Raised in rural Nebraska near Humphrey, NE and graduating
high school in nearby Norfolk, NE in 1968, Max developed his
love of Rhythm & Blues music by being a key member of
Norfolk's "New Breed Blues Band" in 1967-68.
Following in the footsteps of great Norfolk bands
like Don Sohl
& The Roadrunners, Ron Thompson & The Broughams, Little
Joe & The Ramrods, The Strollers, The Drifters & The Smoke Ring, Max quickly became the front man for "The New Breed" moving from
saxophone to Hammond B-3 organ & lead vocalist,
By 1969 he moved to the Lincoln, NE based "Chancellors"
another Rhythm & Blues "horn band" that included some of
the finest musicians regionally. Their RB sound and stage show
rivaled that of The Smoke Ring & The Fabulous Flippers - both
legendary RB bands in the Midwest.
By the early 1970's - Max joined one of the bands that were an
early inspiration to him - The Fabulous Flippers - on lead vocals.
Another Midwest rock legend - Tommy Bolin - was born and
in Sioux City, IA - about 75 miles northeast of Norfolk, NE. Before
attaining national acclaim in The James Gang, Deep Purple &
The Tommy Bolin Band - Bolin ventured to Colorado in the early
1970's to form Gangbusters & Energy. Max performed with Bolin
in both of these early 70's Jazz/Rock Fusion groups.
Moving to Oklahoma City, OK during the mid-70's to study
and hone his songwriting skills, Max again joined Bolin in November
1976 who was on a tour with his band and Jeff Beck. Max was
playing with Bolin in Miami, Florida on December 4, 1976 when Bolin
met his untimely death.
During the latter part of the 1970's Max performed on
with The DFK Band including Mike Finnegan, and performed on
recordings by Rod Stewart and Molly Hatchett.
He recorded his first solo album ' "Whistlin' in the Dark"
Gronenthal in 1979. A second solo album, entitled "Max" was released
in 1980 - both on national labels.
From 1981 through 1988 he provided either backup vocals
instrumental support on albums by Dan Fogelberg, Don Henley,
Elton John, Kenny Loggins, Dave Mason, Molly Hatchet, Timothy B.
Schmidt, Glen Frey, Bonnie Raitt & Bette Midler.
Around 1982, Max and a group of professional studio musicians
Angeles, CA put together a "jam band" to perform at local clubs to play
covers of their true love - 60's Rhythm & Blues tunes & to also showcase a
number of classic original RB tunes Max had composed.
Approached by Glen Frey, former lead vocalist with The
hearing them perform, he immediately proposed a record deal and
promptly signed them to Full Moon Records, a subsidiary of Warner
Brothers. Dubbed "Jack Mack & The Heart Attack" they promptly
laid down an album of Max Carl originals - & the rest is history.
"Cardiac Party" immediately became a best seller and
the band toured extensively throughout the country - attaining the
status of not only one of the best RB bands ever to lay down tracks
on vinyl but also one of the best "Live Shows" ever to hit the circuit.
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, featuring Max on lead
keys, performing his original recordings, appeared on many regional
and national television shows and movies. These included a special
episode of "Laverne & Shirley" as well as spots on Saturday Night
Live, and sound tracks of Police Academy, Porky's Revenge, Spring
Break, Back to the Future, Miami Vice, and Beverly Hills Cop-2.
Anyone who purchased "Cardiac Party" or saw Jack Mack
The Heart Attack "LIVE" will never forget this legendary band.
Jack Mack treated Nebraskans to "Live Performances" during a
tour that included classic performances in Omaha and Columbus,
NE ("Wishbones") during this time. Max paid homage to
several "Smoke Ring" members in the crowd at the Columbus show,
by having them join "Jack Mack" on stage during the final encore.
The group continues to perform some 20 years later,
personnel changes have occurred, still continues to be one of the best
and most popular "party bands" in the country. The group recently
reissued "Cardiac Party" on CD to the delight of their many fans.
By 1985, Max had moved on, to again pursue his solo career,
"The Circle", this time under his current stage name "Max Carl", again on a
national label. During this time frame, he also was involved as a writer
and performer in several movies "Short Circuit" & "Doing Time".
In late 1985, Max was asked to join the legendary Southern
Band - "38 Special" both as lead singer and songwriter. By 1988,
Max's Rhythm & Blues influence on the band had blended with
their Southern Rock roots to release
the classic album "Rock & Roll Strategy".
This album featured "Second Chance" both written and sung
that became a million- seller and 38 Special's only #1 Hit. They toured extensively touting both the single and album to huge crowds,
including a "home town" performance in Omaha, NE at
Ak-Sar-Ben to a sell-out crowd.
A second 38-Special album ("Bone on Steel") again featuring the
Rhythm & Blues based vocals and songwriting of Max was released
in 1991. Shortly thereafter, Max left 38-Special and moved from
Atlanta, GA to Nashville, TN.
During the early 1990's, while in Nashville, Max continued
songs for or perform on recordings with Joe Cocker, Bad Company,
Rodney Crowell, Charlie Daniels, Wynonna Judd, Richard Marx and
While in Nashville, Max became aware of and sought out
special "family" of black musicians in the heart of Mississippi that
performed a very original, highly local and historic form of music, not
found anywhere else in the world. Featuring the family patriarch
"keeping the sound alive" and preserving the music of their roots,
this very special form of music of highly localized & unique sounds,
featured the heavy rhythm of Civil War marching band drum cadences
blended with southern funk, cane reed flautists & field calls. Max was fascinated with this "new sound" and after literally living with "the
family" and joining in easily - found a new musical
challenge and outlet for his original writing.
He took their unique sound and developed a musical stage
combining their sound blended with his original compositions. The "show"
was performed to rave reviews throughout the country and led to Max's
release of his latest album "One Planet - One Groove". Forming
"Max Carl & Big Dance" and releasing a superb CD on Glen Frey's Mission Records - this group, which frequently performed LIVE with a stage
band exceeding 10 players - proved to be another exciting adventure
in the life of Max Carl.
The CD, featuring both Max Carl original compositions
with this new found "Mississippi-Sound, featured the single "One More
River" - another Max Carl original that charted in 1998. The album
features not only Max Carl original cuts that appeal to rock music
fans of all ages, but several exciting remakes of classic 60's hits such
as "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Baby-Now That I Found You".
Once you heard this amazing CD or are lucky enough to catch "Max
Carl & Big Dance" LIVE - you will never forget it.
One of the last performances of "Max Carl & Big Dance"
Spencer, IA opening for The Doobie Brothers - long time friends of
Max. With the covered race-track grandstands filled to capacity,
"Big Dance" led by Max on a marching band bass drum and following
by the rest of the band equipped with an array of marching band
drums - they entered the grandstands pounding on their drum Army
to a funky rhythm that drove the crowd wild. Reaching
the stage via a catwalk, the sound escalated as the massive PA picked
up the acoustic rhythms.
"Big Dance" then performed a complete set of some of the
soundsever performed live to the delight of the crowd.
Max then joined The Doobie Brothers during their encore to close the show.
In 1999, Max relocated to California to pursue continued
adventures" and continue his fine writing.
Max Carl Gronenthal was inducted into The Nebraska
Music Hall of
Fame in Norfolk, NE on July 21-22, 2000, where he performed a number
of his hits backed by The Smoke Ring.