Southern rock band 38 Special returns to Silver Springs

Southern rockers 38 Special return Saturday to Silver Springs for a 3 p.m. performance.

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.

When 38 Special founders Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant look out into the audience these days, they see fans from 8 to 80, they say. Perhaps more surprising: This multi-generational melting pot is singing nearly every line to nearly every song.


38 Special

What: Longtime Southern rock group performs
When: 3 p.m. Saturday; Unchained Chaos opens at 12:45 p.m.
Where: Silver Springs, 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala
Park admission: $24.99-$29.99 (352-236-2121)

That’s a big deal for a 34-year-old Southern rock band whose biggest hits topped the charts more than a decade ago.

“I tell ya, we are lucky to have that cross-section. Because of these Guitar Hero games and Rock Band (game) things, there’s a lot of new fans,” Barnes said during a phone interview Friday. “Of course all the regular fans from the ’80s and the ’90s, they’ve brought their kids up on this. They come to the shows, and the kids are pretty well versed in all the records.

“This Rock Band thing, we see kids out there high-fiving each other, and Donnie and I just look at each other. We were that way too when we saw Zeppelin for six bucks, ya know?”

Chances are, there will be many high-fives and air-guitar moves when the band returns to Silver Springs on Saturday for a 3 p.m. concert. The venue — Florida’s beloved nature park — fits the band’s bill these days. “Twin Oaks amphitheater? Yeah, I remember that. It was like three ‘o clock in the afternoon or something,” he said, his voice growing more excited as the memory sharpened. “Yeah, they had a lot people out there, a lot of Southern rock fans out there.”

In addition to the chart-toppers — “Hold on Loosely,” “So Caught Up In You”— the show will include a medley of what Barnes calls secondary favorites, particularly 38 Special tunes recorded for movie soundtracks. Remember “Teacher, Teacher” from the 1984 Nick Nolte comedy “Teachers” or “Back to Paradise” from “Revenge of the Nerds II”?

But the meat of 38 Special shows remains the big hits that framed much of the ’80s, big hits that now have found new life on gaming platforms.

“For a while, when we’d do ‘Hold on Loosely,’ I’d see all the kids out there and I’d say, ‘This goes out to all the Guitar Heroes,’” Barnes said of the band’s 1981 smash with the familiar opening riffs. “That song is anthemic for us.”

The song, as many recall, had an upbeat, jam feel. It advised listeners to hold on loosely to the things you love or they may slip away. Many fans in the early ’80s considered it a key soundtrack to budding romance. Truth is, the classic evolved from a dark place.

“It was a good piece of advice out of something negative,” Barnes said. “That was a relationship that was ending. It was a divorce I went through back then; she was trying to keep me under her thumb, and I was trying to be somebody.”

“A lot of those songs,” he continued, “were taken from real-life experiences. We always try to put an element of the truth in there. It’s not your usual, contrived ‘I want you/I need you’ song, Donnie and I remember sitting at the dining room table just scratching out lyrics trying to come up with the best thing, the best approach. It’s been amazing to see 10,000 or 15,000 people sing along to those songs.”

And after playing them over and over and over for three decades, Barnes maintains the songs do not get old.

“We try to make it exactly like the first time we recorded it. The passion. We don’t want to be going through motions,” he said. “We’re trying to bring the audience in with us. It’s easy because you see the looks on their faces and the tears in their eyes. They relate these songs to times in their lives. It’s moving to see the feedback, so we try to make it as 110 percent as we can make it.”

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