Posts Tagged ‘Larry Junstrom’

38 Special Concert Review: As Tight As Ever


38 Special made a visit to Northeastern Ohio to share their traveling party and some really good music with their fans.  The fans got more than their moneys worth at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, as the Wild-Eyed Southern Boys delivered.  Don Barnes (left) and Donnie Van Zant (right) harmonized as well as anyone I have ever heard live.  The whole concert was very tight and proved that this band can still deliver in a big way.

Packed House Productions gets an attaboy for bringing such a big fish to the small pond.  The DeVengencie family, who runs the promotion, donated proceeds from the concert to charity and fans did not have to pay any service fees as they would when ordering tickets through Ticketmaster.


Having interviewed Barnes a few weeks ago, I was told that this band still had it.  I was promised that the concerts they play are a party and it is all about delivering for the fans.  I learned that there would be no auto tune gimmicks, no drum machines, no lip-synching, or visual distractions to cover bad sounding music.  Give Barnes credit for being an honest man.

Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers played a blistering set to open.  Grushecky was a solid choice to open because the music is pretty much in the same genre, hard-driven, blues-based rock and roll.


Once Grushecky and company wrapped up, John Batcho, aka Mr. Sports,hit the stage.  Batcho’s station, Y-103, did a really good job hyping the concert for the last several weeks.  Batcho got the honor of introducing the band.  A few minutes of introductory sound later, The first chord of Rockin’ Into The Night hit and the crowd erupted.  Right from the first note Barnes sang, it was obvious that the big sound was still there.  Van Zant harmonized through the chorus of that opening song, and people around me were all amazed at how much 38 Special still sounded like their recordings.

Barnes and Van Zant really share a role of being co-frontmen and both know how to work the crowd.  Danny Chauncey was also on the front line with the big guys and also participated in making sure his feet touched every section of the stage.  Bassist Larry Junstrom typifies a guy that is happier standing back and doing his thing.  Keyboard player, Bobby Capps, stepped forward and sang Second Chance, but otherwise was stationary because his instrument was immovable.  Drummer Gary Moffatt did a couple of fancy things, and I am sure he could have done more, but played his role as a consistent metronome, not missing a beat.


Anyone who saw the show can vouch that these guys are having a good time.  Van Zant was smiling all night (above) and seems like he enjoys himself.  Barnes just keeps busy.  Don’t get me wrong, he was having fun, or “big fun”, as he would call it, but he was switching guitars, singing, always playing, and still moving around.

The sound quality was fresh.  There were no feedback squeaks of horror or out of pitch lyrics.  For my money, a good sounding band that does not tinker with the arrangements and doesn’t have to move down a key because they can no longer hit those high notes is a band I will always pay to see. Barnes’ vocal range and consistency are amazing. I have always felt he has one of the most underrated voices in the music industry and his performance just backs up what I have been saying.


While talking to a “casual” fan at the concert in-between acts, he stated he was not sure he would know more than half of the songs, just the biggest hits.  After the concert, I sought him out to learn that he knew all but two.  The catalog that 38 Special offers is more vast than the casual fan realizes.

Before the concert, I got to meet the band.  When I told Barnes I was the guy who interviewed him a few weeks ago, he remembered my name, and for a few minutes, it felt like I was talking to a cousin who I only see every Christmas.  Guys like that are a dime a dozen in this industry and it is refreshing to know that five guys and their manager, Mark Rogers, were never too big for anybody who approached them at the meet and greet.  They signed anything put in front of them, took pictures, shook hands, and answered questions with everyone there.


After a solid two hour set, the band came back out for a three song encore featuring Hold On Loosely and covered Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s Travelin’ Band to close the show.  An appreciative audience gave a well-deserved ovation to the visitors from Florida on a job well done.

These guys are touring all Spring and well into Summer, they are a must see show if you like rock and roll played the way it should be, with heart and passion and unobstructed.  38 Special…. they never lost a thing.

Also, thanks to Ron Stevens who snapped some great pictures and to Craig Campbell who represents the band for the accessibility and courtesy.

Interview With Don Barnes of 38 Special

38_Special_colorpromo 8x10-2011

There is a band that originated quietly enough in Jacksonville, Florida way back when.  That band is called .38 Special and they are coming to the Youngstown/Warren area to perform on March 17 at Packard Music Hall.   Songs like Caught Up In You, “Back Where You Belong“, “Hold On Loosely“, and many other recognizable classics are sure to be a part of this big show.

In the eighties, .38 Special dominated MTV, Billboard Charts, and arenas around the country.  One of the coolest things about this band is they are the prototype of what a blue-collar American group boundlessly strives to become.  They are charged up and ready to put on a great show worth seeing.  Don Barnes, along with Donnie Van Zant, is one of the founding members of the band which has exceeded the 20 million mark in sales.  I was recently lucky enough to speak with Barnes via telephone in hopes of asking him a question or two he may have never heard.  Enjoy the interview, but more importantly, grab some tickets and enjoy the concert!

Paneech: How did your band, .38 Special, end up on A & M Records?  Was it a luck thing or a case of knowing someone?

Don Barnes: Back then, there were bidding wars going on between A & M, Arista, and CBS.  Southern Rock, at that time, was a pretty big deal, kind of what grunge was to Seattle in the nineties.  We went with A & M Records because it was run by musicians.  They had a strong commitment to sticking with up and coming artists and aiding with artistic development.

Paneech: How can a band as big as yours endure personnel changes and retain that magical chemistry?

Don Barnes: When you do this for as long as we have, some will grow tired of living out of a suitcase.  There are musical differences that can push a band apart, like a marriage.  Over time, there will be a difference of opinions, and we have to do what is ultimately best for the band.  Jeff Carlisi had a little girl and took a different avenue in life.  He runs something called Camp Jam where they bring in a bunch of kids every Summer and have a smaller version of a rock and roll fantasy camp.  It is a great program and we all wish Jeff the best with it!  Our original drummer, Jack Grondin, was probably the wildest guy in the band and is now a world traveling evangelical minister and spends time raising money for orphanages.  You just never know.

Paneech: If the opportunity ever presented itself for Don Barnes to be on the panel of American Idol, would you take the opportunity, or do you think Steven Tyler of Aerosmith did the wrong thing by selling out?

Don Barnes: (laughs) You know, people take everything way too seriously.  An old gentleman who I remember seeing when I was much younger always used to tell me “Don’t forget to have fun”.  Steven Tyler has been laying the groundwork for over 40 years.  If he wants to step away for a bit, more power to him, just as long as he is having fun.

Paneech: Something I find particularly disturbing in today’s music is the use of Autotune.  What do you think of it?

Don Barnes: I dislike it because it used to be that a good singer had to learn control and pitch, and now it’s all synthesized.  We like to mess around with Autotune on a bass guitar from time to time.  Overall though, I am not a big fan of Autotune.

Paneech: How much longer can you and your bandmates keep up with the fast lane of touring?

Don Barnes: Ah, we are rolling until the wheels fall off.  We set out to create a heritage and we take great pride in the longevity that we have achieved.  Longevity is a goal, and that goal is reached when everybody gets along and respects each other.  We are laying some tracks at our studio in Atlanta with some new material.  We also just completed video production of some live performances we did in Texas that will be available for purchase real soon.  We have even had some fun with some of our hits in the sense that we have stripped them down and experimented with many different genres.  For example, we did an acoustic version of If I’d Been The One where the arrangement is very stringy and vibrant.  We are also tinkering with doing some soundtrack stuff, so we are keeping really busy.

38 Special Live Credit Carl Dunn

Photo Courtesy of Carl Dunn

Paneech: Having done some research on you, I know you are an avid fisherman.  What else do you do in your spare time?  Are there any sports that the band follows?

Don Barnes: I am a football fan.  We all follow football through the playoffs and the Super Bowl.  Personally, I left the band for a few years because this career was hammering me.  During my time away, I loved to spend time in or near the water and would take my boat out.  I also started playing golf.  I even went snow skiing – imagine that, a guy from the South trying to ski.  I still try to relax and enjoy my time away from the touring as much as I possibly can.

Paneech: You have listed Eric Clapton as an influence.  Were there other influences?

Don Barnes: Growing up, I had pictures and posters of Eric Clapton all over my room.  My father would come in and I would say, “Hey dad, listen to this”, and play him something Jimi Hendrix did.  He would just shake his head and say it all sounded noisy to him.  In those days, we would put the records on a turntable and slow them down so we could pick up the licks.  I also liked Muddy Waters and really like Leslie West from Mountain.  West had that big guitar sound.

Paneech: Any messages for the fans?

Don Barnes: Come out and have a large time!  We are a premier band live and we play what the fans want.  You will see how much fun we are still having and we really feed off of each other having fun on the stage.  Our concerts are an explosive celebration and it is the best job in the world, making people happy.


One Word Answers

Favorite Meal of The Day: Dinner.

Favorite Athlete: Peyton Manning.

Song You Love Playing Live: Chained Lightning.

Favorite TV Show: The Office.

Toppings On A Pizza: Meat Lovers (and well done).

Favorite Drink: Grey Goose and Three Olives.

Biggest Phobia: Fear of Heights.

Favorite Movie: Planes Trains, and Automobiles.  Big John Candy fan.

Worst Habit: Eating Late At Night on The Bus.

Song On Your ipod That No One Would Believe: Britney Spears, Piece of Me.  I love that song, listened to it seven times in a row one night.