It is easy to think that one knows a band from a small selection of its music sometimes, and certainly .38 Special was in that category of bands. Growing up in rural central Florida, I heard some of their music regularly–“Hold On Loosely” and “Caught Up In You” for their southern rock excellence and “Second Chance” because I grew up listening to a lot of adult contemporary and that was the only song of the band’s to be popular on that chart. Still, if those are the only three songs you know from the band, you are missing a lot. Strangely enough, although I enjoy listening to and writing about Southern rock a lot, this is not a band whose fans talk to me very often. I’m not sure why that is the case. When I was investigating their sales, and their continuing to make music long after their label, A&M, dropped them, I was definitely intrigued by their career and thought it worthy of appearing in this series. All the same, given that they still have a lot of fans and still make and perform music, I wonder why their continued snub hasn’t drawn the same degree of attention that of other bands has. It remains a mystery to me.
The Influence Of .38 Special
.38 Special is one of those bands that exists as part of a family of bands. Founding guitarist Donnie Van Zant is the younger brother of the original lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the older brother of the current lead singer, who took over after their older brother died in a plane crash in 1977. Bassist Larry Junstrum had also been a part of that band before helping to found .38 Special. When we are looking at this band, therefore, we have to look at its influence as being part of a family of bands that helped establish and continue a particular Southern rock sound. Their debut album was helmed by Dan Hartman  and one of their hits was written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. This is a band that has moved within circles of musical excellence and that demonstrates the dynastic importance of rock & roll music, showing how a great deal of talent and an ability to work well with others can create a stellar career, as it did for these fine southern gentlemen. It is hard to imagine the career of someone like Edwin McCain, for example, without this band and others like it having provided a solid base of infrastructure to work with.
Why .38 Special Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Family matters a great deal to rock & roll, and it is worthwhile to consider the impact that having one successful band has on allowing for the success of family members. Andy Gibb is a part of the Bee Gees story, and .38 Special provides at least some of the greatness that we know from Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band deserves to be recognized because they paid their dues and created some great songs as well as a series of successful albums. All six of their studio albums in the 1980’s from Rockin’ Into The Night to Rock & Roll Strategy hit at least gold, and they had three platinum and one double platinum album included in that stretch. Two of their live albums have been certified at least gold (one of them triple platinum) and they have a platinum-selling compilation album, showing that the band has been able to succeed as both a singles band and an album band. Although they were a southern rock band, they had some success on the pop charts, with two top ten hits (“Caught Up In You” and “Second Chance”) and seven additional top 40 hits (“Hold On Loosely,” “You Keep Runnin’ Away,” “If I’d Been The One,” “Back Where You Belong,” “Teacher, Teacher,” “Like No Other Night,” and “The Sound Of Your Voice”), most of which were very successful on the mainstream rock charts, where they had 13 top 10 hits and 2 #1 and 2 other #2 hits . This was a band that was very successful on the rock charts and deserves way more recognition than they receive.
Why .38 Special Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
It’s hard to say. Perhaps they aren’t viewed as being in the league of their sibling band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Perhaps people only know them for their hits and haven’t investigated the rest of their music? It’s hard to say, but the combination of solid songs and a long and productive career including some live chops deserves recognition.
Verdict: Put them in.