Don Barnes, one of the founding members of .38 Special, has a message for all those music pirates out there.
Go to it.
"We've always been known as a live band. That's something you can't go out and download - a live show," he said in a recent phone interview from Imperial, Neb. "We feel like, if people are going to download songs for free, go ahead. The more people that get their ears on the music, (the more) they'll tell somebody.
The current lineup of .38 Special is (from left) Bobby Capps, Don Barnes, Donnie Van Zant, Gary Moffatt, Danny Chauncey and Larry Junstrom.
"We're in the middle of Nebraska, and yet there's 10,000 people out there. The audience really sees that it's a celebration - we try to bring the audience into the party."
The party comes to Altoona next week, as .38 Special performs as part of the Alive@Five concert series Aug. 29 at the Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona. The opening acts will be acoustic guitarist Dustin Burley and rock band Half Tempted. Doors open at 5 p.m.
"We are so excited to be bringing .38 Special to Altoona," said Scott Stuttard, the president of in2it, the Hollidaysburg-based entertainment company bringing the show to the area. ".38 Special is ... the perfect band for this area. This truly is going to be one of the biggest shows to hit Altoona in years."
If you go
Who: .38 Special, with Half Tempted and Dustin Burley
When: Aug. 29, doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona
Tickets: $25, available from 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the museum or online at www.railroadcity.com
.38 Special was formed in 1975 in Jacksonville, Fla., by childhood friends Barnes and Donnie Van Zant - the younger brother of late Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant and current Skynyrd singer Johnny Van Zant. Originally a Southern rock outfit, the group moved more toward a hard rock sound.
Behind that arena-friendly rock, .38 Special found big success in the 1980s with hits like "Caught Up in You," "If I'd Been the One" and their signature song, "Hold on Loosely."
Barnes, 56, says the reason those songs continue to resonate with fans is because they were written from real experiences. Their biggest hits, "Hold on Loosely" and "Caught Up in You," were based on real relationships Barnes had.
"Every one of those songs was truthful - I think people can tell when something is false," he said. "We always explored relationships - that's really the key, we still have a lot of women coming to the show with their husbands."
The timeless subjects have helped .38 Special make it intact through three decades - Barnes says the band still has four original members.
"It was our goal in the first place to have longevity," he said. "We never wanted to be the flavor of the week. Being in a band is like being married to six guys."
After a pause, he added with a laugh, "This band has lasted longer than most of our marriages!"
Though the band has never matched their early '80s peak, .38 Special is constantly working and has found a new audience among country music fans. The group's Southern rock roots served them well last year, when they appeared on CMT's "Crossroads" with country star Trace Adkins.
"The lines are kind of blurred between Southern Rock and country now," Barnes said. "All those bands kinda grew up on us and Lynyrd Skynyrd. ... You see all these guys, like Rascal Flatts, and they're all trying to be rock bands."
.38 Special also inspired the band that will open for them, Half Tempted.
"We're real familiar with the band," said Joe George, Half Tempted's bassist. "They've had a ton of hits, and we grew up listening to them. It's going to be an honor to open for them."
Half Tempted was founded by guitarist/singer Ron Dalansky of Altoona nearly 20 years ago and has gone through many lineups in that time, with Dalansky as the constant. The current band is made up of Dalansky, George of Hollidaysburg and drummer Clint Carothers of Hollidaysburg, with Steve Oswalt of Woodbury serving as an occasional guest vocalist.
Half Tempted has also opened Alive@Five concerts this year for John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band and Eddie Money, but George says .38 Special's harder edge is more in tune with Half Tempted's style.
"We're more of a rock 'n' roll band, so we're a bit more excited to open up for .38," he said.
And Barnes is excited to make the trip, as well. He said the band hears a lot about the city from its long-time sound engineer John Livoti, an Altoona native.
Then again, he's excited to perform just about anywhere.
"It's the greatest job in the world, making people happy," Barnes said. "People still want to put the top down and sing along."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.