Hootie & The Blowfish Biography

This hugely successful US quartet was formed at the University of South Carolina in 1989. They are led by Darius Rucker (13 May 1966, Charleston, South Carolina, USA), whose soulful vocals add sparkle to an otherwise fairly formulaic rock sound. The quartet is completed by Mark Bryan (b. 6 May 1967, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA; guitar, ex-Missing In Action), Dean Felber (b. 9 June 1967, Bethesda, Maryland, USA; bass), and Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefield (b. 20 October 1964, Lansing, Michigan, USA; drums). Bryan and Rucker played together in a soft rock duo as the Wolf Brothers before Hootie And The Blowfish was formed. Sonefield stated in Rolling Stone magazine, ‘Everyone says we’re one black guy in an all-white band, but that’s not true - we’re actually three white guys in an all-black band’.

Following an aborted contract with J.R.S. Records, the band put out a self-financed EP which contained ‘Hold My Hand’. They sold it at gigs and after a short time it had sold over 50, 000 copies. Their spectacularly successful debut album, 1994’s Cracked Rear View, was a slow burner on the US charts, climbing into the Top 10 after over seven months on the chart. Rucker was a strong live performer on their vast 1994 tour (of more than 300 dates), presiding over a clutch of songs about emotional isolation and yearning. Part of the ‘buzz’ surrounding the band followed US television talk show host David Letterman’s pronouncement that Hootie And The Blowfish were ‘my favourite new band’. Cracked Rear View took its title from a John Hiatt lyric and was produced by R.E.M. / John Mellencamp associate Don Gehman. It documented the band’s career, and included the singles ‘Let Her Cry’, ‘Only Wanna Be With You’, ‘Time’, and ‘Hold My Hand’. The latter was one of several numbers to address ecological concerns and human frailty, and featured guest vocals from David Crosby. The album became one of the most successful rock debuts of all time, sales in its homeland quickly racking up multi-platinum status. At the 1995 Grammy Awards, the band picked up two statuettes, for Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance By A Group.

It was inevitable that the follow-up album proved to be anti-climatic. Having performed songs from Fairweather Johnson onstage they were now familiar to their loyal fans. Even though it debuted in the US at number 1, by the band’s previous standards the album was seen as something of a flop; by anybody elses it was a massive success, and spawned another US Top 20 hit, ‘Old Man & Me (When I Get To Heaven)’. The third album, Musical Chairs failed to reach the top of the US charts, debuting at number 4 in October 1998, although the fall off in sales did not harm the band’s popularity as a live act. They re-affirmed their college rock credentials with the enjoyable cover versions collection, Scattered, Smothered & Covered, featuring both live and studio recordings.

During a break in band activities, Rucker released his solo debut, Back To Then. The promotion surrounding Hootie And The Blowfish’s self-titled 2003 set seemed to be ignored, and following a lowly chart entry this disappointing album, both musically and in terms of sales (150, 000 against 10 million for their debut) dropped like a stone. It was therefore some relief to fans to see the recent effort restore their fortunes somewhat.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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