Tyrone Twp. — The same hands that played “American Band” for Grand Funk Railroad made new music this week at Real II Reel Studios, just south of Fenton.
On Monday, Mark Farner, 66, of Grand Funk Railroad fame, recorded guitars for a brand new song, “The Prisoner.” Crystal-clear funk rock floated out over the secluded wooded landscape that surrounds studio owner Marshall Block’s property, as his guitar amp sat outside on the deck.
This is Farner’s first time recording at Real II Reel in Tyrone Township — but he’s actually only 15 minutes away from where some of Grand Funk Railroad’s biggest hits were recorded.
In 1970, Farner bought 200 acres in Parshallville, including a studio nicknamed “The Swamp.” Farner lived in Flint at the time. “I loved it because I was raised on the farm,” he said. There, the band rehearsed and recorded parts of “Born to Die,” “American Band,” and others.
He also hosted Frank Zappa — and taught Zappa how to shoot his .44 magnum, converting him from being anti-gun that day. “It’s a far cry from anything that is so intimidating as a city,” said Farner. “You step outside here, and it’s inviting. You don’t wanna go back in right away.”
Block’s studio brings him back to that secluded, quiet place. “We can walk outside and pee in any direction,” he said, drawing laughter from his recording mates.
Of course Farner wasn’t alone — Block always stocks the best musicians for these sessions. On drums is legendary Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, who recorded classics “Free Ride,” “Devil with a Blue Dress,” and played with Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. His drum breaks are recognized by Rolling Stone magazine.
On bass guitar was David Winans II, of the Grammy Award-winning Winans family. “I love the surroundings here, very conducive to creativity here,” said Winans.
The song grew out of a jam session between Farner and Winans. They shared digital files back and forth, recording separately, fleshing out the song, which would eventually be recorded this week.
Block offered to record the new song for free, because it was born out of charity work Farner did for Block. Farner headlined the Dick Wagner Remember the Child Memorial Concert this winter, which raised $10,000 for Children’s Miracle Network.
The song is catchy, funky and happy, despite the ominous name. Anyone who loved Farner’s work before will find it immediately familiar. For now, the song is a single. Farner said he’d be coming back to Tyrone Township.