7 Reasons Why Hootie Was Country All Along

It's been 20 years since Hootie & the Blowfish released 'Cracked Rear View,' the album that foreshadows Darius Rucker's musical move to Nashville

July 10, 2014 9:20 AM ET
Hootie and the Blowfish
Hootie and the Blowfish perform on 'The Tonight Show'
NBC Universal

Long before he rebranded himself as a chart-topping country singer, Darius Rucker built his reputation as "Hootie," the baritone-voiced frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish. The group specialized in pop songs disguised as bar-band tunes — or was it the other way around? — with Rucker at the forefront, singing about love, lust and football in a soulful voice that showed a love for his southern roots. Introduced during a time when grunge music still reigned supreme, Hootie & the Blowfish brought major-key pop/rock back into the mainstream, selling more than 16 million copies of Cracked Rear View in the process.

Where Are They Now? 1994's Biggest Pop Acts

Cracked Rear View turns 20 years old this week. Looking back, the debut album sounds pretty much the same as we remember it: like Clinton-era music for bongo players and ball cap wearers, with hooks bigger than the Tae Bo phenomenon and arrangements prettier than the cast of Friends. What we didn't hear back in 1994, though, were the ways Cracked Rear View reflected a deep appreciation for country music. In hindsight, it's an album that helped define the mid-Nineties pop/rock culture while also foreshadowing Rucker's eventual move to the country world.

Don't believe us? Hold our hand and take a look at the evidence, all of which points to a country frontman in the making.

1. Willie Nelson jumped aboard the Hootie train in 1995, inviting the band to play his annual Farm Aid festival and joining the guys onstage for a loose performance of "Let Her Cry." One year later, the fest moved to Columbia, South Carolina, the college town where Hootie & the Blowfish got their start. Coincidence?

2. Decades before the bro-country explosion, Rucker prefaced the phenomenon by consoling a bummed-out good ol' boy in "Hannah Jane," crooning lyrics like, "We'd get drunk and go out after dark, searching for someone we could take home," and "I'll be there when you have no one else/I'll be there, be your friend." All that was missing was a pickup truck… a problem that was quickly resolved with the release of the band's 1995 concert video, "Summer Camp With Trucks."

3. While other frontmen sang about the angst, alienation and bewilderment of Generation X, Rucker sang about the Miami Dolphins on tunes like "Only Wanna Be With You," linking football and southern music in a way only rivaled by Hank Williams Jr.

4. Released as the follow-up single to "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry" found Rucker pining over a wayward girlfriend who loved alcohol more than she loved him. Every country star has a drinking song; this was Rucker's first.

5. Garth Brooks was a fierce supporter of the band, even refusing to accept the Artist of the Year trophy at the 1996 American Music Awards because he thought Hootie & the Blowfish deserved it more.

6. Rucker covered Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel" in 2013, turning the folk song — which Old Crow had partially lifted from an old Bob Dylan demo — into a triple-platinum country smash. Nineteen years earlier, though, Rucker first paid tribute to Dylan with "Only Wanna Be With You," a song whose lyrics were partially lifted from "You're a Big Girl Now," "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Idiot Wind." The wagon wheel comes full circle…

7. Driven forward by fiddles and bongos, "Running From An Angel" was a country song disguised as a rootsy campfire singalong, with biting lyrics — "Your lying and cheating really tore us apart/Please don't come if you're gonna break my momma's heart" — that owed as much to the Nashville songbook as his South Carolina roots.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »