On March 9, 1974, “The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #82. The only song to debut higher that week was Ringo Starr’s “Oh My My” (the third and final single from his Ringo LP) at #65 . “The Loco-Motion” had been a #1 hit for Little Eva in August of 1962.
Grand Funk was the power trio from Flint, Mich., originally known as Grand Funk Railroad. Mark Farner, guitarist and lead vocalist, described the band’s music as “sledgehammer rock and roll.” Drummer Don Brewer, like Farner, was born in Flint. Bassist Mel Schacher was from Owosso and had played in another successful band: ? and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”).
When Grand Funk Railroad ended its relationship with manager/producer Terry Knight in 1972, they shortened their name and officially added longtime keyboardist Craig Frost to the band.
“The Loco-Motion” became Grand Funk’s second #1 single. “We’re an American Band” had landed at #1 in September ’73. The success of their We’re an American Band album convinced Grand Funk to retain studio-wizard Todd Rundgren as producer and engineer for their next album, Shinin’ On.
While working on Shinin’ On, Rundgren overheard the four singing the Little Eva song and messing with harmonies. Rundgren insisted that the song be recorded, saying it would be a hit single. It was — and reigned at #1 for two weeks in May.
This was the second time a song’s recording by two different artists had gone to #1. “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence (in 1963) and Donnie Osmond (in 1971) was the other. Amazingly enough, or perhaps not-so-amazing, both songs were written by the successful husband-wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. (A version of “The Loco-Motion” was released by Kylie Minogue in 1987 and went to #3).
Shinin’ On would reach #5 on the American LP charts. Its title track, also released as a single, would just miss entering the Top 10, peaking at #11.
The title track to Shinin’ On: