Hootie Who?

darius rucker – photo: marc hauser

 

Hootie Who?

South caught up with Darius Rucker at a unique moment in his career. Having just stunned the country music world by winning New Artist of the Year at the CMAs, the once-and-future Hootie and the Blowfish frontman's second chapter would ultimately lead to Grammy-winning success and fame as a solo artist.

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Lowcountry native Darius Rucker is known for three things: his rich voice, one of the best-selling albums of all time and his chart-topping country music success. But he longs to be remembered for something else.
 
Rucker and his Hootie bandmates solder more than 25 million albums, including their breakout record, 1994's Cracked Rear View, one of the best-selling records of all time. Now 44, Rucker is still topping the charts – but as a country music solo artist. His debut single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," from his platinum album Learn to Live spent two weeks at No. 1 on the country charts. The Country Music Association (CMA) also recently named him its new artist of the year.
 
To the native Southerner, who seems to find success wherever he goes, the key is never forgetting where he came from. "The thing that is great for me and awesome is that I've lived a fantasy life," Rucker explains. "I came from a little town in South Carolina, and we put out a record that was hugely successful, and we had a great touring career. I have a beautiful wife and wonderful kids, and I live in the town that I choose to live." Of his most recent success, he add, "All this is gravy. This whole country thing is gravy. It's just awesome."
 
A decade, a few Hootie albums and even an R&B record later, Rucker was finally ready to try his musical hand at the genre that captured his interest as a young man. He wasn't looking for a record deal, just an avenue to express the pent-up country music energy inside him. "I was going to make [the album] in a basement with some friends," he explains, "when suddenly my manager is having dinner with the president of Capitol Records and my name is brought up, and the next thing I know I have a record deal."
 
These days, Rucker himself is often compared to a class: Charley Pride, the first African-American country superstar. Ever since the heyday of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams, country music has been a traditionally "white" genre and has been dominated by white artists. Charley Pride was the first to break the unspoken color in 1969, and Darius Ricker is largely thought of as the second.
 
"I didn't get signed because I was an African-American; I got signed because I can sing. That's what it comes down to. If somebody's really special, I think they'll get a shot."
 
This self-proclaimed Southern boy wants to be remembered for more than his face or even his catchy tunes. "I just want people to say he can sing," Rucker says plainly. "…You can say whatever you want, but when someone says I have no talent, that's crap." Don't mistake his confidence for vanity, though; Rucker just knows that it was more than luck that helped him top the charts-for the second time-in a second genre.
 
After a moment's thought, Rucker reconsiders what he truly wants to leave behind. His answer, quite simply, is a class Southern response. "The real legacy is what I tell my wife all the time that I want on my tombstone: 'He's a nice guy.'"
 
 

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