Mark Farner (vocals, guitar) and Don Brewer (drums), former members of a local band together, Terry Knight & the Pack, recruited Mel Schacher (bass) from ? & the Mysterians. Terry Knight soon became their manager and named the band after Grand Trunk Railroad, a famous rail line in Michigan. After a free performance at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival, the band was signed by Capitol Records.
Even with critical pans, the group's first eight albums, released in three years, were successful. Knight launched an intense advertising campaign to promote Closer to Home, a multi-platinum, smash hit album that was slammed by virtually all music critics. In 1972, Grand Funk Railroad fired Knight, who sued, resulting in a protracted legal battle.
After recruiting Craig Frost (keyboards), Grand Funk Railroad released Phoenix in 1972, then shorted their name to Grand Funk. This was followed by the band's first two and only two hit singles, "We're an American Band" (off We're an American Band) and "The Locomotion" (written by Carole King and David Geffen for Little Eva). After a failed album, All the Girls in the World Beware, and a revert to "Grand Funk Railroad", the band's fortunes were at an end. After finishing Good Singin', Good Playin' (1976) with producer Frank Zappa, Grand Funk Railroad disbanded. Farmer began a solo career, while the rest of the band became Flint after adding Billy Ellworthy.
The band reunited in 1981 with the addition of Dennis Bellinger and released two failed albums. After disbanding a second time, Farmer launched a solo career as a Christian recording artist, while Brewer and Frost joined Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band. Grand Funk Railroad reunited again in 1997 to record a benefit album called Bosnia.