We asked the question that’s been on your mind since hearing the hit Only Wanna Be With You over 20 years ago: “Who is Hootie?” The answer we found might surprise you.
Since the mid-90s, this band has released several songs that broke into the Billboard Hot 100 list. But we never really knew that much about them and have wondered ourselves who Hootie is.
We did a deep dive to discover everything we wanted to know about this band.
Let’s check it out!
The Story of Hootie & The Blowfish
A bunch of college guys get together and make a band. We’ve heard the story a thousand times. But this band actually saw success.
Lead singer Darius Rucker studied sports journalism at the University of South Carolina before joining this band. He formed the group with classmates Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld. Mutual friends of the bandmates went by nicknames Hootie and Blowfish, so they borrowed their names as a temporary moniker.
In 1994, Hootie & The Blowfish released their inaugural album, Cracked Rear View. It became the best-selling album in the U.S. the following year by selling more than seven million copies. Today, Cracked Rear View remains one of the top 20 selling records in the U.S. of all time.
Their sophomore album, Fairweather Johnson, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200 charts in 1996. Interestingly, their first record still had a spot on the charts at the time. Fairweather Johnson, while not as successful as Cracked Rear View, sold several million copies. The band released five more albums, the last one being as recently as 2019.
Hootie & The Blowfish created straight-ahead music, perfect for house parties and tailgating. They’re no strangers to awards and have won Grammys, American Music Awards, and an MTV Music Video Award.
Who Is Hootie?
Most of us assume that lead singer Darius Rucker goes by Hootie and calls his band the Blowfish. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. So let’s figure out who Hootie actually is.
Rucker nicknamed one of his college friends Hootie because he had big, round glasses and looked like an owl. Hootie’s friend had puffy cheeks, and at a party one night, Rucker exclaimed, “look it’s Hootie and the Blowfish,” when he saw his friends.
The nicknames stuck, and the band borrowed the name when they started. It should’ve been a temporary label for the group, but when you release a number one album under a certain name, you kind of want to stick with it!
From the Muse: Want to know more about Hootie? Read Darius Rucker: The Evolution of a Great Musician!
Hootie & The Blowfish’s Best-Known Songs
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably heard some Hootie & The Blowfish songs. We’ve made a list of some of their greatest hits you’re likely familiar with.
Only Wanna Be With You
Without a doubt, many people consider this to be the band’s most popular song. The track reached number one in both Canada and the United States. It can be found on their debut album, released in 1994. The band felt inspired by Bob Dylan and wrote this song as a tribute to the artist. Some of their lyrics come directly from Dylan’s tune Idiot Wind.
They also referenced the track record of the American football team, the Miami Dolphins saying, “I’m such a baby ‘cause the Dolphins make me cry.”
This song, also released on Cracked Rearview Mirror, reached number one in Canada and the top spot on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 in the United States. Time, while it sounds like the other lighthearted songs by the group, describes a sense of existential dread. Rucker sings about time washing away his dreams.
Soni came up with the idea for the track, and because of his limited guitar experience at the time, the song ended up being relatively simple. In an interview with Songfacts, he said, “if you have something profound to say over simple music, I don’t think they’re challenging each other for space.”
Let Her Cry
Rucker and his band released Let Her Cry as their second-ever single in December 1994. It peaked at number two on the charts. The tune went on to win the group its first Grammy award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.
Let Her Cry describes the challenges of a person struggling to deal with his alcoholic wife. Rucker said he based the song on his past experiences but reversed the roles. He drank a lot in college and recalled his girlfriend trying to keep the relationship together despite his partying.
Why Did Bob Dylan Sue Hootie & The Blowfish?
Hootie & The Blowfish paid tribute to Bob Dylan with their greatest hit, but their homage proved to be a little too similar to Dylan’s work. He sued the band in 1995, and they settled the dispute without going to court.
Their song Only Wanna Be With You had lyrics that directly quoted Dylan’s Idiot Wind. The words in question went, “They say I shot a man named Gray, Took his wife to Italy, She Inherited a million bucks, And when she died it came to me, I can’t help it if I’m lucky.”
Rucker said the publishing company gave the band the go-ahead to use the lines initially. When the song became a commercial success, there became a need to pay the creator of those lyrics, Bob Dylan.
Hootie & The Blowfish rocketed to instant success with the release of their very first album. They never intended to keep the name, but their quick success led to many people asking, “who is Hootie?” It turns out Hootie isn’t in the band at all, but it doesn’t make us love the band any less.
Do you remember the first song you heard by this iconic 1990s group? Let us know in the comments below.