Gulfstream Park opened its season last week, and, as usual, the horses were only part of the entertainment. Bryan Adams began the racetrack's long lineup of slightly faded performers last Saturday, and Blessid Union of Souls and Sister Hazel followed on Sunday. But where Adams will always be remembered for maudlin sap and the other two bands won't be remembered at all, this week includes a group that was arguably once the biggest band in the world.
The members of Grand Funk Railroad were gods in the early 1970s with hits like "I'm Your Captain" and "We're an American Band." People were impressed when the Beatles sold out Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966, but GFR outdid the Fab Four by selling out the stadium even faster only five years later, assuring them a place in the rock 'n' roll pantheon for better or worse. Probably worse. Though Grand Funk Railroad's 1976 breakup evoked cries of horror from its many fans, the band's 1981 comeback was greeted with snores of apathy. Hopelessly derailed, the group put out one more album in 1983 and has not attempted a studio effort since. But that doesn't mean the railroad hasn't continued to run through stations across America.
Slated to appear at Gulfstream later in the year are fellow arena-rock survivors including REO Speedwagon, BTO, Styx, Foghat, and Blue Öyster Cult. And that, mind you, is only the tip of the hard-rockin' iceberg. Shocking as it may be that all these groups are still together and entertaining audiences, it must be even more of a shocker for GFR, the band that beat the Beatles, to look out on a crowd of racing fans, half of whom are mumbling "get to the horses already." At least, the Railroad will hope, the other half is ready to party down.