A Grand Funk time | SierraSun.com

A Grand Funk time

Celebrating 48 years of funk and still going strong is Grand Funk Railroad, the legendary rock group from the 1970s whose tunes get people's toes tapping to this day.

Luckily for fans in the Truckee-Tahoe region, Grand Funk will perform at Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Original member Don Brewer, says it's a show not-to-miss. Brewer grew up in a musically inclined family; his mother was a dancer and his father a former drummer, they were both schoolteachers as well.

His sister became a dancer, who performed on Broadway and in movies, and Brewer ended up becoming a drummer; he says it's his parents that pushed him into a life of loving music.

"I remember I got hooked on rock 'n' roll when I saw Elvis Presley doing 'Blue Suede Shoes' as a little kid and I started doing an impersonation. My dad would take me to the bar, put a dime in the juke box, put me on the table and say, 'Do your Elvis!'," Brewer laughed.

His passion led him to start his first band at age 13, and Brewer said his folks would let his friends come over to rehearse in the basement.

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He said that group became the Jazz Masters, who then became The Pack, and ultimately Grand Funk Railroad.

Their sound is unmistakable, from "We're an American Band" and "The Loco-Motion" to "Walk Like a Man." It's impossible to sit still when their timeless tunes play.

"Grand Funk stuff is really kind of uplifting, it's always been energetic with a good feel to it. We came from Flint, Michigan, and were heavily influenced by R&B, Motown; we became a trio as a R&B band that became a rock band — we pumped up the R&B with rock," Brewer said.

Over the last 48 years, Brewer has seen drastic changes within the music industry.

"You used to make records, but you don't make records anymore," he said.

"There used to be little discs, and you used to walk into the local radio station and get the guy to play your record. All of that is gone, the connection between the musicians and the radio all went away, and so now it's all internet and downloads, and I can't even tell you all the different ways it's changed," he said.

With changes in technology, Brewer said their showmanship skyrocketed. They were able to put on even more funky shows with the advancements in audio and visual enhancements.

"There have been major changes in technology, the instruments and amps are so much better. The lights and sound is so much better from what we had way back when. We used to play these dirt floor kind of rodeo arenas in the 70s, and the lights were three super troopers and the sound system was anything you could get that was just loud! It didn't matter how good it was, it had to be big enough to make a lot of noise in a dirt floor arena — that's what we started out with, we were one of the first arena rock bands … and they weren't as nice as they are now," he laughed.

Grand Funk music incorporated current events over the years like the Vietnam War, and included anti-war messages in their melodies.

When asked of his favorite song, Brewer said the impact that their war-inspired music had on soldiers was meaningful, making "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" a favorite.

"The effect it had on the Vietnam vets — they used to play it over and over again. When we play it now, you can see those guys in the crowd all start crying; it touches their hearts," Brewer said.

The band's music creates a ripple effect of support and feel-good vibes through the audience members who always come out for a great time and never leave disappointed.

Brewer and the guys of Grand Funk Railroad want locals and visitors of Lake Tahoe to party with them from Montbleu in South Lake.

"Come on out, have a good time. We like to have everyone on their feet and smiling and sweating and moving around," Brewer said.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.