He got goose bumps.
There was something about being on that particular stage that gave him such a strong reaction: This was a homecoming for the Flint native, and also the place where he announced his 50th anniversary tour will kick off in April.
It was a surreal moment for Farner.
“I didn’t know I’d still be sucking air, but I’m in fine shape to do these shows and I feel like I’m blessed to be able to do it in the first place,” he says, “and still hitting them in the same keys.”
Guests will hear from Farner’s discography during the April 19 concert, going all the way back to his first album with rock and roll legends, the Grand Funk Railroad. The group was named after the Grand Trunk and Western Railroad that runs through Flint.
Farner says the Mark Farner American Band will choose songs for the Flint concert based on an internet poll, asking what audiences want to hear. From there they take the top songs requested and put those into the live set.
For Farner playing in Flint is a chance to give back to the community that has shown love since his beginnings on the music scene.
“It’s important to me to come back to my town and play for my brothers and sisters,” he says.
The people of Flint have played a pivotal role in his music career. For starters, there’s his mom, who got him six guitar lessons for his 15th birthday. Farner rented a guitar from Marshall Music in Flint but, unfortunately, he was only able to take three lessons before his instructor had a hunting accident. The instructor told Farner to go watch a local high school band that performed rock and roll covers, which he did.
“That’s how I learned how to play, from the people around here, the music and influence of the radio…that’s how I got into original songs,” he says. “I always attribute our success to our upbringing.”
Anyone who has followed Farner’s decades-long career knows what happened next: performances with bands like Terry Knight and the Pack, and The Bossmen, before the formation of Grand Funk Railroad, when he wrote hits like “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” and “Bad Time.”
Through it all — including millions of records sold worldwide and albums going platinum — the city left a lasting impression on him.
“The work ethic of this town, it has to get on to you,” he says. “Just being a resident here, and a thirsty, hungry musician looking for some inspiration, this is not a bad place to be from.”
Considering he’s worked as a musician for more than 50 years, that is one heck of a work ethic. When asked what comes after a 50th anniversary tour Farner laughs.
“Fifty-one,” he says. “I’m gonna stay in it as long as I can. As long as I’m sucking air I’ll be belting it out.”
And you can probably bet Flint will be a stop on that tour, too.
Lead photo by Brad Shaw. All other images courtesy of American Band