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Darius Rucker Was Country, Even Before He Was a Hootie Rock Star

Posted: Aug 20, 2009

In some ways it blows my ever lovin mind that Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish currently has the number one single on the country charts. In many other ways it doesn’t surprise me at all.

Rucker’s single. “Alright,” from his fall 2008 release Learn to Live, is more popular this week than Taylor Swift. I know, hard to believe. In fact, the album went platinum this week. That’s over a million units sold. Kind of a rarity these days given the economic situation.

See, to me, Darius has always been country at heart. Back in 1992, before Hootie & The Blowfish became a household name, I used to ride over to a place called Al’s Pumphouse here in Greenville quite often. I saw Toy Caldwell and his band there a few times, Derek Tucks (at age 12, but that’s another story for later) Tinsley Ellis, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Leon Russell, and Hootie & The Blowfish, this band made up of students from USC down in Columbia. Saw them several times as a matter of fact.

The debut Hootie album, Cracked Rear View, out in 1994, broke sales records left and right, eventually going 16X platinum, making it the 15th best selling album of all time in the USA. Pretty impressive.

The summer that the album was spawning one massive Top 40 hit after another, I recall my family being at the beach for a week. Hootie was being played everywhere, and they had a video on MTV for “I Only Wanna Be With You” that featured my step-son’s favorite football player - and Rucker’s -Miami Dolphin legend Dan Marino. We’d be sitting in the rental house watching the tube at night and they played that video every hour. Ben would always go nuts when Dan Marino showed up onscreen. Fun memories for sure. And yes, I loved their songs. Still do.

But years before people were mistakingly referring to Darius as “Hootie,” before they helped fellow Greenville boy Edwin McCain acheive national attention, and before the band was presented the Best New Group Grammy by a reunited original KISS along with the late Tupac Shakur, Rucker and the boys, who originally formed their band in 1986,  were entertaining us at Al’s with a mix of everything from Eagles tunes to James Taylor to Merle Haggard. Darius could nail the Hag songs. Good times.

I remember talking to the guys over a beer one night in particular, and listening to Darius talk about his love of country music, from Haggard to Willie, Hank to Waylon. Like I said earlier, seeing Darius as the biggest African American country artists since Charlie Pride really comes as no surprise. Sure, he was always a hootie guy, but he was always country.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.

PS: Rucker is slated to tape a performance in Nashville for the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show which will air on August 24.

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tuckerhead says...

His new album really sounds like a twangy Hootie. I like it.

copperhead says...

I have the CD and love it. but music was always that way. When I was in a band we were a blues rock band like Creem, but to pay the bills we played country and grew to love it. Go Darius great songs. Tinsley Ellis now thats the man whats up with him. I saw him in a small small club in Myrtle Beach and he nailed it. Talk about Hitting the note. Anyway I am a big fan of Darius and hope to hear more from him

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