With an anticipatory celebration of Diana Ross’ 75th birthday, a tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin, and a Motown retrospective, it was hard to miss Michigan’s influence on the music industry at the 61st Grammy Awards. However, you might have missed one of the state’s latest musical triumphs because it wasn’t part of the live television broadcast. Frankenmuth band Greta Van Fleet captured its first-ever Grammy for Best Rock Album of the Year with From the Fires.
Amazingly, the group beat out veteran bands like Alice In Chains and Fall Out Boy to claim the trophy for an EP, which is not even a full album. The Grammy accolades also included three other nominations, and are just the latest in a series of milestones for the young quartet.
The band’s skyrocket to national and global attention has been quick and impressive. Hailing from the tiny hamlet of Frankenmuth, brothers Jake, Sam, and Josh Kiszka started the band in 2012, and drummer Danny Wagner joined them in 2013.
The band’s unusual name is based on a local woman named Gretna Van Fleet. The guys were struggling to come up with a moniker for the group and she came up in conversation at a practice session. They dropped the “n” to make it easier to pronounce and the rest is history. Gretna has become quite a local star herself since that decision was made.
Before adopting the name, and long before any of the boys had even graduated from Frankenmuth High, they started out with a few paid gigs at Vassar’s Cork Pine Eatery & Saloon, back in 2012. Then caught a lot of local attention when they performed at Fischer Hall in downtown Frankenmuth during Zehnder’s Snowfest in 2013.
On February 28, 2014, they recorded a live EP and video at Groovebox Studios in Detroit. Later that year their song, Standing On, was featured in Chevy Equinox advertisements in the Detroit area.
Another big break came on January 17, 2016, when the song Highway Tune was featured as a live performance by the band on the popular Showtime series Shameless. A little over a year later it was released on iTunes as the band’s first official single. On April 21, 2017, the group’s debut EP entitled Black Smoke Rising was released, and Apple Music named Great Van Fleet new artist of the week.
That’s when things really began to take off. Sam and Danny graduated from high school that summer. In September the band got a big thrill, returning home to open for local legend, Bob Seger, at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw. In October the foursome won Best New Artist at the Loudwire Music Awards, and in November, released the acclaimed eight-song double EP, From the Fires.
Another rock legend shined a spotlight on them when Elton John invited Greta Van Fleet to perform at his highly-anticipated annual Oscar party the following year. Then in July the band made its national television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallen. They performed When the Curtain Falls, the first single off of their official debut album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The album was released in October, and debuted at No. 1 on iTunes.
This year has gotten off to an equally phenomenal start. The boys took to the famous stage at Studio 8H on Saturday Night Live as musical guest for the show’s first episode of 2019, and just six weeks later, earned their first Grammy Award.
With a start like that, it is going to be fun to continue to watch the trajectory of these rising rock stars. Who knows, they may even change what Michigan’s Little Bavaria is best known for.