.38 Special – Rockin Into The Clay County Fair

by Steve Janowicz
It was a mild Wednesday night at the Clay County Fair. The rides were full of kids and the vendors were serving an assortment of classic fair food. Everything felt, well, at home. Perhaps the most appropriate music to go along with such a Florida fan fair would be some good ol’ Southern rock n’ roll. How about a home town band with a long history and some of that Southern Rock royalty running through their veins? Yes, I’m talking about .38 Special. If you were born here, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but since we live in a transient area, I’ll go on. The band was formed in 1975 by Donnie Van Zant (brother of Lynyrd Skynrd’s Ronnie) and Don Barnes. As the original members who have stayed steadily employed since then, Van Zant and Barnes have chalked up five gold and four platinum albums. The invention of MTV and release of creative early videos by the band, as well as guitar distinct hit songs – launched the band from Jacksonville to international success. That’s my history lesson, now on to the show.
As the fans waited for the band to take the stage, I noticed families and friends reunite to enjoy the atmosphere. The same was happening back stage as a long line of folks waited to see the band. This was a fun, laidback evening full of love and connection. Big Engine was on stage first and as always warmed up the crowd nicely although they were a bit loud in my opinion with the young ears in the seats.
.38 took the stage and did not disappoint their hometown friends as they immediately launched into what is undoubtedly their most famous tune ‘Rockin Into The Night.’ Sounding as they did 20 years ago, the wild-eyed southern boys pushed through their 90-plus minute set of hits. ’20th Century Fox’, ‘Fantasy Girl’, ‘Hold On Loosely’ all were played to perfection with Donnie’s stage galloping and twirling the mic stand as usual. The surprise of the evening was Donnie’s little brother Johnny (Lynyrd Skynyrd) joining him onstage to sing their hit country song, ‘Help Somebody.’ This was an expected treat for the crowd and they showed their appreciation with a roar of cheering and applause.
It’s obvious when a 30 year veteran band is going through the motions (and it’s almost understandable), however, that was not the case last night. .38 Special not only gave the hometown crowd what they wanted, they had a blast in doing so. The last song of the night was a cover of CCR’s ‘Travlin Man.’ Donnie was leaning off the stage holding his microphone out for a few kids to sing along. This was a fun show with a fun band! FUN!