"We're An American Band" was written by Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer. In a Songfacts interview
, he told the story behind the song:
"We started out as a trio in 1969. Everybody calls it 'heavy metal,' but heavy metal didn't come around until the '80s, so we were just a hard rock trio. We were kind of riding along with the FM underground situation, so we were able to make 7-minute, 9-minute songs and we'd get the airplay because that was the in thing to do - we could get whole albums played. As we moved into 1972, FM underground radio was beginning to be very commercial, so they were looking for songs that were 3 minutes 30 seconds long. We needed to go that way. We left our former manager Terry Knight in 1972. We were going through lawsuits and all this crap and we came out with an album that was very different for Grand Funk Railroad called The Phoenix Album
. We were lucky to have sort of a semi-hit off that record (Rock 'N' Roll Soul
), but we knew that the next record had to be something big or the career was going to go down the toilet. We were touring, supporting The Phoenix Album
, we were going from town to town, there were lawsuits flying all over the place, it was a very tumultuous time period. I remember lots of discussions in the back of cars going, 'What are we going to do next?' Our manager kept saying, 'Why don't you just write songs about what you do: you're out here on the road, you're going to this hotel, you go to different places, there's people, you come into town...'
So the thought came into my mind, 'We're coming to your town, we'll help you party it down.' That's really what we were doing - we were coming into town and we were
the party. That's where the line came from, and the next thought I had was, 'We're an American band.' It wasn't to wave the flag or anything, it was just simply what we were. It was a true description and it kind of rolled off my mind. I went home and worked on the concept for a while and picked up a guitar; I'm not really a great guitar player, I can play tow-finger chords and that kind of stuff. I worked out the chord structure and I brought it in to rehearsal one day and there you go - we just let it go from there. It had a mind of its own."