April 27, 2017
A month before Hootie & the Blowfish went through the stratosphere in 1994, I asked Darius Rucker if his band would play basketball against a few friends and me at the Roxborough YMCA.
“We did play a lot of basketball before shows when we could back then,” Rucker said while calling from Nashville.
“It was a very different time. I was young and so much of this was so new.”
Back when cell phones were uncommon and the Internet was in its infancy, Rucker’s pop-rock band was a household name, courtesy of its breakthrough album, 1994’s “Cracked Rear View,” which sold more than 16 million copies.
“The experience was mind blowing,” Rucker said. “We never dreamed that could happen.”
What is perhaps even more amazing is that Rucker, 50, has a notable second act. The laidback, married father of three is a country star. Capitol Records Nashville signed the soft-spoken singer-songwriter to a contract.
“I couldn’t believe that I had such an opportunity,” Rucker said. “All of my success was in the world of pop rock and I’m African-American.”
Rucker’s touch with the charts continued as a country artist. “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” and “Alright” hit the top of the country singles charts. 2010’s “Charleston SC 1966” has nearly gone gold courtesy of its combination of upbeat cuts and poignant ballads.
“Who could have guessed that this would happen,” Rucker said. “It’s been amazing.”
Well, when you break down the Hootie & the Blowfish hits, such as “Let Her Cry,” “I Only Wanna Be With You” and “Hold My Hand,” it’s evident that each could have been country songs with slight modifications.
“That’s true,” Rucker said. “Those songs can be country songs. But Hootie & the Blowfish isn’t a country band.”
Rucker still plays occasionally with Hootie & the Blowfish. The group performed last year in Charleston, S.C. and the members of the act talk about getting back together for an album.
It all started for me in those frats, and now, here I am.”
“We never broke up,” Rucker said. “We’re all still good friends. We don’t have any issues with each other. We’ve all just gone on to do different things. I always appreciate where it started for me.”
Hootie & the Blowfish formed in 1986 at the University of South Carolina, where each of the band members went to school. Hootie & the Blowfish shared frat party bills with the Dave Matthews Band a generation ago.
“How crazy is it that both bands did so well?” Rucker said. “It all started for me in those frats, and now, here I am.”
Rucker, who will perform Friday, April 28 at a sold-out Fillmore, is immersed in the country life and has no time for basketball before shows.
“Everything has changed for me,” he said. “But sometimes change is a good thing.”