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Carl performing with Grand Funk Railroad in 2010
|Birth name||Max Carl Gronenthal|
|Also known as||Max Carl|
January 29, 1950 |
Humphrey, Nebraska, United States
|Occupation(s)||Singer, musician (keyboardist)|
|Instruments||Vocals, Keyboards, guitar, saxophone|
|Associated acts||New Breed Blues Band, The Chancellors, Rod Stewart, Molly Hatchet, Elton John, Tommy Bolin Band, Dan Fogelberg, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, Bette Midler, Kenny Loggins, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, Marcy Levy, .38 Special, Joe Cocker, Bad Company, Richard Marx, Charlie Daniels, Max Carl and the Big Dance, James Brown, Otha Turner, and Jennifer Warnes, Grand Funk Railroad, Tony Carey|
Max Carl Gronenthal (born January 29, 1950) is an American rock singer, keyboardist, guitarist and songwriter. He is the current co-lead singer of the classic rock band Grand Funk Railroad. In addition, he spent several years as the keyboardist and lead singer for the southern rock band 38 Special, for whom he co-wrote and sang lead on the hit song "Second Chance".
Carl was born in 1950 in Platte Center, Nebraska, and raised near the town of Humphrey, graduating from high school in Norfolk, Nebraska in 1968. Throughout 1968–69, he played a significant role as a member of the Norfolk-based New Breed Blues Band, during which time he enhanced his interest in rhythm and blues music. Beginning as a saxophonist in this band, he later became the lead vocalist/keyboardist in the group. However, in 1969, he left to join the Lincoln-based Chancellors.
Developing musical skills
During the 1970s, Carl served stints with numerous bands across the Midwest, pausing briefly in 1976 to study piano and refine and improve his songwriting abilities in Oklahoma City. He frequently performed with fellow Midwesterner Tommy Bolin in various jazz/rock fusion groups. By the late-1970s, Carl had graduated to performing on albums by "bigger names," such as Rod Stewart and Dusty Springfield.
Around this time, Carl decided to begin recording as a solo artist. His debut album, Whistling in the Dark was released in 1979 under his given name, Max Gronenthal. A second solo album, Max followed in 1980.
Throughout the 1980s, Carl immersed himself in session work, singing and/or playing on albums by artists such as Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, Bette Midler, and Kenny Loggins. In 1982, he also formed a '60s' R&B cover band, which was eventually named Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Featuring a four-piece horn section, this project played classic R&B, Soul and also incorporated some Max Carl-penned original R&B-styled songs into their repertoire, including the semi-classic "Cardiac Party." Their Thursday night residency at the Club Lingerie in Hollywood was legendary.
In addition to performing, Carl also found time during the mid-'80s to compose tunes for various movie soundtracks, performing on many of them as well. Films such as Police Academy (1984), Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), and Doin' Time (1985) include his compositions. In 1986, he would co-write "Come and Follow Me" as a duet with Marcy Levy (Marcella Detroit), which played during the closing credits of the movie Short Circuit.
Meanwhile, in 1985, Carl left Jack Mack and the Heart Attack to record his third solo album. Unlike the first two solo albums, The Circle would be released under his stage name Max Carl. The album's title track would be included on the soundtrack for the John Hughes film Weird Science. Later that same year, Carl was invited to join .38 Special, a request that he eventually accepted.
Carl rehearsed with the band frequently, and by 1988, he joined forces with the southern rock stylings of .38 Special. That year, the band would release the Rock & Roll Strategy album, which included the Cal Curtis/Jeff Carlisi tune that Carl reworked (earning him an additional writing credit) into "Second Chance," featuring Carl on lead vocals. "Second Chance" introduced .38 Special into a whole new market, when it reached the top of the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1989. Carl remained in .38 Special into the 1990s, but left shortly after the release of the band's Bone Against Steel album in 1991.
At this point, Carl moved to Nashville, where he continued to write/perform on tunes for the likes of Joe Cocker, Bad Company, Richard Marx, and Charlie Daniels. Later in the '90s, he became fascinated with a "family" of musicians in Mississippi who performed a very original historical and heartland-infused brand of music. Relocating to Mississippi, Carl began performing with this group of musicians, forming what would become Max Carl and the Big Dance. This experience ultimately culminated in the release of the album One Planet – One Groove (under the "Max Carl and the Big Dance" moniker) in 1998. Featured on this album are several of Carl's original compositions fused with this new "southern funk"/"Mississippi sound," as well as covers of various 60s hits done in this style.
Carl was performing in Atlanta, Georgia, during the 1996 Summer Olympics when a pipe bomb detonated nearby, killing one woman, causing the fatal heart attack of a journalist and injuring 111 people. Carl was unharmed.
Carl's current work is on the Speed Channel's grassroots drag racing competition Pinks franchise. He is the composer and performer of the theme music as well as transitional music throughout the show. Through this endeavor, he has released a CD soundtrack for the show entitled Max Carl: Fuel, produced by Max & Steve Music, LLC.
As "Max Gronenthal"
- Whistling in the Dark (1979)
- Max (1980)
As "Max Carl"
- Circle (1985)
Max Carl and the Big Dance
- One Planet – One Groove (1998)