The music business is littered with kid brothers who have tried to follow in their sibling's footsteps. Record companies usually encourage this, hoping lightening will strike twice. In Rock, lightening has enough trouble striking once.
In the early '70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd was on top of the world. And they stayed that way until the plane went down in '77. Ronnie Van Zant was Skynyrd's lead singer. His kid brother, Donnie, hungered for the same success. While it would take him longer to achieve it, at least Donnie survived.
A year after Lynyrd Skynyrd's first album was released in '73 .38 Special formed with Donnie Van Zant on lead vocals. Guitarists Jeff Carlisi and Don Barnes, bassist Ken Lyons and drummer Jack Grondin rounded out the original line-up. For the next six years the band haunted the Rock circuit looking for the major break. However, they hovered closer to break up than break out. Larry Junstrom replaced Lyons. Steve Brookins took over on drums.
.38 Special finally hit in '80 with the classic "Hold On Loosely." "Caught Up In You" was the highlight of the "Special Forces" record. The '82 video featured Bruce Springsteen's future ex-wife Julianne Phillips. Their '83 album "Tour de Force" had "If I'd Been The One" and "Back Where You Belong."
With Ronnie in Lynyrd Skynyrd and Donnie in .38 Special you might think there would be similarities. Aside from both being guitar-oriented Southern Rock groups there really wasn't much. Skynyrd relied on loose Country/Blues jams while .38 Special delivered tight, mainstream Rock.
.38 Special is Southern Rock's premier singles group. "Flashback," a hits collection, delivers the goods. Four of the fourteen songs are rollicking live tracks. "Tour de Force" with "If I'd Been The One" and "Back Where You Belong" is the studio album to get. Other early '80s albums are generally solid. After that, forget it.