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Mark Farner’s American Band rocks the Hilton Firemen’s Carnival

By on July 26, 2018
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On July 11, the Hilton Fire Department headlined Mark Farner’s American Band on the outdoor stage at their Annual Firemen’s Carnival.

Mark Farner is best known for his work as lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for 60s and 70s rock band Grand Funk Railroad.

Farner has carved an impressive solo career in the years since his work with Grand Funk Railroad. He released several solo albums, received a Dove Award nomination for his work in Contemporary Christian music and from 1994 to 1995 Farner toured with Ringo Starr’s Allstars Band which also featured Randy Bachman, John Entwistle, Felix Cavaliere, Billy Preston and Ringo’s son Zak Starkey in the lineup. Farner has worked with many talented musicians over the years and has been influenced by them all. They include Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Dave Mason, and he shares a special affinity with the late Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. “We started out in the business at the same time. We released our first albums at the same time, and both bands were road warriors,” Farner says. There is a tribute to Gregg Allman on Farner’s website.

During his career Mark Farner has been Certified Platinum 30 times.

Farner continues to tour around the country with his American Band – brother Ricky Farner on bass and vocals, Detroit keyboard player Bernie Palo and on drums and vocals Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford. Farner has been voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame three times, as a solo artist, with Grand Funk Railroad and with Terry Knight & the Pack.

Before taking the stage Farner met with us for conversation and photos.

What are you currently working on? “I’m always working on a new thing. I am constantly playing my guitar or the keyboards. I’m inspired by going after something new no matter what the source, new equipment, new thoughts and words. There is something about pushing yourself that makes you think differently and that inspires creative thinking and creation. For me it’s being open to what I am drawn to. It comes to me in waves. I am always moving.”

About your strong allegiance of fans? “The fans connect to the songs because they are sincere. My lyrics are about Mother Earth, stop war and love. The fans still have a point of reference with me in their heart. To the fans, I am who the songs say I am. I try to encourage people to challenge themselves and to think. When I’m on stage I don’t stand still. I am constantly moving about and from one side of the stage to the other. I’m a dancer. I get my energy from the crowd. It is so sustaining, you can feel the love, and I give it right back to them. I truly believe in the power of positive energy.”

Known to have one of the best maintained voices in Rock and Roll, and with a reputation for sounding the same as he did 40+ years ago, Farner said this about caring for his voice, “I don’t have any special routine or secret. I have been very blessed. My warm up is my first song.”

About your special connection to Veterans and Firefighters? “My father was a World War II veteran and a career fireman. I try to honor service personnel and our veterans both on and off stage. I talk directly to them and let them know what they mean to this country. They make huge sacrifices to protect us. I like to play places where I can connect with people of all backgrounds. I dedicate my song ‘I’m Your Captain’ to the military and veterans. I have heard from so many vets that the song has helped them through tough times when they are missing home.”

Any special memories of touring with Ringo Starr’s Allstar Band? “That tour was an amazing experience for me. It opened my eyes to what it is like to live in Ringo’s world. I remember when we were in Japan and the whole band was sitting at a long table with Ringo in the middle, just like the Last Supper. We were being interviewed by the Japanese press. They were asking all the band members questions and when a young woman finally asked me a question it was – ‘What is it like to work with a Beatle?’ I just said – ‘He puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.’ After the interview Ringo came up to me and gave me a big hug and thanked me for saying that and seeing him as just a regular human. It was a great feeling and something I’ll never forget.”

Is there one special memory of your Rock and Roll life that stands out? “I would have to say it was when Grand Funk Railroad was playing Shea Stadium in New York. The band was being flown in by helicopter. Looking out over 55,000 fans all together to hear our music, that was something special to see and to feel.”

Mark Farner’s American Band treated the crowd at the Hilton Firemen’s Carnival to a 1 1/2 hour concert featuring a range of songs including “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “We’re An American Band,” “Mean Mistreater,” a special performance of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and many more. Farner closed the show by telling the crowd, “Thank you for having us here and if you ever want us back, just ask.”

Photos by Karen Fien

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Ricky Farner on Bass and Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford on drums.

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