The Untold Truth Of Darius Rucker

In 1993, a group of South Carolina college students who'd formed a band hit the big time when they were signed to Atlantic Records. Boasting the off-kilter moniker of Hootie & the Blowfish, the group released their major label debut the following year. That album, "Cracked Rear View," was an out-of-the-box smash, ultimately becoming the top-selling album of 1995, hitting No. 1 five different times throughout the year, and spawning four hit singles.

At the center of that success was frontman Darius Rucker, whose distinctive baritone proved to be both the musical backbone of the band and its distinguishing characteristic. Rucker, noted a PBS bio, continued to lead Hootie & the Blowfish for the next decade-plus, yet the band never made it back to the peak of that initial success. When the band took a hiatus in 2008, Rucker surprised fans by reinventing himself as a solo artist in the country music genre. His debut solo album, "Learn to Live," hit No. 1 on the country charts (becoming only the second Black artist to do so). More hits followed as Rucker established himself as a major force in the country scene, bringing it all full circle when he reunited with Hootie & the Blowfish for a successful reunion tour in 2019. 

With a music career spanning two distinct genres and four different decades, this singer, songwriter and guitarist continues to entertain legions of fans. To find out more, read on to discover the untold truth of Darius Rucker.

Darius Rucker had ambitions of becoming a sportscaster

According to the band's official website, the story of Hootie & the Blowfish began in a University of South Carolina dorm, when fellow student (and future Hootie guitarist) Mark Bryan happened to hear Darius Rucker singing in the shower. Now, it's not every day you hear a good voice belting it out in a communal bathroom, and it really isn't every day you hear a voice as great as Rucker's. So, Bryan suggested they get together and compare notes on their musical tastes. "So I went by his room and we realized we knew about 20 songs that he knew and that I knew, and we started the band pretty much that day," Rucker said in an interview with CNN.

Music, in fact, wasn't Rucker's career ambition at that time. "When I went to South Carolina, my plan was to major in broadcast journalism, maybe someday be a sportscaster or something," Rucker shared in the aforementioned CNN interview.

However, neither his passionate love of music nor his unmistakable voice were something that Rucker kept hidden. "I sang all the time, but I didn't think about it," he added. "It was just something I did, I walked around and I sang."

No, Darius Rucker's nickname isn't Hootie

When it came time to name his newly formed college band, noted the group's website, Darius Rucker "borrowed from the nicknames of two college friends," merging them together to come up with Hootie & the Blowfish. There was an unexpected consequence of the band's memorably quirky name, which became increasingly pronounced as the group's fame grew: everyone assumed that Rucker, as frontman, was named Hootie — or at least went by the moniker. (Unfortunately, the world didn't also assume his bandmates were literal blowfish.)

"When I named the band, I guess I didn't think that people would think I was Hootie," Rucker explained to CNN. "I don't know why I didn't think that, but I didn't think that at all." When the band's album "Cracked Rear View" and its assorted singles began to climb the charts, and Rucker found himself being called Hootie on a regular basis, he admitted he began questioning why he didn't call the group "the Darius Rucker Band" or something similar. 

However, he's since made peace with being misidentified as Hootie; in fact, he credits the band's unusual name with a certain degree of its success. "I wouldn't have changed the name for anything, because, you know, like it or hate it, you never forgot it," he added. "Once you heard the name Hootie & the Blowfish, you never forgot it, and that's what you want to do with a band."

The surprising reason Darius Rucker shifted from rock to country

Like many bands that experienced big success in the 1990s, the ensuing decade proved to be a case of diminishing returns for Hootie & the Blowfish. As Rolling Stone noted, drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld shocked the other members of the band in 2008 when he announced he wanted to stop touring — which, frontman Darius Rucker recalled, was "how we paid our bills."

As the band members began working on solo projects, Rucker was forced to recalibrate. "All of a sudden, Hootie wasn't going to tour every year anymore," Rucker said in an interview with ABC News. That was when he cast back to a notion he'd had decades earlier. "Back in 1989, this guy Radney Foster came out with a record called 'Del Rio, TX, 1959' and it's one of those records that changed the way I heard music," he explained. "It really hit me hard and I loved it... and I kept always saying, 'One day, I'm going to make a country record.'"

As Rucker told Haute Living, the genre has been a permanent staple of his music diet. "So country music has always been special to me and a part of who I am," he explained. In fact, he described his 1994 Hootie & the Blowfish hit "Let Her Cry" as "the first country song I wrote, we just didn't call it that at the time!"

Tears were shed when Darius Rucker's first solo effort hit No. 1

From the outside, shifting from rock to country may have appeared effortless for Darius Rucker when the Hootie & the Blowfish singer struck out on his own as a solo country artist. However, success was far from guaranteed. In fact, Rucker admitted during an appearance on talk show "Chelsea Lately" (via The Boot), that he "cried like a little b***h" when his debut album "Learn to Live" immediately soared to No. 1 after its release. As he confessed, he took nothing for granted when it came to crossing from one genre to another. "Not everybody's Britney [Spears]," he told Handler of being accepted by country fans who first knew him as a rock singer. "Not everybody gets 10 chances."

While Rucker's initial ambitions for crossing over to country were modest — "I was just going to [make an album] in the basement with my friends," he told ABC News — the results were anything but. Having racked up a string of hit singles as a country artist in the ensuing years, Rucker has become so established as a successful country act that some of his fans don't even remember his Hootie & the Blowfish past. As he told Apple Music Country's Essentials Radio (via Pop Culture), a fan who'd just seen one of his shows reached out on Twitter wondering "how come you played so many Hootie covers? I didn't know you liked Hootie so much." Hey, hey, what can you do?

Darius Rucker forked over big bucks for some pro wrestling memorabilia

Like many American youngsters, Darius Rucker became an ardent fan of professional wrestling. "I started watching wrestling when I was a very, very, very young kid," Rucker reminisced in the TV series "WWE's Most Wanted Treasures." "My grandmother loved it. She got me into it. As a kid, it was everything." The one wrestler who became "the guy that really captured me," he divulged, was none other than Ric Flair, a.k.a. "The Nature Boy." 

As Rucker grew older, his wrestling fandom never diminished — in fact, he wound up meeting Flair, and becoming a close pal with a friendship extending decades. "We met at a bar," Rucker recalled of his first face-to-face encounter with Flair. "He's sitting at a table right next to us. We're going back and forth with him and it was an instant friendship. Every time I see his phone number I freak out."

Not only is Rucker a friend, he's also the owner of a precious piece of Flair-related memorabilia: one of the grappler's flamboyant ring robes. As South Carolina's Post Courier reported, Flair plunked down a whopping $35,000 for the feather and sequin-bedecked cloak when it came up for auction at a celebrity golf tournament. "I just turned to my band and said, 'I'm getting this. I don't care what it cost me... I'm getting this,'" he said. "It cost me a pretty penny, but it was worth it." To quote The Nature Boy, "Wooooo!"

Darius Rucker's 'man cave' can broadcast seven sporting events simultaneously

Many successful male recording artists spend some relaxing downtime in their homes' custom-designed man caves, and Darius Rucker is definitely among them. However, Rucker's home-based R&R center is far from typical. "I have this great TV in my man room," he told Sports Illustrated, describing a mammoth 150-inch projection screen, taking up the entirety of a wall, that allows him to watch seven different events simultaneously. "I'm real big on football. I'll sit here on Saturday and Sunday and I'll watch every game," he explained in an interview with Country Countdown USA. "I'll watch seven games."

As he told SI, his man cave is housed in "a pretty big room" that also hosts an extensive collection of football jerseys and other items, such as his beloved Ric Flair wrestling robe.

Of course, there's also memorabilia reflecting his successful musical career, particularly his years fronting Hootie & the Blowfish. A 2014 profile in Rolling Stone noted the room featured a "cluttered shelf" that contained several awards and a diamond certi­fication for Hootie & the Blowfish's 1994 major label debut, "Cracked Rear View." "They don't give out many of these anymore," Rucker quipped.

After 20 years of marriage, Darius Rucker and his wife split

Darius Rucker and wife Beth Leonard tied the knot in 2000. As Rucker gushed during an interview with his record label (via Pop Culture), he wasn't shy about expressing his feelings about her immediately. "I told her I was going to marry her on our first date," he declared, admitting, "It takes a strong woman to be married to a musician, especially a musician who was drinking and partying as hard as I was..." The couple eventually welcomed two children

In that interview, Rucker praised his wife for being the rock that anchored their family during his frequent absences. When touring, he explained, "I could be gone for three months and then I'd come home for two days and then I'd be gone again for a month, and she put up with all that crap."

After two decades of matrimony, the pair announced they had decided to go the route of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin and "consciously uncouple," with Rucker sharing the news via Instagram. "We remain close friends and parenting partners and continue to be each other's biggest cheerleaders," he wrote, adding, "Our priority will always be our beautiful family. We have so much love in our hearts for each other and will continue to encourage growth and expansion in one other."

Once upon a time, Darius Rucker could be dared to stay up for four days

In their heyday, Hootie & the Blowfish earned a reputation as a party-hearty band, and that was certainly the case for frontman Darius Rucker. "Doing drugs and drinking every night — I've done that," Rucker confessed in a 2013 interview with the Los Angeles Times. By that time, he was a husband and father who said he was through with that lifestyle, noting that "it's just not how I want to live anymore."

Way back when, however, Rucker got up to some antics. Reminiscing about his wild days of drunken debauchery with CMT (via The Boot), Rucker recalled, "We did a four-day [contest to see] who could stay up the longest. God, we used to do dumb stuff."

Responding to a fan's query on Twitter, Rucker confessed that his anecdote about staying up for four days was not only true, but wasn't exactly a whole lot of fun. "Awful time. Hammered," he recalled. "That's 25 years ago."

Darius Rucker is a fan of golf and friend of Tiger Woods

Football and pro wrestling aren't the only sports that have captivated Darius Rucker, who's also something of a golf fanatic. And for the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, hitting the links is a little more than a hobby. As Golf Digest reported, in 2019 he was named brand ambassador for the PGA Tour. "I'm just excited that I get to watch golf and be with these guys and talk about it," said Rucker of his golf-related gig.

Rucker's long association with golf also led him into a longstanding friendship with one of the sport's true superstars, Tiger Woods. In an interview with PGA Tour, Rucker recalled first meeting Woods way back in the early 1990s when Hootie & the Blowfish were performing in a Michigan club. At the time, the golf phenom was just 18 but had already started making enough of a mark on the golf world that Rucker recognized him.

"So I went over and I said, 'Are you Tiger Woods?' and he says, 'Are you the guy from Hootie & the Blowfish?' and I sat down and we just hung out all night," Rucker said. What made that evening even more memorable, he added, was when somebody entered the bar with a very important trophy from another sport in tow. "Here I am in the bar with Tiger Woods and sitting on the bar was the frigging Stanley Cup," recalled Rucker. "That was a crazy night."

Darius Rucker discovered he was claustrophobic following a golf injury

Darius Rucker's love of golf has not come without some physical wear and tear on his middle-aged body. That's not surprising, considering he revealed in an interview with Play Golf Myrtle Beach that he plays a staggering 250 rounds of golf each year.

As he told The Boot in 2010, all that golf resulted in some back problems that, in a roundabout way, led him to discover a phobia he never even realized he had. That, he said, came about when he underwent an MRI to scope out his golf-related back problems.

"I didn't know this until my MRI the other day, but I'm claustrophobic," he said, something he apparently discovered while crammed within the snug confines of an MRI machine. "My back's bad, and they were looking at it. [It's bad] from golf," he said, but joked that he was willing to do whatever was necessary in order to continue feeding his golf addiction. "They can do whatever they need to do as long as I can play golf!" he declared.

Darius Rucker has seen his favorite movie more than 100 times

Way back in 1995, as Hootie & the Blowfish were bursting on the music scene, Darius Rucker and the rest of the band spoke to Entertainment Weekly about their unexpected success, which included their relentless touring schedule at the time. While traveling on their tour bus, the band would typically play video games and watch movies, including such classic Bill Murray comedies as "Caddyshack" and "Stripes." Another favorite was "Stir Crazy," starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor as accidental convicts, a film that Rucker proudly claimed to have viewed in excess of 100 times.

More than two decades later, "Stir Crazy" remained a must-see flick for Rucker. Responding to a fan's question on Twitter asking him to single out his "all time favorite movie," he replied by spotlighting that film along with a couple of non-comedies, the first two "Godfather" movies.

Two years later, he posed a question in a 2019 tweet, asking his followers to name their top-three movies. To kick things off, he offered his personal top three — which. once again, were "The Godfather," "The Godfather Part II," and "Stir Crazy." Rucker appears to be a man of unwavering tastes.

The five songs that changed the way Darius Rucker heard music

Having achieved success in two different musical genres, Darius Rucker understandably has eclectic musical tastes. Just how eclectic those tastes are, however, became clear when the singer spoke with Rolling Stone to detail "five songs that changed the way I heard music." Running the gamut in terms of both genre and era, those songs are: Al Green's "For the Good Times," the R.E.M. classic "So. Central Rain," "The What" by The Notorious B.I.G., Nancy Griffiths' "Mary and Omie," and "Old Silver" by country artist Radney Foster.

Hearing Griffiths' song in 1988 while he was working at a retail job, he told Rolling Stone, made him "realize I should be listening to a lot more country music." That epiphany, he explained, is what led him to discover Foster's 1992 album "Del Rio, TX 1959," the album that inspired him to promise himself he would one day make a country music record. 

All these decades later, Foster continues to serve as the template on which Rucker models his own country persona. "Every time I sing country music I'm trying to be Radney Foster on 'Old Silver,' because I thought it was such an amazing performance." Despite having listened to the song "hundreds of times," Rucker insisted "Old Silver continues to be a musical touchstone. "I can't begin to get enough of it since it's one of the greatest country songs I've ever heard," he stated.

Darius Rucker is a notoriously nice guy

Throughout the course of a professional music career spanning from the 1990s until the 2020s, Darius Rucker has maintained a reliable level of consistency that fans have grown to love. Not only does that apply to his musical performances, it's also true of his everyman, nice-guy personality. According to an NBCSports profile, Rucker isn't just nice, he's "also more or less, the nicest person in the world. ... Darius Rucker's niceness so thoroughly courses through him and his music and his day-to-day life that it's his defining quality." As an example, the profile recounts how Rucker offered a free show with his band as a spur-of-the-moment item for a charity auction, even though his wife begged him not to. 

Rucker's defining niceness is backed up by then-manager Doc McGhee, who told NBCSports that his client's tendency to go along with any offer or request inspired him to make business cards. "They say, 'Hi my name is Darius Rucker, and I say yes to everything. So please don't ask me. Please call my manager tomorrow,'" McGhee shared with the outlet.

When Rucker appeared on "Hawaii 5-0" in 2017, he wanted to play against type big way. As he said in Country Daily, he wanted to be "the worst dude on the planet," so they wrote him in as "a terrorist bomb-maker." Talk about a stretch for a card-carrying nice guy.

Darius Rucker's reinvention from '90s rocker to modern-day country star has made him a fortune

Given his decades of success, it would make sense that Darius Rucker managed to set aside a tidy nest egg over the years. That certainly appears to be the case according to Celebrity Net Worth, which pegs his fortune at a not-too-shabby $12 million. 

To be fair, Rucker's success with Hootie & the Blowfish came at just the right time, during an era when music streaming was still in its infancy and recording artists could still make huge bucks by sales of CDs — and Hootie sold a lot of CDs. According to the Recording Industry of America, Hootie & the Blowfish's 1994 album "Cracked Rear View" ranks as one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

In 2020, Rucker spent some of his earnings on a lavish new home in Nashville, moving from his native South Carolina to the geographic home base of country music. Showing off his new pad for Architectural Digest, he shared that he lives near fellow country stars as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. For Rucker, who'd recorded all his country albums in Nashville, becoming a resident seemed to be a natural progression. "After over a decade of being here and working hard and trying to be a nice guy, I like to feel I was already part of the community before I moved in," he explained. Clearly, it pays to be nice.