Famed musician Don Brewer compares 1960s protests to present day
Legendary rockers Grand Funk Railroad are in their 49th year of bringing the noise. And band co-founder Don Brewer (vocals/drums) said the outfit has aged like fine wine.
“We have a bunch of sold-out shows coming up,” Brewer said. “We had a bunch of sold-out shows last year. The past two years have been the best two years we’ve had in the last 20.”
The band is responsible for a bevy of hits including “The Loco-Motion,” “We’re An American Band,” “Inside Looking Out” and many others.
Brewer, 69, will have his bandmates (and the audience) marching to a beat of his own when Grand Funk headlines Dover Downs Hotel & Casino Friday.
Why have the last two years been so successful?
We’re playing a lot of fairs, festivals and casinos. The audience is our age group, and they want to hear the bands they remember when they were young and having a good time. And they’re bringing their kids and grandkids to see the shows. We put on a great rock ‘n’ roll show.
How did you come to sing lead and drum?
The very first band I started was The Red Devils and then I moved on to the Jazzmasters. I was always one of the singers. So I never had to think about playing and singing at the same time, because I learned to do both of them at the same time. I suppose it would be very difficult if you played drums for a number of years and then all of a sudden somebody asked you to sing along.
Your group started in the late ‘60s during a time of protest, including against the Vietnam War. Last year there was also a lot. Do you think things have gotten better or worse since the 1960s?
I see a lot of similarities as far as in society with what was going on with the anti-war stuff and [President] Nixon, and with what’s going on today with [President] Trump. There’s a lot of hate out there. I don’t know where it’s going to end up, but it’s not good. It’s not good when society has to go through these kind of growing pains.
Does one era feel more optimistic than the other?
Certainly the anti-war thing, the hippie movement and all of that stuff at the time felt like a lot of hope. The hippies thought they were going to change the world with peace and love. That’s what was driving the whole thing and it kind of went away. Anyway, I don’t see that right now. I don’t see a movement with that kind of love and passion.
When a band is around as long as yours, you begin to hit lots of anniversaries - your first concert, album, etc. Do you keep track of all of that stuff?
I don’t keep track of it. But I’m sure somebody on the internet probably does. We’ve got a webmaster and I can probably ask him and he could go through the archives and find all of that stuff if we wanted. It’s an interesting thing. That might be fun to do on the website. As a matter of fact, I’m glad you brought that up; I’ll hit him with that.
Are there any songs you haven’t played in years that you’re looking to add to the setlist?
One of them we just started working in last year. We hadn’t done it in probably 10 years. It’s called “Heartbreaker,” which is a big favorite among the Grand Funk fans, and it always was. We’ve been working that back into the show. It’s a lot of fun. It’s one of those things as I just mentioned: I’m singing and playing at the same time. It’s kind of a complicated lick the drums are doing. It’s kind of this waltz/rock thing that goes on. I had to relearn how to do that and sing along with it.