‘Big Time’ Rock N Roll In A Small Town Pt.1September 7, 2008
Way back in the early 1960’s at the Atlantic-Richfield gas station on West Market Street in my hometown of Orrville, Oh ‘sock hops’ were held during summer evenings. I was too young to attend but my older brother and sister went to them. A couple years later a couple dances with live bands were held in the parking lot on the north side of Smith’s Grocery on South Main Street and even though I was too young to attend I do remember one dance in particular, circa 1966, that my sister and her best friend attended that featured Terry Knight & The Pack.
Dad & Mom drove Cheryl and her friend, also named Cheryl, in to Orrville and dropped them off at Smith’s while the rest of our family went several blocks away to my uncle and aunt’s home until the dance was over. Another uncle & aunt were there so eventually a cousin and myself walked up Oak Street to Main Street to Clyde Matthew’s Union 76 gas station to get a bottle of Pepsi. Several blocks south we could hear the music so we decided to walk down and take a peak.
Once we got near Smith’s Grocery (we were across the street and intimidated by all those rowdy teenagers) we hung around for about a half hour and watched the band and the high schoolers having a good time before walking back to our uncle’s.
After the dance both Cheryls walked up to where our uncle lived and man were they exited! Terry Knight & The Pack (never heard of them prior to that night) had a couple records being played on Cleveland radio and to the two Cheryls they were big stars! You’d have thought they died and went to heaven (they had some of their 45 singles).
Fast forward to 1971 and I’m a typical male teenager into Grand Funk Railroad. I knew they were managed by Terry Knight but imagine my surprise when, after reading various articles and interviews with Mark, Don and Mel in Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and Rolling Stone I discovered that Grand Funk’s Mark Farner and Don Brewer were in Terry Knight & The Pack! Cripes, I saw 2/3 of Grand Funk Railroad several years prior and didn’t know!
Not long after that discovery I was able to catch Grand Funk Railroad in concert in Cleveland and I think somewhere around ’73 or ’74 I caught them in Indianapolis when a carload of us went to see them.
Terry Knight, from Flint, MI, was a DJ in the early 60’s (including a stint at the legendary CKLW and credited as the DJ who broke the Rolling Stones in the USA – some referred to him as the ‘Sixth Stone’) before deciding to become a ‘rock star’. He started Terry Knight & The Pack in 1965 and served as frontman and singer with Don Brewer on drums, Mark Farner on bass, Carl Johnson on guitar and Bobby Caldwell on keyboards.
At least a half dozen of their records made the Top 40 regionally (Detroit, Cleveland, New York) and among the singles were Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I, I (Who Have Nothing), This Precious Time, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Tears Come Rollin’, How Much More, Better Man Than I, and the song they are most identified with, A Change On The Way.
Soon after Farner took over as lead guitarist.
The band was big in Cleveland and appeared numerous times on Don Webster’s UPBEAT TV show and throughout the region opened for bands like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five and others.
By the end of ’67 Knight left for a solo career as a singer (that failed) and producer (that succeeded). As a producer/manager he helped put together Grand Funk Railroad with Farner, Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher in 1968 and took them to the top before a major falling out in 1974 that resulted in Knight more or less retiring from the music business.
Knight, born Richard Terrance Knapp, was born April 9, 1943 and was tragically murdered on November 1, 2004 by his daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend, out of control on drugs, was fighting with his daughter when Knight stepped in to protect her. He was stabbed 17 times.
I always thought my first ‘big time’ concert was Alice Cooper in Akron after that band made it big (I had seen them prior to becoming superstars at Chippewa Lake Park) but perhaps, in retrospect, my first was really Terry Knight & The Pack.
As far as I know the next ‘big time’ name band to play Orrville was Kim Simmonds’ Savoy Brown on September 1, 1979 at Wayne County Speedway.