38 Special “Special Forces” 30th anniversary

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Hundreds of miles north of Miami, Jacksonville Florida is light years away culturally from its more glamorous and glitzy counterpart downstate. Jacksonville does not show up on many listings of American music meccas alongside New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. But maybe it should. You see, the swamps at Green Cove Springs are from where the figurative band of brothers Lynyrd Skynyrd emerged. The  quintessential American outfit the Allman Brothers Band, long associated with Macon Georgia only because their manager and label head Phil Walden was based there, was formed near Jacksonville at Daytona Beach.

So for inspiration growing up together, eventual 38 Special guitarist/singer/songwriter Don Barnes and future singer Donnie Van Zant had no further to look than the Van Zant family carport attached to their home on Woodcrest Road in “JV”. That is where big brother Ronnie Van Zant, seven years older than Donnie, first put the band which eventually would settle on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd through countless hours of practice even before they were old enough to hole up in the swamp for rehearsals. In this week’s classic rock interview, Donnie and 38 Special lead guitarist Jeff Carlisi recall having to find similar headquarters in an abandoned auto parts garage to work up songs including “Rockin’ Into the Night”,”Hold On Loosely”,and ”Fantasy Girl”from 1981’s Wild Eyed Southern Boys , plus “Caught Up in You”,”Back Door Stranger”,”You Keep Runnin’ Away”, and “Chain Lightning” the following year, both multi-million sellers. – Redbeard

w/38 Special‘s Max Carl Gronenthal(l), Donnie Van Zant(c) in white hat, Redbeard (r) in Dallas circa 1988