One of the 1970s' most successful hard rock bands in spite of critical pans and somewhat reluctant radio airplay (at first), Grand Funk Railroad built a devoted fan base with constant touring, a loud, simple take on the blues-rock power trio sound, and strong working-class appeal. The band was formed by Flint, MI, guitarist/songwriter Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer, both former members of a local band called Terry Knight & the Pack. They recruited former ? & the Mysterians bassist Mel Schacher in 1968, and Knight retired from performing to become their manager, naming the group after Michigan's well-known Grand Trunk Railroad.
They performed for free at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival, and their energetic, if not technically proficient, show led Capitol Records to sign them at once. While radio shied away from Grand Funk Railroad, the group's strong work ethic and commitment to touring produced a series of big-selling albums over the next few years; five of their eight releases from 1969 to 1972 went platinum, and the others all went gold. Meanwhile, Knight promoted the band aggressively, going so far as to rent a Times Square billboard to advertise Closer to Home, which turned out to be the band's first multi-platinum album in spite of a backlash from the rock press. However, Grand Funk Railroad fired Knight in March of 1972, who promptly sued; the band spent most of the year in a court battle that ended when they bought Knight out.