View Full Version : Mark Farner's tone and technique

04-03-2011, 09:35 PM
Growing up I listened to the "commercial" Grand Funk. it wasn't until later that I got into the first few GFR albums. There was a very distinct difference in Mark's style and overall sound from the first few albums to say the "American Band" album. I couldn't get over how bad, sloppy and sometimes weird tuning he had on those albums.
He's a good player even now, but listening back to those first few albums, I wonder what other players thought of him.
How many of you were influenced by his style ?

04-04-2011, 12:36 AM
I wasn't a Grand Funk fan early on. I didn't think he played any better that the majority of the guys in my high school and I thought his tone was terrible. He/they did write some good songs tho.

04-04-2011, 06:04 AM
IMO, Mark had the most bland sound of everyone. One has to say it was unique, but certainly not in a pleasing way.

04-04-2011, 06:14 AM
His tone was basically LOUD. But it sold

04-04-2011, 06:32 AM
The bass player in my first band was a huge Grand Funk fan, so I learned to play a lot of Mark's stuff. I was never a really big fan, and to this day still don't like his tone, but the guy could really play. I still find the way he picks and the speed he plays at hard to copy. I can play a lot faster than he did, but that's using a different technique. Trying to play just the way he did is pretty difficult.

Dr. Tweedbucket
04-04-2011, 06:36 AM
I loved that early sound .... it was raw, rough, rawnchy and unique! They had a really heavy tone with one of the best rhythm sections ever! Mark was a great vocalist and a decent guitarist!!..... just try playing note for note what he was doing ....and singing as well as he did!! and keeping the crowd engaged! .... he certainly held his own as a front man. :red

His guitar on the early albums was an aluminum Messinger and his fuzz tone was actually a couple different things, but one was a heath kit germanium fuzz, the other was built into his guitar. The amps were West amps.

It was definitely a raunchy tone, but that was the beauty of it.... raw, heavy power trio rock and roll!! The best albums of that era was the double black live and the Closer to Home. Closer to Home is a GREAT album ... every song just rocks!!

Here are some links ... part 1 and then follow 2-5 ,,,>


Some of Mark's gear...


04-04-2011, 06:40 AM
Stop looking back was one of the funkiest, coolest songs of its era.

04-04-2011, 07:12 AM
i dig early grand funk, but the messenger guitar/fuzz/west amps sounded horrid! mark's early tone, and tony iommi's tone on sabotage & never say die are THE worst tones on albums that i really like (we discussed this kinda thing before here; http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=833995 ).

BTW, i saw GFR reunion in '96 and they were awesome!

04-04-2011, 07:13 AM
I was a big fan back in the day, although I just missed the initial release of the first few albums. GFRR's "Phoenix" was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I had heard the song "Rock and Roll Soul" on the radio (probably the only time they played it, lol) and loved it. I still have that album.

they were also my first big disillusion with a band's "progression". I kind of got in when they were a 4 piece, not the original 3 pc. I had friends who had the earlier albums, and we listened to those a lot. I was ok with "American Band" but "Shining On" began to lose me and "All The Girls In the World Beware" pretty much threw it in the dust bin. There GFRR sat for many years.

A couple years ago, a member of another forum I frequent was selling his late father's albums. His dad and I would have gotten along just great, I would have taken 90% of the albums in a heartbeat. Amongst those albums were the early GF discs, which still haven't been given a decent remastering and transfer to cd, in the best of my knowledge. Plus I was getting interested (still am) of reviving my turntable and going back to vinyl for my listening pleasure. So I snagged On Time, Grand Funk, Survival, E Pluribus Funk and the black double live album.

What a time trip. I had not heard many of those songs in well over 25, yea, maybe even over 30 years. Now I want to find a vinyl copy of "Closer to Home".

I liked Mark's tone, it was raw and different. It was his signature. And damn, the boy has one incredible set of pipes. From a purely performing aspect, he is horrendously underrated. In my wildest dreams, I can sing and play guitar at the same time as well as he did (does?). As well as being a top flight front man.

04-04-2011, 08:41 AM
The 'solo' in "Captain/Home" had a large impact on my playing as a kid.

04-04-2011, 09:19 AM
Great voice, solid rock guitar playing, tones that have never done it for me. And those guitars: Velenos, Messengers, the Peaveys in the photo above-certainly not my choices, but I give him props for following his own gear muse, for not being part of the herd mentality.

04-04-2011, 09:48 AM
What made GF interesting was that there were always parts/sections and arrangements to their tunes. They got the most they could out of a trio. Plus the vocals were really what that group was all about, so tone and technique were second to what was captivating about the band.

I was disappointed when Zappa produced their one LP as it was too slick and sterile.

04-04-2011, 10:04 AM
Farner delivered really good hard-rock vocals, but his guitar playing and sound were really not up to the standards set by many of the guitarists playing in competing bands during that time frame...
"Mark, Don & Mel" took "garage" music to a whole new level... (That is not intended to be a negative comment, as that was the hey-day for garage bands - and "garage rock" is a totally legitimate form of music, IMO...)
IMO, Grand Funk was the pre-cursor to bands like KISS... IOW, they served-up simple garage band music that was accessible to the musical tastes of the rock 'n roll masses...
Also, their manager - Terry Knight - was a master of rock 'n roll "Hype", and was a key to their huge success...


04-04-2011, 10:08 AM
My first fuzz was one of those Heathkits TA-28's that my Dad and I built. I have been looking for another...kinda tough to find these days.

04-04-2011, 03:51 PM
I've wondered why there weren't groups that covered their songs. Not even a tribute set of some of the best tunes. I'm sure there are guitarists out there that would salivate to the thought of playing them with the "right technique".
Then there's the problem of finding the right drummer.
And bassist.
With the industry in "retro" mode lately, perhaps a producer will find the right players for a tribute project.

04-04-2011, 04:45 PM
I like Mark Farner but the most awesome thing on GFR records is often the bass work.

04-04-2011, 05:05 PM
Here's KingsX doing Captian/Closer.


I learned how to play copping parts off my big brothers GFR records!

04-04-2011, 05:11 PM
Mark Farner played very funky on the first 3 albums.
The rock & roll voice everyone wishes they had


04-04-2011, 05:54 PM
I will always regret selling my Cherry red Messenger guitar for about $200 back in the late 60's. They are now worth upwards of 15-$20,000. The last one I saw on G-Base a couple of yrs ago was listed @ $18.5K

peace Kirk

04-04-2011, 06:23 PM
GFR was the very FIRST rock concert I saw, in the early 70's! I was in the front row, and they rocked the old Met Sports Center (now near the Mall of America) in Bloomington, MN. It was LOUD, and Farner played that weird guitar with the tape all over it. That's about all I remember - it WAS the 70's, you know...:bong

Rockin J
04-04-2011, 07:10 PM
Grand Funk was a great band. A guy in my high school used to write Mark Farner is my hero on everything around. I think Mark's guitar playing was perfect for his rock and roll timeframe. Mark, Don and Mel really had a vibe going. I still listen to their music often and enjoy it very much. Can't find any fault with Mark's tone. The little solo on Closer to Home is fat & chunky without using distorion. Sounds like a les paul instead of a messenger.

Mark Ray
04-04-2011, 07:36 PM
I had the opportunity to play basically a "mini GFR concert" standing 5 feet from the man himself last November at the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp weekend in Chicago. The man has a natural feel and groove that is unreal!

Like many others of my generation, GFR was a big part of my musical beginnings. I didn't know about "tone" or "technique" when I was 14 years old. I just knew what music stirred emotions, and they were one of the groups that did it for me and made me want to play.

Here's a link and some pics to what I wrote about the experience: (click on "featured fans")


04-04-2011, 08:31 PM
At one time, Grand Funk was the most popular rock act in America. These 3 musicians together were far greater than the sum of their parts. 3 very gifted musicians

04-04-2011, 11:25 PM
They were THE band for me! My first concert & I even faked sick, knowing my Mom had to go to my Grandma's, the day that the live album was released, so I could go to Polk Bros. & get a copy. I think Terry knight was responsible for the poor sound & production on the early albums. It cost them a TON of money to get him out of their lives.
I also remember they started a short lived magazine called "Heavy Metal"