It was 1976 and the nation had bicentennial fever. Everything was red, white and blue. Fireworks displays were bigger than ever. And the country's history was encapsulated into nightly bicentennial minutes during the network news.
A little band out of the south was just getting together. They had every intention of creating rock and roll history. And they have.
The band is 38 Special and in 1977, their self-titled album debut became the first of 15, many of them going gold or platinum and topping sales of 20 million.
The band still tours, scheduling over 100 shows each year. Their current tour will bring them to the United Wireless Arena in Dodge City on Oct. 12.
On the road again
The Globe spoke by phone with Don Barnes, guitarist, vocalist and founding member of the band. Barnes was catching up on some interviews, making use of some unexpected spare time following the cancellation of a concert in Seattle due to smoke from nearby forest fires.
"We didn't expect to be going this long when we cobbled this little band together back then," Barnes said.
"But you get out there on stage and you can forget your troubles. It beats hanging sheetrock. I told one of the guys the other day 'If I knew I'd still be looking at your face I would've thought twice.'"
Barnes attributes the group's longevity to the way the members get along.
"It's a brotherhood and every night's a celebration of that. We've kept our standards high and we go out there to knock it out of the park every show," he said.
Of course, the group's fame is based on a solid list of hits: "Hold On Loosely," "Caught Up In You," "If I'd Been the One," — the list goes on.
And they guys play those songs at every show.
"Those songs are timeless and I think we play them even better now than we did originally," Barnes said.
Four of the six original member still tour with the band.
"We used to have two drummers — a lot of people don't remember that — but one of the drummers, who was a pretty wild guy, went off and became an evangelist minister," Barnes said.
Members of the group now live all over the country, but the convene in Nashville every year to put the tour together.
"It's like you can be 19 years old again," Barnes said.
They make a few changes every year to keep things fresh. This year they're featuring a medley of their music that's been used in movie soundtracks.
"We realize it takes a lot for people to get to these shows, so we like to blast off with a big opening, then give them a little break in the middle then end with a big finish," Barnes said.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're a better band now than we've ever been. We've learned to respect the space between the beats and not just play as loud and fast as we can. You learn to calm down, no matter how psyched the crowd is, and let the power of the groove happen, When you do that, every performance is incredible," Barnes said.
As for the Dodge City audience?
The typical audience for a 38 Special concert today covers at least three generations.
"There are some young kids at every concert that remind us of ourselves when we were young — when we'd go see Led Zepplin for $6. These kids know our music from their Guitar Hero and they're excited to be there," Barnes said.
"We just hope everyone can make it out to see us. We'll bring 100% so it's kind of a phone-the-neighbors-and-wake-the-kids thing," Barnes said.
IF YOU GO
What: 38 Special in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12
Where: United Wireless Arena
Tickets: Ticketmaster or the arena box office