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Rock icon Grand Funk Railroad concert closes out Canal Concert Series

Busting out of Flint, Mich., in the late 1960s, Grand Funk Railroad may not have invented hard rock, but heavy, sludgy singles from "Closer to Home" to "We're an American Band" have defined that sound for generations on the radio.

Drawing from earlier power trios such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grand Funk was at first under the control of producer and manager Terry Knight; the band extricated itself from him in court in 1972, then hired Todd "Hello, It's Me" Rundgren to help make even catchier singles.

Still touring -- albeit without original lead singer Mark Farner -- drummer Don Brewer discusses the band's beginnings from his Jupiter, Fla., home. The band closes out the Molson Canal Concert Series next Friday at the Ulrich City Center in Lockport. The free concert starts at 6 p.m.

This is the 40th anniversary of Grand Funk's famous Shea Stadium show. What do you remember about it? Aside from just the sheer number of people, how was it different from any other show the band played at that time?

I just remembered how scared we were. We'd never done anything like that before. Once we got out on stage, it was terrific, but leading up to it was pretty frightening. We flew in a helicopter, saw the sold-out crowd. We flew over the stadium. Humble Pie is playing. There was a large "Mark, Don and Mel" flashing behind them in white letters. And we're saying to each other, "Pinch me, is this real?"

Fellow Flint native Michael Moore dropped Grand Funk's name in "Roger & Me" -- was that good or bad for the band?

We've known Michael for many years. I really appreciate where he's coming from. He's actually come to see the band a couple of times.

When you hired Todd Rundgren as a producer in 1973, he adjusted your sound into shorter, tighter radio singles like "We're an American Band." Why Todd?

When we parted ways with Terry [Knight], not only were we looking for a change emotionally, radio had changed from when they played seven-minute songs like "Closer to Home." We had to make hit singles. That was the only way we'd be able to stay on the radio. We purposely tried to make 3-minute, 33-second songs. We needed a producer who was radio-conscious, and we picked Todd. And it worked.

> PREVIEW

WHAT: Molson Canal Concert Series with Grand Funk Railroad

WHEN: 5 p.m. next Friday

WHERE: Ulrich City Center, Lockport

TICKETS: Free

INFO: www.canalconcerts.com

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