What is it about Jacksonville, Florida that produces a large number of great musicians. Besides being one of the largest by square mile cities in the United States, Jacksonville isn’t really known for much; the Jaguars are mediocre at best (although they are seeing a drastic improvement lately), the downtown area isn’t booming, and the music scene is rather scarce. However, we have seen a few notable bands come out of the area over the years.

For example, a band most of us hold near and dear and who helped jump-start a sub-genre, the Allman Brothers Band had a few members from Jacksonville including Gregg and Duane Allman and drummer Butch Trucks. Also, Southern-rock pioneers Lynyrd Skynyrd originated in the Florida city as well as Molly Hatchet, and the modern slide guitar virtuoso, Derek Trucks.
One Jacksonville-born band that doesn’t get too much notoriety is the Southern rock group, 38 Special. In fact, the band was started by Donnie Van Zant, the younger brother of deceased Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie and older brother of their current vocalist, Johnny. Although the band never reached the height of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special has been playing for about forty-four years and continues to perform and record.

38 Special started as a straight Southern rock band, even teetering on the country line at times. Although they could have stuck in that realm and garnered enough of an audience, they really struck a chord with tunes like “Caught up in You” and “Hold on Loosely” which embraced a more arena, yacht rock type vibe. Those tunes are all over classic rock radio stations are the main reason why people have even heard of the band.

Donnie Van Zant was a major proponent of the band for 39 years until nerve damage to his inner-ear forced him to retire from music indefinitely.


Patrick Ortiz