African-American influences in country music can be documented at least as far back as the 1920s, but only one performer ever achieved true and lasting success – the venerable Charley Pride. With 39 number-one hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts to his name, during the height of his career in the mid- to late-70s Pride appealed not only to country fans, but pop music fans as well because of his great crossover songs and his unique presence in a very white genre of music.
Following in Pride’s footsteps, Darius Rucker continues the level of excellence that Pride and other African American country artists have established. He may be a new name to country music, but Rucker is a veteran name in the music industry. Better known as “Hootie” of Hootie and the Blowfish, Rucker spend 20 years as lead singer of this popular band, winning two Grammy awards and turning out 16 chart-topping singles.
When Hootie and the Blowfish went on hiatus in 2008, Rucker launched his solo country music career to much acclaim. His first album “Learn to Live” went platinum and produced three consecutive No. 1 singles and the Top 5 smash single “History In The Making.” Its first single, "Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It," made him the first African American to chart a number one on the Hot Country Songs charts since Pride in 1983.
Rucker’s success in the country music format was recently recognized at the 43rd Annual CMA Awards when he received the Top New Artist title and again with American Country Music, Teen Choice, and American Music Association Award nominations. In 2009, he received the Country Music Association award for Best New Artist, making him the first African-American performer to win a major CMA award since 1972.
His 2011 sophomore album “Charleston, SC 1966” is also receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Rolling Stone said, “On his Nashville debut, Rucker’s rich baritone, sentimental ballads and bright hooks made him the most successful African-American country singer since Charley Pride. Rucker amps up that formula on album number two." The new album includes the multiple-week #1 hit single "Come Back Song" and his current Top 10 single "This."
Completely written by Rucker and his stable of co-writers, which includes country star Brad Paisley who also duets with Rucker on “I Don’t Care,” this album has a very satisfying “traditional country” flavor, in contrast to much of the “new country” that’s on record store shelves. Every song is radio-ready, melodic and fit for singing along – with Rucker’s recognizable, clear baritone voice giving each tune identity and heart. The lyrics are important to note on this CD – the writing never falls into country clichés, but rather imparts thoughtful images of real life through heartfelt poetry.
Rucker plays the Emerald Queen Casino on July 30, 8:30 p.m. (21 and over only). Tickets are available at www.emeraldqueen.com.