In September 2021, Jeff Carlisi gave some interviews following the reissue of two 38 Special albums, "Wild-eyed southern boys" and "Special forces".

Here is a small summary of his remarks, mainly drawn from his interviews with The Rockpit and Velvet Thunder (two English webmagazines).

Jeff gives some information about his personal life and his musical journey.

His family is of Sicilian origin and comes from Boston. His father is a combat pilot in the Navy and finds himself transferred to Jacksonville.

The parents of little Jeff ask their son if he does not want to learn the piano because his cousin plays this instrument. The teacher warns the parents that a piano is expensive and takes up space in a house. In summary, this risks incurring a lot of investment for nothing if the child does not wish to continue his learning. He then hands the child an accordion. Little Jeff therefore began to dabble in the "strap piano" (squeezebox) at the age of nine. But he prefers to play the credits of the cartoons he watches on television by ear instead of working on his exercises (which greatly annoys his teacher).

In 1964, he discovered the Beatles and he never got over it. There he is sure of what he wants to do: learn to play the guitar!

Her parents buy a small acoustic guitar to the great joy of Jeff who hardly leaves it anymore. He falls asleep with it and plays it as soon as he wakes up. Jeff says he still owns this unbranded instrument.

He is not the only one to be affected by the music virus because he has for neighbors Billy Powell, Allen Collins and Leon Wilkeson. On the other side of town dwell the brothers Van Zant, Gary Rossington et Larry Junstrom.

Jeff describes the music scene in Jacksonville and the atmosphere there at that time. He says the British Invasion had a big influence on young bands there. For example, the first time he hears Lynyrd Skynyrd in a "Teen club", the fledgling combo plays "Walk in my shadow" by Free.

According to him, everyone knew each other and played in the same clubs, forming a kind of musical community. So young Jeff walks into a music store one day and sees Duane Allman trying out a guitar. Without being part of his relatives, he can even chat for a few moments with Skydog.

Jeff says he saw the early days of the Allman Brothers Band. When Duane returns to Jacksonville, he has a solid reputation behind him (Allman Joys, Hour Glass and his fame as a session guitarist for Muscle Shoals studios). He plays with his brother Gregg and other local musicians giving free outdoor concerts that attract all kinds of people (from high school students to hippies to bikers). Jeff remembers that someone had to watch for the arrival of the cops because the smoking was going well. He attended (with hundreds of other people) the meeting between the Allman brothers and the guys from The Second Coming (the Dickey Betts combo which includes Jaimoe, Berry Oakley, Reese Wynans on keyboards and the future Iron Butterfly Larry Reinhardt on guitar). After jamming together, they decide to reunite and form the Allman Brothers Band.
For Jeff, seeing this band play was the best musical education possible.

Jeff's influences are many and varied. He cites Free (and its guitarist Paul Kossof), Brian May of Queen (for his melodic six-string approach), blues, country music, Eric Clapton and Jerry Reed's guitar picking. He also claims to have tried to play the pedal steel guitar.

In 1970, in high school, Jeff played in the group Sweet Rooster with Donnie Van Zant. He then went off to college for four years and returned to Jacksonville with his architecture degree in hand. He joined Donnie Van Zant and Don Barnes (who had already contacted him a few months before his graduation) in the future 38 Special. The rest is history.

Jeff says he played the melodic solos while Don Barnes did the rockier solos.

For Jeff, a solo must be able to be memorized, be sung or whistled. In short, we must remember this.

Jeff is not necessarily very explicit about his departure from 38 Special. In an interview, he said that he would have liked to do another album with Don Barnes (when the latter returned) but apparently the magic was no longer there. Also, Danny Chauncey (who had replaced Don) was still around and the three-guitar formula didn't work for 38 Special.

In another interview, Jeff is content with a short sentence, saying that his departure from the group was a mixture of "I quit / I got fired". We won't know more.

Mister Carlisi leaves 38 Special in 1997 and takes part in the formation of the group Big People which does not record any disc but which obviously brought a lot of joy to Jeff. It must be said that this formation has only smart set: Jeff, Michael Cartellone on drums, Derek St Holmes (vocalist of Ted Nugent), guitarist Pat Travers and Benjamin Orr (of the group The Cars) on bass.

Jeff was part of the Rock'N'Roll Hall of Fame backing band and has backed many well-known artists.

Jeff now declares himself semi-retired. He founded the company "Camp Jam" (a musical summer camp for children and teenagers) and a co-authored book ("Jam", a book that explains the importance of playing in a band to acquire the spirit of team and the sense of cohesion).

During these various interviews, Jeff Carlisi also talks about the career history of 38 Special.

And we start with a scoop! The anecdote of the police raid on the rehearsal room (and which would be the origin of the name of the group) is totally false! It was actually an invention on the part of the record company who wanted a story in the Southern tradition.

According to Jeff, it is a friend of the band who would have advanced this name. The place did exist and was located in the middle of the forest. According to Jeff, the guys from 38 Special could only disturb raccoons and snakes. On the contrary, the young musicians maintained excellent relations with the local cops who often watched their place or sometimes hung out with them.

Initially, the guys from 38 Special wanted to follow in the footsteps of their idols (Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker Band) then they decided to find a more personal style.

Jeff explains the reason for the presence of the two drummers within 38 Special. It's very simple, the members of the group liked them both so they kept them. Jeff confirms that they were playing the exact same drum parts in perfect sync.

The major influence of 38 Special would be the band The Cars. And when you listen to "Just what I needed" (from the same Cars), you think that's probably true.

38 Special's first two records were unsuccessful. It took until the third album for the group to finally find its style. For Jeff, the association with producer Rodney Mills and Jim Peterik (the singer of Survivor) was decisive.

While 38 Special scored a big hit with the single "Rockin' into the night", "Wild-eyed southern boys" was the group's first album to sell well. Jeff says that 38 Special wanted to break away from the Southern rock clichés at the time, and he and his buddies were quite disappointed by the cover art's decidedly "redneck" vibe. But he thinks that this famous cover has undoubtedly contributed to the success of the disc.

The single "Hold on loosely" was originally a message from Don Barnes to his wife.

According to Jeff, the rise of the band was done gradually starting with the small clubs, the halls of two thousand people, then the halls of five thousand places up to the stadiums of twenty thousand people.

Jim Barnes (Don's brother) plays harmonica on "Rough housin'".

According to Jeff, backing vocalists were never considered band members (even though backing vocals are very important in 38 Special's music).

In 1981, 38 Special opened for Jefferson Starship. After "Special forces", the band came into the limelight more often.

Jeff claims that 38 Special didn't really start headlining until the "Tour de Force" album. successor to "Special forces" with its mega hit "Caught up in you".

In 1984, Huey Lewis and the News opened for 38 Special (Bon Jovi would do so in 1986).

Jeff specifies that these two reissues do not contain any bonus tracks. Not all 38 Special master tapes have been digitized. In 2008, a fire severely damaged Universal Studios and many tapes were destroyed (including those containing some unreleased tracks from the band).

And finally, Jeff Carlisi says he is very satisfied with the reissue of these two major 38 Special discs. He always seems to feel great and that's good!

« Melodic guitar forever ! »

Olivier Aubry
Translation : Y. Philippot-Degand

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