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38 Special The Early Years, The Secret Name Before They Were Famous

Photo by Carl Dunn used by permission from .38 Special

I was lucky enough to talk to Don Barnes, the lead singer of 38 Special. Tonite they ROCK the stage at the Clyde. In an earlier interview Don reveals some early history on the band.

Don Barnes revealed

Before .38 SPECIAL it was ALICE MARR. That name was in the encyclopedia. It was a mythical ghost ship that was manned by sailors who had died from the plague. What an upbeat name. (Laughing) We couldn’t practice in a garage because we would get the cops called on us, so we found this abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere. So we found who owned this shack and we rented it. They would always say, “Why do they want to rent that beat-up shack out in the middle of nowhere?” The first practice space we rented was in the back of a barbershop, we were loading in, and he didn’t know what we were doing. We would practice at night, not going into the barbershop. He would come in the morning and see all these bottles of broken tonic that vibrated off the shelf on the floor. (Laughing) They kick us out. We found this old auto parts shop north of Jacksonville; we were out there three months. We had to re-enforce the walls with two by fours and chains and things.


We couldn’t stay out there with our equipment, which we left there because we had day jobs. So we drilled a hole through the cinder blocks and through the door, which was about a foot thick, like a bolt door and we put a tractor trailer chain through it and locked it up. We were irresponsible kids, though… so at one point we lost the key, and we had to climb up the drainpipe and go in through a hinged window on the top of the building. So this is what we had to do for a few months. So these were the lean years, when we had a car to get to practice we would all pile in (bald tires and all) and we would all chip in twenty-five cents to get gas to get there. That’s paying your dues.


So we were out there one night practicing and I guess the cops decided to have a raid on this building. So we were playing this song, it was loud and when we stopped, we heard these cops beating on the door and blowing horns. There were about fifteen cop cars with lights going and everything, and all we could hear through the door was, “Come out with your hands up!” They couldn’t get in because it was locked. We were yelling to the cops that we would come out, but we have to come out from the top because we lost the key to the lock. We heard one cop say, “I have a .38 SPECIAL; I’ll just shoot the lock off like the old west days.” After that we were going to play an old dirty club and we didn’t have a name for the band so we said, “Let’s just use .38 SPECIAL for now,” and never changed it.

Original interview by Brian Rademacher

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