Legendary rock ‘n’ roll band Grand Funk Railroad performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Riviera Theater downtown | Credit: Allen Clark

Drummer Don Brewer has been banging his way around the classic rock world for over half a century now.

On Sept. 23, this celebrated musician and producer will bring the band he’s best known for — Grand Funk Railroad — back to Charleston for an intimate performance at the Riviera Theater on King Street.

Brewer remembers feeling like he was born to play music, he told the Charleston City Paper. He ended up starting his first band in elementary school, thanks to his parents’ support.

“I grew up in an entertainment kind of family,” he said. “My father was a former drummer, my mother was a former dancer. So, when I expressed interest in the drums at a young age, my dad was on it. We went out and got a drum kit, and he would sit there with me and show me how to play along to swing band records.”

Brewer’s passion evolved into a profession after several years and some significant twists and turns.

“We were coming up in the late 1960s,” he said, “and we intentionally fashioned Grand Funk Railroad after trios like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. That streamlined strategy really paid off for us.”

In the early days of FM radio, Grand Funk Railroad was all over the airwaves. The act repeatedly showed up big with tracks like “Loco-motion,” “Bad Time,” “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

Then there was Grand Funk Railroad’s signature anthem, “We’re an American Band,” which was written 50 years ago in the midst of pretty dire circumstances.

“We were struggling,” Brewer said. “Our former manager had stolen all of our money, and he was suing us over rights to the band name. It was sink or swim time, and we needed to come up with something truly great if we were ever going to survive. As we were roaming from town to town, just barely scraping by, I started collecting all these outrageous little stories from the road, and then I tied them all together with the now famous tagline.”

After Grand Funk Railroad’s initial round of success, Brewer was able to transition into the role of producer. He began overseeing the debut LP from raucous rock ‘n’ rollers, the Godz. Later, he enlisted for a long-running gig with Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.

These days, however, Brewer travels with an all-star version of his favorite “American Band.” Besides Brewer, who will be handling drum duties and providing some of the vocals, Grand Funk Railroad’s coming Lowcountry appearance will also feature founding member Mel Schacher on bass; Max Carl (of 38 Special) on lead vocals; Bruce Kulick (formerly of KISS) on guitar; and Tim Cashion (from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band) on keyboards.

Grand Funk Railroad performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Riviera Theater downtown. For tickets and show details, visit therivierachs.com.

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