Songs are written, recorded and released. Many are heard and forgotten. Others strike a chord and stay around awhile. Then there are the rare few that become a part of our culture, and 38 Special songs are deep in the American fabric. Songs such as ‘Caught Up In You’ and ‘Hold On Loosely’ are known by young and old alike. Lead singer Don Barnes takes a break from recording and touring to discuss their upcoming concert in Green Bay with REO Speedwagon …
WM: Great to talk with you Don. We are really excited for your show at the Resch Center on March 11.
DB: We are too! We were approached about three months ago for this show and it didn’t really work out with our touring schedule. Then I found out about all the charities that a part of the proceeds are going to. And REO Speedwagon are old friends of ours. We all survived through the eighties together. Great guys to hang out with and great songs. So it’s going to be a great show. We line up those hits and play them with as much conviction and passion as we did the day we recorded them. If we went through the motions, it would be boring! So we want to see people high-fiving each other and singing along. It’s a great job to bring that kind of joy to people, and also with the charity organizations for this show as well.
WM: Your songs have been radio staples for decades. What’s the oddest place you’ve heard one of them?
DB: Well, of course there’s bathrooms and restaurants and things like that. But when I’m off the road I have a personal trainer that I go see. My real name is Richard, and that’s what I go by there. So for three years now he doesn’t know who I am and I’m sweating away as I do all his workout routines. There’s always music coming out of the speakers up in the ceiling, and sometimes our songs come on. He’s singing along to ‘Hold On Loosely’ while I’m picking up the dumbbells! (laughs) It’s a surreal moment. If he only knew! I don’t say anything because there’s a lot of people in there and word would get around. I don’t want them watching me as I’m sitting on the ground sweating! (more laughs)
WM: Let’s warp back to 1987. You leave 38 Special and start working on a solo record that never gets released until just recently. How did that come about?
DB: When I left the band our record label, A&M, offered me a solo album. So they financed the whole thing and let me hand-pick the best players in the world. It was all finished and mixed. Even the cover art was being worked on when A&M was sold to PolyGram. The new staff coming in didn’t have any emotional investment so the record was shelfed. It was stuck in limbo and through the years, I was always trying to get the rights to it. Finally, it was released through an Australian label called Melodic Rock Records last year. Surprisingly, it’s been getting five stars on Amazon and other outlets across the world! But it really was a true long lost record.
WM: Did A&M still have the masters tapes for it?
DB: No, they destroyed the masters! You would have thought they would have been in a climate controlled vault somewhere. So when I was approached about releasing it, we did three different searches for the tapes but they were trashed. Now shortly after I recorded it, the engineer handed me the final mix in a box with red lettering on it. I lost track of that box through the years and now Melodic Rock wants to release it. So I checked up in the attic and the basement, but I just couldn’t find it. It turns out that my son had it in his storage items in the bottom of a bin. I just about fainted! And that’s what they took to make the record.
WM: Your charity concert in Green Bay also features Warrant and REO Speedwagon. Have you ever shared a stage with either band before?
DB: Yes, we’ve shared many stages with REO through the years. We were the support act for the Hi Infidelity tour when they were the biggest band in the world back in the eighties. So we are looking forward to it. Like I said, it wasn’t in our plan to be doing this with our tour schedule. But we found out about all the great charities involved in this show and we had to do it!
WM: What’s on the horizon for 38 Special?
DB: We just got back from the studio. We try to carve out some time between touring, as we still do a hundred cities a year. We have some great songs we wrote with Jim Peterik from the band Survivor. He wrote ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and co-wrote a lot of our hits through the years. So we should have something new out in the fall of this year!