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38 Special

About 38 Special

Donnie Van Zandt, brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder Ronnie, founded 38 Special with Don Barnes – who had been in a few bands with him earlier. The group’s first two albums established them as a popular regional act throughout the south.

The band was barely scraping by being just one of many southern rock bands at the time. But after Ronnie’s advice of “Don’t try to be a clone of somebody else”, 38 Special began a songwriting partnership with Jim Peterik (of Survivor fame) and worked toward a more radio-friendly sound that wouldn’t abandon their southern roots. Barnes explained their goal:

We’re not just another Southern rock band. We’ve been working at escaping that categorization. There’s a difference between a Southern rock band and a band from the South. You can’t sing about whiskey and alligators forever.

The result was their first hit, a rejected Survivor song named “Rockin' Into The Night” that reached #43 on the US Pop Chart. It helped push their third album up to #57 on the Albums Chart. Their next four albums were all huge successes in the US, each being certified platinum and giving 38 Special seven top 40’s including the band’s most popular songs “Hold On Loosely”, “Caught Up in You”, “If I’d Been the One” and “Back Where You Belong”.

In 1988, the band’s eighth album Rock & Roll Strategy featured new vocalist Max Carl alongside Donnie (and without co-founder Barnes). It was initially a failure until its third single “Second Chance” – a ballad written by Carl five years prior – became a top 10 hit almost a full year after the album had come out. This pushed the album to #61 peak and a Gold sales certification. This would be the end of the band’s peak era.

1991’s Bone Against Steel gave the band its final top 40 with its second single “The Sound Of Your Voice”, but the album would be their first in over a decade to not be certified gold. Carl left the following year, with Barnes returning to the group. 1997’s Resolution did not chart and neither did its only single.

The band has primarily focused on touring since, only releasing two albums in the 2000s thus far. In 2012, Donnie became unable to tour. The following year he retired from music altogether.

The current lineup of 38 Special is led by Barnes. In 2013, they were still performing more than 100 shows a year.