Rucker first gained fame as the lead singer and rhythym huitarist of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, which he founded in 1986 at the University of South Carolina along with Dean Felber, Mark Bryam and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld 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 the majority of the band's songs with the other three members.
But after releasing a solo R & B album Rucker signed with Capitol Nashville and re-emerged as a country singer. And he's never lookes back.
His album Learn To Live scored big time with the single Don't Think I Don't Think About In 2009 Rucker became the first African-American to win the Best New Artist Award from the Country Music Association.
Right now I'm listening to Rucker's second album, Charleston, South Carolina 1966. It's beautiful. He has wonderful voice -- superb inflection and timing. I particularly like the song Southern State of Mind. It sums up everything about the South that's good and decent -- friendliness, honest values, a sense of place and purpose, a distinct identity.
It's fitting that we're reflecting on all this while we're here in South Carolina. To put it quite simply, the sweetness of the South is intoxicating.
Darius Rucker was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where his family history goes back generations. His single mother, Carolyn, who was a nurse, raised him with his five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. According to Rucker, his father was "never around," and Rucker only saw him before church on Sundays. His father was in a gospel band called The Rolling Stones. Rucker has said that he had a "typical Southern, African-American upbringing." His family attended church every Sunday and was economically poor, and at one point, his mother, her two sisters, his grandmother and 14 children were all living in a three-bedroom home. Even so, he says that he looks back on his childhood "with very fond memories."
Here's what Rucker said in 2008: "You see a lot of people doing a one-off, saying, 'This is my country record.' But this is a career I'm trying to build. The people that say that they don't get it, I'll let the music speak for itself. I plan to do a lot of country records."
Darius Rucker doesn't have to convince me or anyone else that he's a great singer, a genuine artist in song and a real honest-to-goodness member of the country music family. Rucker proves that talent, hard work and determination still count for something. Yes, his music does speak for itself.
But don't take my word for it. Just remember that Frank Sinatra asked Rucker to sing at his 80th birthday party. Ole Blue Eyes knew talent when he saw (and heard) it.