Meeting Mark Farner


Saturday October 15th, 2011 – Merrillville, IN

I received an unexpected pleasant surprise today when Mike Preston called to ask if I’d be available to help him on another camera shoot for his TV show ‘Psychobabble’. Those are always fun excursions, so of course I said yes. The last two have been interviews with Burt Reynolds and George Thorogood. Both were a lot of fun, and well worth my time.

Today’s destination was a hotel in Merrillville, IN for an interview with Mark Farner of the band Grand Funk Railroad. I vividly remember getting a cassette player for Christmas as a kid along with two cassettes. One was ‘A Question Of Balance’ by The Moody Blues that I didn’t like, and the other was ‘Closer To Home’ by Grand Funk Railroad that I did.

I was probably nine or ten, but I still remember playing it over and over until every song was etched into my memory. I liked all the songs, and still do today. I also liked the name of the band. At some point I think they dropped the ‘Railroad’ part, but it doesn‘t matter.

Jefferson Airplane switched to Jefferson Starship, then just Starship, but who cares? It’s  the same music, and if someone is a fan they’re a fan no matter what the name happens to have evolved to. I was looking forward to meeting the guy who sang ‘I’m Your Captain’.

Mike had also asked Jim McHugh to come along, so we all met at Jim’s house to load the camera equipment into one car and ride together. We had a blast taking turns busting balls and hanging out as both comics and friends. We don’t always have the chance to do that as much as we’d like, and it was worth the trip before we got there for the interview.

Everyone at the hotel was extremely friendly, and we set the cameras up in one of their meeting rooms and waited for Mark Farner to arrive. We had no idea what to expect, and were pleasantly surprised when he arrived to find out he was pleasant and down to earth.

He shook Mike’s hand, but then came to where Jim and I were standing by the cameras and shook ours too. He didn’t have to do that, but he acknowledged we were there and it was a classy gesture. I told him how ‘Closer To Home’ was etched into my brain as a kid and how I loved his work. A big smile came to his face and he said “I knew I liked you.”

Mike did a very solid interview as he always does, and he’d done his homework which made him look great. Mark has a big booming voice, and he was animated and interesting as he answered Mike‘s intelligent questions. I could see he still loved what he did at 63.

Mark’s son Jesse is a quadriplegic from a fall he took not that long ago, and we were all sad to hear him tell of it. He wasn’t bitter, and spoke with candor about what his family is going through. Life has no guarantees for any of us, and we have to deal with hard times.

After the interview, I gave Mark one of my CDs and said I hoped it might make his son laugh, at least a little. He was very gracious, and whether he plays it or not I wanted to try to at least show support to a fellow human. I was a fan before, but I’m a bigger one now.

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