HOLDIN’ ON, LOOSELY
Seasoned veterans of rock and roll tour leisurely, loving it all
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“For a lot of musicians, just being in the business and having success is the worst thing that can happen to them,” Danny Chauncey said regarding the lifestyle of drugs and alcohol that consumes touring artists who have, by all accounts, “made it.”
“We were in the business where it was sort of expected, and you are always praised for things. You weren’t under a lot of scrutiny… it seemed natural. I continued to party like crazy until my daughter was born, and I was 40,” he added.
Chauncey, 58, has been playing electric guitar and providing vocals for .38 Special since 1987. Although the southern rock act has been touring, releasing music, and cycling band members like a revolving door since its inception in 1974, the quintet of rockers still know how to bring the energy to the stage.
“The guys that are in .38 Special now are guys that have been in for a long time,” Chauncey said. As of right now, .38 Special consists of co-founding member Don Barnes (multi-instrumentalist and lead vocals), Booby Capps (keyboards), Gary Moffatt (drums), Barry Dunaway (bass), and Chauncey.
Until last year, both Barnes and Donnie Van Zant, the other only founding member of the band, were still present. Due to medical issues, Van Zant has been benched, which left Barnes responsible for lead vocals.
“He (Barnes) and I are both really grateful now. There is a lot of gratitude, really because you know there are a lot of other outcomes for the band and members that could’ve happened,” Chauncey said. Chauncey joined .38 Special in 1987, and aside from Barnes, the group has an entirely new lineup of musicians.
Although the new lineup has brought new faces to the stage, the sound emanating from the speakers remains untouched. One of the biggest struggles for an act like .38 Special, that is to say an act that has been playing its hits for the better part of a half century, is keeping the sound authentic and pure. There are only a handful of artists that can sustain a career for as long as .38 Special has, and to keep the fans coming, to boot.
“We still feel the same passion, but for us the thing that is cool now is that there is, in a certain sense, there is less on the line,” Chauncey said. “We have already established ourselves, people come to see us, and so now instead of feeling like we need to establish a career, it’s more like we are going out there to fulfill expectations.”
Chauncey went to talk about how .38 Special, whatever iteration happens to walk out on the stage on a given night, knows that its fans have either seen them before, or have heard something about the band.
“We feed off that. It’s a lot of fun to look across the stage at Don and know that we got this,” he said.
But one thing that Chauncey has realized later in his life is that the selfishness of being a musician comes to an end. The idea that the career of .38 Special is at stake is no longer at the forefront of thought. Instead, he acknowledges the natural progression of artists, which stepping out of the spotlight and getting into the shoes of the audience.
“If I was sitting in the audience, what would that be like?” he asked. “How do we fulfill that expectation?” One way is to play the hits, for one, and the other is to do their very best to sound like the studio recording – the way listeners may have originally heard it and want to hear when seeing the band.
Off the stage, Chauncey has also recognized a shift in his mindset in thinking of others.
“I’m a pretty self-centered individual, historically, but then you start serving and you realize that’s where the joy in your life comes from. It’s not worrying about what you’re getting, but by forgetting yourself and giving to someone else. What you receive from that is greater than what you would get if all you did was worry about what you were getting,” he said.
Chauncey plays electric guitar at his home church in Suwanee, Georgia, a town with a population just under 18,000 and just 20 miles north of Atlanta. This past Sunday, he played three different services on Sunday morning, went home to take a nap then headed to the state prison to play a service for the inmates. He also leads a marriage enrichment group with his wife.
“That’s where most of my time gets chewed up,” he said.
There is more in the works for .38 Special aside from tour stops and one-off shows. The band is currently working on new material for an upcoming album that has yet to have a release date. One of the problems, or luxuries, depending on your view, is that no one is exactly pressing them for new songs: A luxury reserved for acts that have sound-tracked entire generations with rock and roll.
“We are totally free to do it however we want. Right now, we book stuff that works with our lives. We have people who work for us that need to work a certain amount in order to pay mortgages and stuff,” Chauncey said. “We aren’t 20-years old any more, and we have families and interests outside of the band. We could work all the time if we wanted, but that doesn’t make sense for anyone.” !
.38 Special plays the new Cone Denim Entertainment Center on Saturday, Dec. 13. The doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9 p.m. Bad Romeo is scheduled to open for the band. Tickets are available at www.cdecgreensboro.com and start at $45 going up to $120.