38 Special – Southern Rock & Roots

38 Special – Overview

38 Special is a southern rock band with their roots firmly based in Jacksonville Florida.  Forming in 1975, guitarist Don Barnes and singer Donnie Van Zant come together and start the band. Like other bands hailing from Jacksonville at the time, they start playing in the classic southern style of rock.

Eventually their sound moves into commercial rock. After more than three decades together, 38 Special continues to bring their signature blast of Southern Rock to cities worldwide. Even with members coming and going, their signature sound still remains the important element of the band.  

Commercial Success

Furthermore, it doesn’t take long for the band to find commercial success. Mainly because the fans embrace the band’s southern rock and pop sound. Their music covers many genres unlike a lot of bands  that get shelved into only particular genre. Either way, the band starts to become quite successful.

The powerful vocals of Don Barnes meshes well with the deep southern sound of Johnny Van Zant’s vocals. Creating a powerful combination of rock and pop sensibilities. Especially with the songs “Caught Up in You,” and “Hold On Loosely.” The radio stations eventually perked up and took notice of the band’s music as well as the people at MTV.

Success With Radio & Touring

Although starting out, the first two releases were not very successful according to the record industry standards.  Still, the band knew they had something special. “Rockin’ into the Night.” releases in 1979, giving them a single that hits the top 40. 

In 1981, the band has success with “Wild Eyed Southern Boys”, which includes the top 40 hit “Hold On Loosely. ” With this song, the band knows that they created something long-lasting and going to stand the test of time. ” Special Forces”, releases in 1982, with two top-ten hits, “If I’d Been the One” and “Caught Up in You.”

In the early 90s the band participates in a military tour taking them to military bases all over the country. Shortly after, they kick off a 15-month tour that extends into 1992. So, while other bands struggle financially during this time, 38 Special is still heavily booked with shows. The reason being, is that the band chose to book shows in smaller venues so that more fans could afford the ticket prices. Which in the long run, is a smart decision on their part.

The Band Moving Forward

To this day, 38 Special tours over a 100 cities a year, have many Gold and Platinum album awards that stand in the testament to the endurance of a legendary powerhouse. Their timeless hits remain a staple on radio with sales in excess of 20 million, mostly due to their strenuous touring schedule while playing their classic tunes and integrating new songs along the way. 

The founding band members included Van Zant and Don Barnes on vocals and guitar, Jeff Carlisi on guitar, Ken Lyons on bass, Jack Grondin on drums, and Steve Brookins on drums, Larry “L. J.” Junstrom on bass . Other members include Bobby Capps on keyboards & back-up vocals, Gary Moffatt on drums, Barry Dunaway on bass, singer & songwriter, Jerry Riggs on guitar & vocals.

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