In case you didn’t know, Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish fame has become a country legend since leaving the band.
Moving fully into the country scene in 2008, the musician has won numerous awards since releasing his first country record.
How did he go from “Hootie” to country star?
Let’s take a look!
The Story of Darius Rucker
Darius Rucker grew up in South Carolina surrounded by music. His dad was in a band, though not often around. He sang along to his mom’s records and later joined his high school and church choirs. Although his family struggled financially, love and music were in abundance.
Even so, Darius was able to attend college, which is where he started thinking about music as a career. At the University of South Carolina, he met Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld. Their friendship was the start of everything.
In 1986, Bryan heard Rucker singing in the shower and convinced him to form a duo called The Wolf Brothers. However, in that same year, Felber joined the band, so they renamed it Hootie & the Blowfish.
Hootie & the Blowfish Years
First, let’s explain the name. Darius Rucker is not Hootie, nor is he Blowfish. In actuality, he gave two friends from his choir years those nicknames. Rucker suggested the name to Bryan until they could find a better one. It seems they never did.
The friends played the college circuit for a while, and Soni joined them as their drummer in 1989. He was an excellent songwriter, and the others rose to his unvoiced challenge.
By 1993, they had enough money to record and release their first album, Kootchypop. They sold the 6-track EP only at their shows, but it was enough to get noticed. Later that year, they signed with Atlantic Records.
Hootie & the Blowfish’s first and most successful full-length album, Cracked Rear View, came out in 1994. Cracked made it to the top 200 five times in 1995 and became the year’s highest-selling album.
The band won two Grammys in 1996, one for Best New Artist and the other for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for Let Her Cry. In 2010, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it as 19x Platinum, making it the US all-time 15th best-selling album.
“Hootie” continued touring and released two additional records, Fairweather Johnson and Musical Chairs. But Rucker decided to focus on a solo career after 1998.
After a bit of a contractual delay, Rucker launched his solo career with an easygoing R&B album titled Back to Then. The 2002 release combined his pop-rock background with gospel and soul, yet it seemed to flounder. So, he continued performing with Hootie & the Blowfish while working on his next solo record.
When Did Darius Rucker Start Singing Country?
Rucker loved country long before The Wolf Brothers. In fact, he often wrote country pieces for Hootie & the Blowfish that they had to tweak to fit their rock genre.
The cover for his debut country album states, “I have always written Country songs…for me, this is really just part of the natural evolution of my career. I plan to be doing this for a long time. This isn’t a one album deal – it’s a career thing.”
Rucker released that first country CD, Learn to Live, in 2008. The work earned him a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry, three number one singles, and Platinum certification by the RIAA in 2009. He also became the first African-American country singer to top the charts since 1983 or to have their first three singles make #1 since 1992.
He subsequently created four additional records, plus a Christmas album, including True Believers. That record, released in 2013, contained the track, Wagon Wheel, which we’ll talk about a little more later.
Darius Rucker’s 2017 work titled, When Was The Last Time, continues to impress. And fans and critics alike are eagerly awaiting his next album, said to be coming out in 2022.
From the Muse: Speaking of 2022, Rucker has tour dates set starting in February. You can buy your tickets through his website.
What Happened to Hootie and the Blowfish?
Everyone went their separate ways in 2008. However, as with so many bands, “Hootie” decided to do a reunion tour in 2019. They even released a new album for the first time since 2006.
We couldn’t find any information about future concerts, though they plan to hold HootieFest in February 2022. With Rucker set up for his solo tour, we likely won’t see Hootie & the Blowfish out for a bit.
Darius Rucker’s Best Known Songs
Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It was his first country hit, flying to #1. Cowritten with Clay Mills, the song stemmed from both men regretting or wondering what could have been if they hadn’t walked away from certain relationships.
Believe it or not, Hootie & the Blowfish wrote their smash hit Only Wanna Be with You as a tribute to Bob Dylan. Rumor has it that Dylan knew what they were creating. However, some of the lyrics ended up being directly from his work, so Dylan’s team sued the band. Regardless, the song is at the top of just about everyone’s ‘Best of Hootie’ lists.
Darius Rucker’s cover of Wagon Wheel is certainly his most successful and likely the most well-known version of the song at this point. It was originally created as a melody and chorus by none other than Bob Dylan. Decades later, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show heard it and wrote lyrics for the tune.
In 2020, the RIAA certified Rucker’s version as 8x Platinum. It’s one of the five best-selling country songs of all time. In addition, Rucker currently has the honor of being “the only solo male country act to achieve the honor of an 8x-plus multi-Platinum song in RIAA’s history.”
Darius Rucker, Still Evolving
Darius Rucker started his musical career singing in the choir then morphed into a pop-rock star during the 90s. Now he’s evolved into a country legend who’s still challenging himself with each new album. Where will Rucker go from here?
Who knows? But we’re looking forward to seeing whatever comes next.