The city of Jacksonville, Florida, serves as the original home base for the Southern-style rock group known as 38 Special. Sometimes also labeled as .38 Special, Donnie Van Zant formed his own band alongside Don Barnes, Steve Brookins, and Ken Lyons, The name of the band was the result of an incident where the group found themselves locked inside a warehouse while practicing their music.
Due to the noise level, police were called in and when it was discovered the young men couldn’t come out due to an issue with a padlock, the officer used his police standard 38 Special to shoot off the padlock. Appreciating the humorous irony behind the situation, the group agreed 38 Special seems fitting as a name for their band from that moment forward.
If the name of Van Zant sounds familiar, Donnie is the younger brother to the late Ronnie Van Zant, founder of Lynyrd Skynyrd. At first, Donnie Van Zant considered embarking on a career on the railroad, but older brother Ronnie knew music was in his blood and convinced him to put personal passion ahead of chasing the almighty dollar. Taking his older brother’s advice, Donnie and his 38 Special bandmates proceed to record their first studio album (.38 Special) in 1977.
Just prior to the album’s official release, Ken Lyons departs from the band as their bassist. He was replaced by former rock star Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmate, Larry Junstrom. In addition to Junstrom, 38 Special also recruited female backup singers. originally starting with Carol Bristow and Dale Krantz. Krantz, however, left in 1979 for other pursuits and had a number of replacements until 38 Special removed female vocals from their performances in 1987.
10. Wild-Eyed Southern Boys
It’s not Southern rock without hearing and understanding what makes this particular genre of music what it is. Both song and album, both featuring the same name (Wild-Eyed Southern Boys), was released in 1981 and made a solid impression on North American music fans. While the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart was the only one to rank the song upon the timing of its release (at #35), the long-term appeal of Wild-Eyed Southern Boys continues to serve as a leading anthem for fans of Southern music, regardless of its categorized genre.
9. Fantasy Girl
(Fantasy Girl) is the second of three singles released from the 1981 album (Wild-Eyed Southern Boys), charting at #30 on US Billboard Mainstream Rock and at #52 with the US Billboard Hot 100. While the rankings seem mediocre, the real numbers that matter is in the sales and how well a song can embed its way as a cult favorite. Fantasy Girl does exactly this as it played its role to certify the fourth of the band’s album to Platinum status through the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
8. Teacher, Teacher
Coming from the 1984 soundtrack of the movie (Teachers) is the leading single (Teacher, Teacher). On the US Mainstream Rock chart, it peaks to #4 while with the US Billboard Hot 100 at #25. The official music video associated with the song covers some of the film’s footage, which adds to the appeal of this cult classic.
7. Back Where You Belong
The album (Tour de Force) is released in 1983, which remains the band’s most commercially successful album to date. The single (Back Where You Belong) serves as a major contributor towards its success as it peaks at fourth place with the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and at #20 with the US Billboard Hot 100. The album’s overall performance became certified Platinum with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as certified Gold with Music Canada (MC).
6. Rockin’ Into the Night
The first single (Rockin’ Into the Night) comes from the first 38 Special studio album that features the exact same name. While the US Billboard Hot 100 is the only chart it sees, coming in at #43, this song is still among the band’s best. Originally, members of the band Survivor wrote this song for themselves for their debut album, but their producer disagreed with it. Only partially finished, the song is handed to 38 Special for them to work out the kinks, record, and release.
5. If I’d Been the One
The single (If I’d Been the One) comes from the band’s fifth studio album (Tour de Force), which was released in 1983. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, the song peaks at number one. With the US Billboard Hot 100, at #19. This leading track helped contribute towards the overall success in sales for Tour de Force as an album, selling well over a million copies to become certified Gold with Music Canada, as well as Platinum with RIAA.
4. Take Me Back
When Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd was killed in the 1977 plane crash, younger brother Donnie Van Zant wrote (Take Me Back) as a heartfelt tribute, which is featured on the second studio album (Special Delivery). Released in March 1978, the songs and the album focused more on what was personally important to them than simply appeasing music critics. This resulted in a song many fans find difficult to listen through without feeling the emotional impact Take Me Back delivers.
3. Hold On Loosely
The second 38 Special album (Wild-Eyed Southern Boys) was released in 1981 and features the single (Hold On Loosely). With the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it ranks in third and with the US Billboard Hot 100 at #27. However, in the hearts of many fans and critics, a personal favorite as this song is consistently found among a multitude of lists that focus on the band’s discographic portfolio.
2. Caught Up In You
The year is 1982 and 38 Special releases their third studio album (Special Forces). The lead single, (Caught Up In You), became the first of the band’s songs to realize a top spot on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It also cracked to number ten on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the Canadian Singles Chart, it ranked ninth. Often, when the subject of 38 Special is brought, along with the opinion is the best single of all time to come from the band, Caught Up In You is the first that comes to mind.
1. Second Chance
Coming from the 1988 album (Rock & Roll Strategy) is the single (Second Chance), which is the most successful hit ever produced by 38 Special. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked at number one and with the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks at second. The second spot was also how high Second Chance charted with the Canadian Singles Chart. With the US Billboard Hot 100, it ranked sixth.
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