Answer Man

Grand Funk’s drummer has kept this American Band going

Q: My wife and I always have been big Grand Funk Railroad fans. To me, the drummer in Grand Funk looks to be the same as the drummer in the Eagles. My wife says no. Who’s right?

Gary Lee, of Belleville

A: Sorry, Gary, but your theory is for the birds — and I don’t mean Eagles. While both drummers are named Don, neither pounded the skins for his rival megagroup.

In fact, Don Brewer has been the one guiding force in Grand Funk from its formation in 1969 right through today. In its nearly half century of making music, the band has gone through three major shake-ups, but despite long layoffs, Brewer has been the one to keep the band going.

“We just couldn’t get along,” Brewer told the San Diego Union-Tribune before a 2014 show when asked about the band’s breakups. “That’s always the reasons bands break up.”

He put together his first band — The Red Devils — when he was 12. By the time he was 18, he had his first Top 50 hit when Terry Knight and the Pack’s cover of “I (Who Have Nothing)” peaked at No. 46 on the Billboard charts in 1966.

But when the Pack packed it in, Brewer and bandmate Mark Farner recruited Mel Schacher from the band ? and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”) to form the original version of Grand Funk Railroad. With Terry Knight as their manager and Brewer as a lead vocalist, they soon cracked the Top 40 with “Closer to Home” and eventually hit the top of the charts in 1973 with “We’re an American Band” from the No. 2 album of the same name.

Since then, the Railroad has derailed a couple of times but Brewer always has found a way to get it on track again. After disbanding in 1977, Brewer, Schacher and Craig Frost formed Flint only to join Farner again to resurrect Grand Funk in 1981 for the album “Grand Funk Lives.”

The reunion lasted only a couple of years and Brewer wound up drumming for fellow Michigander Bob Seger. After another 13-year hiatus, Grand Funk started rolling again in 1996 with Brewer, Schacher and Farner at its core and it’s been together ever since. In 1998, it was one of Pollster’s top-grossing acts and now plays about 40 shows a year.

“Never did I dream, when I was 19, that I’d still be doing this at 65,” Brewer, now 68, told the Union-Tribune. “And the fact this is the (48th) year of Grand Funk is astounding.”

Of course, no less astounding has been the success of the Eagles and its drummer/singer/songwriter Don Henley. Hailing from tiny Linden, Texas, Henley started out in a high school Dixieland band before helping to form a band name Shiloh, which Kenny Rogers eventually took an interest in. But after the band split over creative differences, Henley met up with Glenn Frey and both became members of Linda Ronstadt’s backup band.

It was during that 1971 tour that Henley and Frey decided to form their own group with Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon. They called themselves the Eagles and, as they like to joke now, survived even hell freezing over by reforming in 1994 after a 14-year “vacation.”

About to turn 70 next month, Henley, who was given an honorary doctorate by the Berklee College of Music, has won three Grammys — two for best rock male vocalist on “The Boys of Summer” and “The End of the Innocence” and a third as MusiCares Person of the Year in 2007. Worth an estimated $200 million, he is thought to be the fourth richest drummer in the world behind Ringo Starr, Phil Collins and David Grohl.

Q: After a pair of wrens have their second brood, do the parents stay in the nest until fall or do they abandon the nest altogether?

L.G., of Collinsville

A: It depends on the type of wren whether they fly off or hunker down, according to Mardi Mauch, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Swansea.

Unlike humans and their need to store those infant photos and bronze baby shoes, house wrens may abandon their nests shortly after their young’uns successfully test their wings, which could come as soon as about 15 to 17 days after they hatch. (However, if they feel conditions are favorable, they might try a third brood.)

They are like Elvin Bishop putting on his travelin’ shoes. The nest has served its purpose and, because they can fly, they can go where they wish as they get ready to head south. But, Mauch said, they might return to that same nest next spring, although if you don’t see any activity by late summer it’s probably safe to clean it out.

Carolina wrens, however, may seek the shelter of such nests if it overwinters here. And, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have been wintering farther and farther north in recent decades.

Today’s trivia

How did Grand Funk Railroad derive its name and what does drummer Don Brewer hope the band’s legacy will be?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: Kathy Griffin’s first TV appearance is thought to be as an extra in a Chicago White Sox commercial when she was 17. You can see it on YouTube if you look quickly.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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