him and his former GFR band mates for a few shows?

    “Randy, I’ll tell ya, I’ve been tryin’ to do that very thing for a number of years but they’re just – it’s like putting a man and wife back together that got a divorce. You know, try that once and see how far you get with that!  That’s kinda like what it is.  That’s really how it is putting a band back together.

    “But, I am willing and I have made it known to those guys.  In fact, even though I’m not an officer in the corporation because they threw me out in ’98, I still sit in on a phone call of the corporate board meeting. Every once in a while I’ll say something. Like, last time I said, ‘While we’re all three still sucking air, why don’t we give the fans what neither one of us can do separately – give them Grand Funk Railroad.’

    “Brewer said, ‘Put something together and bring it back to us after we get done touring in the fall.’”  Farner laughs and then adds – with just a little bit of sarcasm, “So, I’m going to do that. I’m going to run right out and do that since I have all this time on my hands.  But that’s where it is.  I’m willing but only for the sake of the fans, brother. I’m telling you, Randy, I am a fan – I wanted to see the Beatles get back together while they were all still on the earth at the same time.  What a magnificent thing that would have been and I missed it!  I thought that’s how bad I wanted it.

    “From the fans viewpoint, there are some fanatics who want to see Grand Funk. They don’t care about the internal bickering or anything, they just want to see the band.  For that purpose – for the fan – for the sake of that loyal fan – I would go out there and not pay any attention to the other stuff that’s going on and just rock the crap out of it.”

    Acknowledging the financial rewards of such a reunion, Farner adds, “Wouldn’t they be doing the corporation a better service by making as much money as they could?  I’m just a minority shareholder over here.”  He concludes with a laugh.

    So, until the fan-demanded GFR reunion takes place, I wondered if Mark has any other collaboration or solo projects in the works in the mean time.

    “Yes, a matter of fact, Ronnie Montrose, Eric St. Holmes, Pat Travers and myself just did a gig in St. Louis as The Guitar Godz of the Seventies. That’s ‘g-o-d-z’ of the seventies – and it came off.  People showed up and we rocked them.  Prior to that show, I had been with Pat Travers down in Tallahassee shooting a 3D video – the first 3D rock video ever shot – Panasonic actually sponsored it and supplied all the gear. It’s awesome!

    “There’s only a few cable satellite channels that carries 3D content but they are looking for content because 3D – by next Christmas – everybody will have a 3D iPhone.  3D is coming on!  You’ll have a screen that’s 3D without glasses. You hold it right there in  your hand and see 3D! I’ve got one already on a camera and it works great – it actually does it!  When they come out with a TV that will do that, then they’ve got something.  Right now, you’ve got to have the glasses but, even with the glasses, it’s awesome, man!  To be in a rock concert?  You standing right with these guys!”

    Bringing it back to the “Guitar Godz” concept, Mark adds, “We’re definitely going to bring that show to more locations. And, as far as working with Pat . . . he came up with me and did Closer To Home  and a few of my songs at a concert in Tallahassee at a club down there where we taped the whole thing in 3D with the audience.

    “That (Guitar Godz) is a strong possibility because Pat’s coming up to my place to write.  He know that I can’t get out from here because I’m strapped but I can take a few hours here and there and he can be there and we’ll write.  We’ve already got a spark and ‘iron sharpens iron’.  That’s one of our songs already and that’s going to rock.  And that boy is playing some slide! Woo, man!”

    Of all the questions and interest in you/your work, what would be the one thing that you feel has been least covered and understood about you, your work and your legacy?

    “I believe it’s the sincerity to which I am committed. It’s been the same the whole time but it’s been obscured in the early years by different things, events, consequences, recoveries, collisions – life goes on.  But, what’s driving me is love. I gave myself to love. Every day that I stay in the bones, love becomes more a part of me. It becomes bigger because it’s erasing that hurt and the things that shove me back into the hole that I was buried in. But that is emerging, coming out of me and emerging into who I am. I believe, because I gave myself to love, love has given itself to me and that I might just flip out of these bones without even knowin’ it - that’s how good it is . . .” and, with another chuckle, he reiterates, “. . . without even knowin’ it! Just to the next stage. Not bad!” Mark then cackles out loud at the thought of the beauty of that realization.

    As I have with many other icons, I asked Mark what negative changes, culturally and within the music business, he sees between now and the sixties and seventies.

    “Generally speaking, it’s the shock value that one has to go for or, like when Kiss came out and dressed up and became bigger than life – dimensional.  They added more to it.  It was a theatrical performance with fireworks and everything. Now, to see what live shows are about, to see the culture of music reflects a ‘debt consciousness’.  We’re in debt to something. The whole move is based upon ‘debt’.

    “What influenced back in the day, making music, was I had a DJ in my local town who went to California. He was in L.A. for a week and he came back. He said, ‘This is what I heard. Listen to this!’ and he spun Deep Purple’s Hush and Flint, Michigan, fell in love with Deep Purple and Hush, dude! That’s how music got around. That is no longer possible since 1995 because the FCC had the 7/7/7 rule which limited you to the ownership of 7 AM, 7 FM and 7 television stations.

    “Until 1995, the culture – what we saw – was pretty much based on fact and actual news reporting and people who weren’t paid off to say certain things and to make things appear as though they were but they’re really not. That’s what’s going on now. You used to have a moral conscience that governed our cultural and now what governs our culture is the influence of distinct, utter – you talk about the devil, this is evil. This is evil.  There’s no devil because, in my opinion, when Christ came out of the earth with the keys to the kingdom of Hell and of death, that just showed – not only the resurrection, the power of the resurrection – it showed unconditional love because He redeemed his brother, Lucifer’s, soul and now holds the keys that Lucifer once held. We’re ‘in’ because of that.

    “That’s the Jesus I know and these people that used to have a moral conscience to govern that and to instill morality in our children have lost the grip to all the fantasies – the computer generated bull*** they see on the television. It’s not good. It’s in the hands of sick men who have never had to earn anything. They don’t have a sense of value. It’s skewed and they’re hell-bent on taking over the world – this one world order, new world order, Global baloney B.S. and, really, nobody is stopping them.

    “Music had a chance before they had a grip on us. Now, it’s a stranglehold.  Clear Channel owns everything and Live Nation went in and bought up all these promoters, all their contracts with all the amphitheaters in all the major cities.  You can’t go in and play a market unless you play at Live Nation and if Live Nation ain’t playin’ you, you’re not going to play that city and that is B.S.!”

    It’s at this juncture of his comments that Farner injects his political and economic views that aren’t always popular with folks but he puts them out there anyway.

    “It’s in the hands of Mr. Money and Mr. Money happens to be the European families who own the Federal Reserve and have no patriotic interest in the United States of America. Their interest is in destroying the potential for freedom because we were getting strong with our factories. We were getting debt free. We were getting towards that when they pulled the rug out from beneath us. We were getting to be a strong nation but they control us by the issuance of our currency. The fact that they are all Jewish families is not coincidental and the fact that we are kicking the crap out of Palestinians in Afghanistan and in Iraq and they’re rattling the saber to go into Iran.  It’s them in control by virtue of television to confuse people and put us in a state of disinformation and we base our opinions on B.S.  Well, what does that say about our opinions?

    “Man is such an egomaniac anyway, we believe what we believe is true. We’ve been lied to so much, we believe it’s true. Really, the acting out before us shows selfishness. As long as this evil rules – and that’s what it’s going to do to every country that it issues currency to – that country will become ruined.

    “It’s just like following Rome. You’re going to follow that?  You’re going to follow Rome. You’re going to follow that you’re going to follow the false god because those guys are the ‘Wizards of Oz’. They’ve got the big levers. They’ve got the buttons and the whistles in their hands but they’re hiding behind a very expensive curtain.

    “The internet has helped expose who these rats are.  They’re just insane with the lust for power. It’s not about money. If you own the machine that prints money – just by virtue of the scenery on a hundred dollar bill and what I have to do to earn it and what it’s face value is and what it costs them to print it – are you kidding me? How are you ever going to overcome that debt and they charge you interest to borrow some of it! Unbelievable!”

    One may not agree with Mark Farner’s view of all things political and economic but one thing is for certain: You’ll know exactly where he stands when you discuss them with him.

    And what Farner view as being the biggest positive changes in the music industry since the 60’s/70’s?

    “The positive is there are a lot of people coming to things like that Guitar Godz show – the first 20 rows were all young people – to the shows where I’m playing music – I don’t know if it’s because of Guitar Hero or what but there’s a lot of kids coming. They want to shake your hand. They want an autograph. That’s great. I love that because they’re gettin’ a grip on it. They’re fed up with this other stuff. They don’t want to hear the negative point of view. They want to hear the hope. I’ve always stayed with the lighter side but I’ve always been political, if I felt it, in my writing and I’ve been spiritual at times. I stay true to my heart and that’s what the young people want – somebody that is staying true to their heart and is saying what they have instinctive for. That you can’t deny.

    “We are people. We’re men. We have needs. The women have needs.  We need balance. The problem is balance. It’s a man’s world and how does feminine energy – how do we let it in?  How do we let it balance us?  If we don’t, these men are going to get us all killed!” Farner concludes, laughing.

    “My Cherokee blood is to esteem my woman to be equal with myself. How could you love somebody with all your heart unless you did?”

    One thing that is apparent in the music world is that what we all refer to as “classic rock” is still incredibly popular as evidenced in its inclusion in movies, commercials and video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.  Also, acts like McCartney, the Stones and Springsteen are still clocking in record revenues and attendance records. I asked Farner why he thought it was that classic rock still has the “legs” that it does.

    “The groove.  I mean, you can flash your guitar and rip the neck off of it and it’s fine. But there is a groove and rock and roll has a groove to dance to. It has a groove to set your soul to – if the words are right – and take you in that direction. You have a natural inclination to follow the groove because the groove is made out of love. This other stuff that masquerades as rock and roll, they’ve missed the whole groove. It’s got all the flash and the audience has bought the marketing scheme or scam, whatever. It doesn’t fulfill them. They’ve got to have the groove and, my friend, we gotta to have the groove. That’s what sets our certain music apart – it’s got a groove to it. I fit right in there.”

    To that point, I asked Mark if he felt if any of the new music had a message that compelled people to action like it did in the sixties and seventies.

    “I don’t listen to the radio enough to give you an answer. I really don’t listen to the radio at all. I only hear what my son, Jesse, is playing.  It’s in the house because he’s in the house and I can’t deny him his music because it overshadows the sounds of that vent. It’s a noisy S.O.B., it really is. But that’s what I hear. I don’t know the group names. I’m not in an out of that room enough to stay on a song to say, ‘Oh, who’s that?’  I’m trying to keep my mind clear too, Randy, so that I can stay open to ‘incoming’.

    What is coming to your town is this former member the American Band, Grand Funk Railroad, to help you “party it down” during the Hippefest Tour next month and concluding in early September.  You can find out when and where it stops near you by clicking here.  You can keep up with Mark Farner and how things are progressing for his son, Jesse, by visiting www.markfarner.com and signing up for Mark’s free newsletter.

  • Mark Farner Talks About Dying, The Pandemic, & Losing A Son

    Posted June 2020

    markfarner0005Nine years ago next month, I interviewed one of the voices who commanded a significant chunk of the soundtrack of my youth: Mark Farner, formerly of the iconic classic rock band, Grand Funk Railroad. During that chat, Mark was straightforward and didn’t mince any words when it came to speaking his mind whether it was with his relationships or his view of the world.

    When the opportunity recently presented itself to chat with Mr. Farner again, I jumped at the chance and knew that it was going to be another candid (to say the least) conversation. In the last chat, Mark spoke extensively about the care he and his wife, Lesia, gave to their son, Jessie, who was totally paralyzed from an accident. Since that conversation, Jessie, sadly, passed away. As our conversation began, I started off by expressing my belated condolences on their loss.

    “I thank you for saying that, Brother Randy. And you know, he's whole now. This is the only way we can really, in this earthly present tense, you know . . . what we are right now in this bone suit. . . because when you lose your child, it's like you have that big hole and it's. . . I heard it described very well as being "love with no place to go." And that's what it is. You love them but you can't show them. But we know he is whole. Now he is back where he came from.”

    It was at this point that Mark shared a jaw-dropping story.

    “I visited him when I had my pacemaker put in. I died, I left and I fought coming back, man. I come back into my bone suit kicking and screaming, five years ago. It was I think it was 2015 October 23. And my wife and I were at the Renaissance Center. We stayed down in Detroit; went down and did some PR, did some radio stuff. We got up in the morning and Lisa was in the bathroom washing her face and getting herself ready to go. She said when she stepped around the corner to check on me, that my arm had shot up in the air and my body was convulsing and going through some really weird stuff.”

    “She got the paramedics and she called the front desk, they got the paramedics and they got me over to Harper in Detroit. I markfarner0013Mark Farner During The Grand Funk Railroad Daysdied on the emergency room table because they had me hooked to an external pacemaker and they hit me with so much voltage, it was like they plugged me straight into the wall. That's what it felt like. It hurt. Oh my god, it hurt. I died. I went right on into heaven. I was. . . I knew all things. I even, in that state of being, I even had the resolve of knowing what the purpose of these Earth years was all about. I didn't bring that back with me. However, when I did come back into this bone suit, I don't know if I got fit back into it quite the way I was when I left because now I can play slide guitar. I never touched the slide before. And one day here just a couple years ago, I slid a little bottle thing on my finger - it was like a medicine bottle - and I started playing it by just putting it on my little finger and I was making chords and still had that little medicine bottle on there and playing it with my pinky. And I'm going, ‘Where did this come from?’ I'm looking at it, I'm thinking, ‘Wow! I got it. I can play slide.’ I never played it before. Kinda crazy.”

    Perhaps channeling some Johnny Winter?

    “Yeah. I'm telling you, I don't know, but, back when we were doing Guitar Gods it was like. . . What's his name? The Canadian guitar player? Drinkin' Whiskey, Smoking Cocaine, or something like that? He took his own life. Ronnie Montrose . . . Ronnie really got the slide down just before he left his body. He was playing some slide, man. Really playing and I was admiring it. So, being that he's already checked out, maybe I got a little Montrose. . .

    I knew that Mark was on a Montrose album that was released after he passed so I asked if Farner and Ronnie were close.

    “We were when we were doing that tour. We were just like brothers. It was just like he knew me. I knew him. And we were cut from the same cloth. But I had no idea of his troubles. And, God rest his soul, he was a great man; a great musician. So, that's what I remember about him - my friend.”

    Since we were in the midst of the pandemic when Mark and I talked, I asked him how it was affecting him and his.

    “The "scam-demic" has been talked about quite a bit on public radio here in the state. And Governor ‘Witchmer’ has really kind of just popped up there and she's a talking head. But this is not coming from her. All these directives are coming from who she serves. This is not that woman. I keep that in my mind so I can't, like, bash her or anything. I just give her little jabs now and then because, you know, she didn't clear what she proclaimed as this. . . the lockdown. She didn't clear that with the senate here in the state. In order for it to be official, the Senate has to approve it. They shot it down, and she did it anyway. So, I don't give her any kind of cooperation, okay? I'm unlocked. Yeah, I did do one of those GoFundMes as Mark Farner's, mid-Michigan Flood Relief. You know, and I'm doing whatever we can do to help our brothers and sisters in the state here. But it's really, this thing, this lockdown, Brother Randy, it has messed with us. It has really messed with us. People are kind of . . . they've got cabin fever and their husbands and wives are fighting each other. I mean, crazy stuff going on. Crazy stuff.”

    Our conversation switched from the pandemic to his 50th Anniversary in music. I asked him What thought 51 years ago when he was recording Grand Funk Railroad’s landmark hits, putting it out there, and performing it. Did he think it would have the kind of legs after all these years?

    “Well, you know, as a songwriter, every song that you write - to you - is a hit. I mean, why the hell are you writing it if it's not a hit, ya know? So, in our mind, songwriters, we write hits. We think they're hits, you know, or we wouldn't believe in them enough to finish them. But, this whole process of the deregulation, you know . . . and the FCC, back in 1995, gave the ownership of all our - well, not all, but nearly all of our - terrestrial radio stations to the corporate conglomerates who control the playlists and who control the news, the fake news. It makes sure that the people are getting the narrative that they want to jam in their heads, in every open orifice on 'em, you know, to keep this myth going.

    markfarner0001“But the music back when I was writing, you know, it was played on the radio, which was controlled by local families. There were patriots - grandfathers and grandmothers; moms and dads - people with a moral conscience over what our children were seeing and hearing. And until 1995, we had that safeguard, but that safeguard was removed under the deregulation of the FCC. Prior to the deregulation, you get on seven AM, seven FM, seven television stations, and you were limited to that ownership of seven to prevent a monopoly.

    “Well, when they deregulated, guess what? Duh. We got monopolies. Holy crap! We don't have any influence on the people in radio anymore - terrestrial radio or satellite radio. I mean, you might find something that kind of sounds almost like it's friendly and real, but most of it just sounds plastic and fake. Just think of the minds it's coming from. The creative process has kind of stagnated. It's stalled out when the ownership switched hands from the people to the corporate conglomerates and the ones who fund the world and the countries of this world. Those families, they are controlling it all, those families. But the music, I hear some really good stuff, you know, people pass to me. Today, people are still writing it. You'll not hear it on the terrestrial stations. You might hear it on a YouTube channel or something or somebody sent you a link to. . . they were out in the club, you know, and videoed this song and it was killer. It certainly isn't in ‘lamestream’."

    I was curious about what Farner was hearing from fans and the crowds now when he goes out and performs after all these years?

    “Well, there's a lot of veterans that come to my shows and I always, when we play it live, it always goes out to our troops and to our veterans. We also put in kudos to our first responders, to our police and fire department, to the EMTs. It's something that everybody is concerned about. You're just so eat up with everything else that life is throwing at you. You kinda gotta sort it out and say, ‘Well, what am I gonna spend my time on that's gonna be meaningful and do something, mean something when you're finished doing it?’

    What is Mark seeing in his crowds demographically?

    “A lot of the fans bring their children. The older fans bring their kids, bring their moms and dads. I had - I think he's one of markfarner0004the oldest World War II veterans left alive - 94 years old - last year when he came to the show at the casino. His son brought him - a veteran - and I just, when I see people like that, my heart goes out, my love goes out to them. And the thing, for me, the exciting part is, his son brought him because he thought enough of my music to bring his dad to an experience, a Mark Farner's American Band show. That speaks volumes about. . . the young people that are showing up. I'm telling you, teenagers that are rocking with me, and especially when we do South America, oh my gosh! They come out by the thousands; the young people fill the places up and they rock American-style. They love me down there because I am who my songs say I am.”

    With the pandemic affecting tours and live entertainment, I asked Mark if he had further plans to mark the 50th anniversary of any of his other Grand Funk Railroad work.

    “Well, if I'm ever involved with anything like that. . . of course, I'm left out of all of the GFR decisions, corporate and everything, even though I wrote 92% of the music, that those guys are. . . Can I say shamming? Seriously? How can they say that they're Grand Funk without the guy that wrote and sang 92% of the stuff? It's just integrity, and there ain't much in this world anymore, brother. Seriously.

    “The truth is, Don Brewer came to me after we had finished constructing the song in the studio. And I, I told them, I said, ‘You know, this song needs a cowbell.’ He didn't own a cowbell. I said, ‘It really needs a cowbell.’ He says, ‘I'll just hit the bell on my cymbal.’ I said, ‘No, dude, you need to get a cowbell, a real cowbell.’ And he says, ‘I'll pick one up tomorrow on my way to rehearsal.’ I said, ‘No, pick up six of them and let's pick the best sounding one for this song. We got to get something that's close to being in tune.’ It was like, man, that that cowbell fit that song so well. In fact, it was voted number two in Rolling Stone out of the top 10 cowbell songs. It's number two, only to be superseded by Honky Tonk Women.

    “Yeah, but I forced that little cowbell thing. And I taught Brewer the drum lick that opens that record. He wasn't hearing it and I'm saying, ‘No, you got to kick it with the bass drum.’ The double kick is on the bass drum. And he finally he says, ‘Man, I can't do that.’ I said, ‘You can do that! Yeah, you can, man, are you kidding me? If anybody can do it, you can do it.’ And he finally did it. And . . .all the harmony stuff, all the guitar stuff . . . But he came to me after we were done with that session, Randy, and he says, ‘Mark, I've never had 100% right credit on any song. Do you mind if I take it on this one?’ I said, ‘Go ahead, Donnie,’ because, you know what? I'm a nice guy, and I'm not going to be. . . I'm not going to stop being a nice guy because I get screwed over. Jesus didn't stop being nice. And you know, he's just got to hang on to what you believe in and people try and steal it from you and try and discourage you from hanging on to it. But you just got to hold on through all things.”

    markfarner0006The last time Mark and I spoke, he spoke at length about the relationship with the band. With what he just said, I said that I took it that things really haven’t changed much over the last nine years.

    “No. In fact, they took me to court. They sued me over Mark Farner's American Band. They wanted me to stop using it and I had already applied for and received a trademark. That's my trademark. And it's obtained legally, through an attorney, my music attorney in LA. They got their asses handed to them, actually, in the courtroom. All of this stuff that they've been kind of throwing at me over the last 20 years and all these threats - they're gonna cancel my shows and all this stuff - I changed my name to get away from that; to stop using the ‘formerly of Grand Funk Railroad’ because that's where they would get me every time because there's always an internet violation and it was always a third party. It wasn't the party who read the contract and knew the contract and read the rider to the contract. It's some person at a radio station or someplace that they're making up an ad for this and they're just putting on what they want to put on. So that's how all the violations happened. Over the years, that stuff has just been going and coming and coming.

    “Well, finally, that was turned around with this decision in federal court and they got beat. They were shot down. Everything they tried to do to me or put on me was shot down by the judge. It was just a no-win for them. And it kind of knocked the wind out of their sails there, which they need. They really needed that because I'm not going to lay back and take this anymore. This is just abuse. Why? Life is too short. Why people have to do things that are retaliatory and they burst in anger . . . and why all that debt has to be put on someone? I don't know if it's because they're hurting so bad that they think hurting someone else is going to relieve that pain in some way. I couldn't tell you, brother. But I am not a psychiatrist. Something in the milk ain't cream. . .”

    I’m not naming any names but other groups besides Grand Funk Railroad have also experienced similar kinds of dissension. I asked Mark why he thought that was.

    “Well, like I said, when the ownership of the terrestrial stations changed hands and all that stuff started, the people lost their markfarner0007byBrad ShawPhoto by Brad Shawinfluence. So, we are suffering from that corporate mindset that doesn't fit the family. It really does not fit a family structure. But people are bamboozled - they really are - with. . . fake news. People buy that, Brother Randy; they buy into it. And if they buy into a lie, what does that do for their credibility when they're speaking to someone else? And what if there's a bunch of them? This whole thing of the two parties and the hatefulness that's back and forth - that would have never occurred if the deregulation of the FCC wouldn't have occurred. If the families, the patriot families, still owned our terrestrial stations - television and radio - we wouldn't be under the pressure and this dark shadow of debt and indebtedness to an invisible monster. You know, that's all fairy tale crap, man. Jesus is bigger than all of that. That's unconditional love and we are made of it.

    “We've been convinced of all this other crap that enters our mind and we've had to adjust our thinking for the situation we've been thrown into. And all of a sudden, you're reacting and life takes over. You can't hardly get to your heart anymore unless you go into your prayer closet. And that's hard to get to with all the commotion and noise in the flesh going on, you know. That's where it's really started - back then when they deregulated. And now it's like we’ve got the mind of the monster that we are reacting to. And all these puppets like ‘Witchmer’ here in Michigan that are anti-American, anti-constitutional. . . Anybody that's anti-gun - just think of this - if you're anti-gun, you're anti-constitution. The Constitution says that that gun is necessary for the freedom of speech. It's necessary. And nothing's going to change that. No matter how they lie and try to say, ‘Oh no, it's not necessary. We'll protect you.’ Oh, my God, forget it.”

    As Mark Farner fans already know, after he left GFR, he enjoyed a successful career in Contemporary Christian Music. I asked him if he planned to re-enter the genre with new music.

    “No. I'm open to my heart, what's coming into my heart. I've got a completely different view of the church now that I've died and came back to life, I'm telling you. You just have a different take on life in general. And the debt-consciousness that prevails in society is changed. When you start going to a church, all you do is you take on the church's debt consciousness. It changes from the world to the church, but there's debt consciousness and it's contrary to the word and contrary to reason.

    “When you say unconditional love, there's nothing that love can't accept, can't pure, you know, can't change. There's nothing because it all came from there. It's just those evil people who have been planning this New World Order horse crap. They control the wars; they control the issuance of currency to all these various countries, not just the United States. Debt of the Federal Reserve issued to Mexico, Canada, South Africa. They issue to India, Japan; they issue to so many countries because they jumped in there and bailed them out when they were down on the ropes. And this is how these "banksters" operate.

    markfarner0008byBrad ShawPhoto by Brad Shaw“But all the countries that they are issuing to will vote the same way they vote when they have that UN meeting and they say, ‘We're going to disarm all the countries.’ Everybody that's beholden to them is going to vote the same way they vote. And in 28 states here in the United States, there's like this big push to protect Israel, because now it's against the law to be critical of Israel. I mean, this is in 28 states and the President signed something to this effect. It wasn't the same thing that the states were signing but, why is that? It infuriates me because my mother's people, my grandmother's people, the Cherokee Nation should not be criticized. The Lakota Sioux should not be criticized. My Navajo brothers and sisters should not be criticized. Do you hear me, Randy? There's a lot of people that deserve that status if we're going to give it to anybody. There's a lot of people in front of Israel that. . . as consideration as Americans - there is a lot more people here, and this has to stop. I see it as. . . it's kind of chicken crap. It's like, this is cowardice to tell me I can't criticize you? Forget you. I got a First Amendment. It's called the Constitution of the United States of America, and the freedom of speech and that's where I stand, brother.”

    What’s on Farner’s radar for the next year or so?

    “We're gonna release the 2017 video of Santiago. It's ‘From Chile with Love - Mark Farner's American Band’; and we're markfarner0001working on another video with. . . Did you see the "Can't Stop" video, the YouTube "Can't Stop" . . . the same producer and same people are getting together; they want me to put my head together with them and come up with another video. And that's going to be within the next couple of months here.”

    With our chat wrapping up and still getting my head around his back-from-death story, I asked Mark how he hoped to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

    “Oh, yeah, you know, dying and coming back will definitely change your life around. Reprioritize. I want to be remembered as a farm boy with a big dream to save the world with a song and my guitar and go out there and spread love, peace; be used of the Great Spirit to make people smile and to bring light to the darkness. Because when I go to the prisons and play; when I go to the local jails and the drug rehabs and the juvenile detention centers and the prison camps that I've gone to, I'm taking the light. And, I'm telling you, it's not because I think I'm cool or anything, I think Jesus is cool. I mean, this light don't go out. This is the light we all come from, and it's real and it can't be put out. This is the rivers that flow from the throne, and that's what I want to be remembered as . . . that I'm a pusher of love, that I'm that guy on the street pushing love.”

    Keep up on the latest with Mark Farner by visiting his website, MarkFarner.com.