Born: May 13, 1966
Place of Birth: Charleston, SC
Zodiac Sign: Taurus
Darius Carlos Rucker is an American singer and songwriter. He first gained fame as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, which he founded in 1986 at the University of South Carolina along with Mark Bryan, Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, and Dean Felber. The band released five studio albums with him as a member and charted six top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Rucker co-wrote most of the songs with the other members.
He released a solo R&B album, Back to Then in 2002 on Hidden Beach Recordings but no singles from it charted. Six years later, Rucker signed to Capitol Nashville as a country music singer, releasing the album, Learn to Live that year. Its first single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", made him the first black artist to reach number one on the Hot Country Songs charts since Charley Pride in 1983. (Ray Charles hit number one in March 1985 in a duet with Willie Nelson with "Seven Spanish Angels".) It was followed by two more number one singles, "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright" and the number three hit "History in the Making". In 2009, he became the first black American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association, and the second black person to win any award from the association. A second album, Charleston, SC 1966, was released on October 12, 2010. The album includes the number one singles, "Come Back Song" and "This".
Darius Rucker has been the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish since its formation in 1986. He met fellow band members Mark Bryan, Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, and Dean Felber while attending the University of South Carolina. Bryan first heard Rucker singing in the shower, and the two became a duo, playing R.E.M. covers at a local venue. They later recruited Felber and finally Sonefeld joined in 1989. As a member of Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has recorded six studio albums: Cracked Rear View – 1994, Fairweather Johnson – 1996, Musical Chairs – 1998, Scattered, Smothered & Covered – 2000, Hootie & the Blowfish and Looking for Lucky – 2005, also charting within the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 six times. All six albums feature songs that Rucker, Bryan and Felber wrote. As the frontman, Rucker began to be called simply "Hootie" in the media, though the band title combines the nicknames of his college friends. Before his rise to fame, he lived in the basement of the Sigma Phi Epsilon house at the University of South Carolina, attempting to launch his career through the college bar scene.
Rucker's signature contribution to the band is his baritone voice, which Rolling Stone has called "ingratiating," TIME has called "low, gruff, charismatic," and Entertainment Weekly has characterized as a "barrelhouse growl." Rucker said they "flipped" the formula of the all black band with a white frontman, like Frank Sinatra performing with Count Basie. Musically, he has sometimes been criticized or spoofed for not being "black enough". Saturday Night Live ran a sketch of Tim Meadows playing Rucker leading beer-drinking, white fraternity members in a counter-march to Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. He also received death threats for singing the Hootie song "Drowning," a protest song against the flying of the Confederate flag above the South Carolina statehouse.
Shortly after gaining a measure of fame, Felber and Rucker (who consider themselves best friends) moved into an apartment in Columbia, South Carolina. With Rucker's recognition as the frontman of a successful band came increased opportunities. In October 1995, he was asked to sing the national anthem at the World Series. Frank Sinatra invited him to sing at his 80th birthday party; he sang "The Lady Is a Tramp." That same week, he made a voice cameo in an episode of the sitcom Friends. He also joined Nanci Griffith on the song "Gulf Coast Highway" for her 1997 album Blue Roses from the Moons, and sang backing vocals on Radney Foster's 1999 album See What You Want to See. He encouraged Atlantic Records to agree to a deal with Edwin McCain and made a guest appearance on McCain's debut album, Honor Among Thieves.
In 2001, he made his solo R&B debut album, The Return of Mongo Slade, for Atlantic Records. Because of contractual changes, it was never released by the label. Hidden Beach Recordings, an independent label, acquired the masters from Atlantic and released the album as Back to Then in July 2002. The album included work from the production team of Jill Scott, and she made an appearance on the track "Hold On." The single "This Is My World" was featured in the 2001 comedy film Shallow Hal. In regards to the album, "That was just a minute in my life," he later told The Arizona Republic about the record. "I was listening to a lot of Notorious B.I.G. and Lauryn Hill at that time, and I wanted to make a neo soul record." He also said in the article that he doesn't anticipate recording an R&B-styled disc again. "Country music is my day job now. I'll probably do this till it's all over, but that album was a lot of fun."
Rucker appeared on a pop-star edition of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in July 2001. He also portrayed a singing cowboy in a television commercial for the fast-food company Burger King, promoting its TenderCrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwich in 2005. In the commercial, he sang a jingle set to the tune of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." In 2006 Rucker lent his voice to the track "God's Reasons" written by Dean Dinning and Joel A. Miller for the film The Still Life.
In early 2008, Rucker signed to Capitol Records Nashville as the beginning of a career in country music. His first solo single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" (which he co-wrote with Clay Mills) debuted at No. 51 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts for the week of May 3, 2008. It is the first single from his second album, Learn to Live. For this album, Rucker worked with Frank Rogers, a record producer who has also produced for Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins. Rucker also made his Grand Ole Opry debut in July 2008. The single reached number one in September, making Rucker the first solo, African-American artist to chart a number one country hit since Charley Pride's "Night Games" in 1983.
Learn to Live was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 6, 2009 and received a platinum certification on August 7, 2009. The album's second single, "It Won't Be Like This for Long", spent three weeks at the top of the country chart in mid-2009. Its follow-up, "Alright", became Rucker's third straight No. 1 hit, making him the first singer to have his first three country singles reach No. 1 since Wynonna in 1992. The album's fourth single, "History in the Making" was released in September and peaked at NO. 3. The singles also crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 35, 36, 30 and 61.
Rucker released his second country album, Charleston, SC 1966, on October 12, 2010. The title is inspired by Radney Foster's solo debut album, Del Rio, TX 1959. Its first single was "Come Back Song," which Rucker wrote with Chris Stapleton and Casey Beathard. It was his fourth country number one as well as a NO. 37 hit on the Hot 100. The album's second single was "This", which was released to radio in November 2010 and also reached No. 1 in the country chart. Rucker wrote it with Rogers and Kara DioGuardi. "I Got Nothin'" was the album's third single, peaking at No. 18. Also included on the album is a duet with Brad Paisley titled "I Don't Care". Charleston, SC 1966 received a gold certification.
On May 20, 2011, Rucker delivered the commencement address to the graduating class of the Medical University of South Carolina.
On December 14, 2011, CBSnews.com reported that Rucker was working on a third country album with recording set to begin January 2012 followed by the release of the album early in the year. The album's lead-off single, "True Believers," made its chart debut in September. On October 12, 2012, Rucker told Broadway's Electric Barnyard that his album would also be titled True Believers."True Believers" peaked at No. 18. Its second single is a cover of Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor's "Wagon Wheel" (previously made famous by Old Crow Medicine Show), featuring backing vocals from Lady Antebellum. "Wagon Wheel" reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in May 2013. True Believers was released on May 21, 2013. The album's third single, "Radio", was released to country radio on July 22, 2013. The album's fourth single, "Miss You", was released to country radio on February 3, 2014.
On October 2, 2012, Rucker was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. Halfway through his set at the Opry that night he answered questions from the audience which included a question from Brad Paisley. Paisley said: "I have two questions. One, are you still the worst poker player in the world? And two, would you like to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry?" Rucker accepted, and it became official on October 16.
Rucker was a featured performer at the C2C: Country to Country festival in London on March 17, 2013, which was headlined by Carrie Underwood.
On May 11, 2013, Rucker was the speaker at the commencement ceremony for the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Before his speech, he received an honorary doctorate of music.
On December 6, 2013, it was announced that Rucker's version of Wagon Wheel had earned him a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. At the awards ceremony on January 26, 2014, Rucker won, becoming only the third African American recording act (the first being Charley Pride, the second being The Pointer Sisters) to win a vocal performance Grammy Award in a country music category.
On August 25, 2014, Rucker released a new single titled "Homegrown Honey" to country radio and to digital retailers. It served as the lead single to his fourth country studio album, Southern Style, released on March 31, 2015. It reached No. 2 on the Country Airplay chart in April 2015. The album's second single, the title track, released to country radio on May 4, 2015.
On September 15, 2014, it was announced that Rucker had completed his first Christmas album and that it would be released on October 27, 2014. Included is a collaboration with Sheryl Crow on "Baby, It's Cold Outside". May 30, 2015 Rucker headlined Philadelphia's famous XTU 31st Anniversary Show at the Susquehanna Bank Center. Christopher Bousquet named President of the Hootie fan club.
On January 6, 2016, Rucker announced that he was working on his fifth country album. The album's lead single, "If I Told You" was released to country radio on July 5, 2016. It reached number one in the Country Airplay chart nearly a year later, and peaked at number four on the Hot Country Chart. Rucker also returned to the C2C: Country to Country festival in the UK in March 2017, where he was second on the bill to Reba McEntire.
On May 29, 2016, Rucker performed the national anthem prior to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Rucker also performed the national anthem for a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets on September 15. Rucker agreed to perform the song at the behest of personal friend and former Bills player Bruce Smith, whose jersey was being retired that night. He sang the national anthem again ahead of the Saints-Dolphins game held at London's Wembley Stadium in October 2017, as part of the NFL International Series.
Rucker was selected as one of 30 artists to perform on "Forever Country", a mash-up track of "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "On the Road Again" and "I Will Always Love You", which celebrates 50 years of the CMA Awards. On July 24, 2017, Rucker released the second single from his upcoming album, titled "For the First Time." On July 26, 2017, he shared details of his fifth country album, titled When Was the Last Time and it was released on October 20, 2017.