Founded in 1986, Hootie and the Blowfish emerged as the most popular rock band on the University of South Carolina college scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Consisting of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Darius Rucker (b. 1966 in Charleston), lead guitarist Mark Bryan (b. 1967 in Silver Spring, Maryland), drummer Jim Sonefeld (b. 1964 in Lansing, Michigan), and bassist Dean Felber (b. 1967 in Bethesda, Maryland), the band suddenly grew into a national phenomenon with the release of their major label debut, Cracked Rear View, in 1994 on Atlantic Records. The album’s sales started slowly but exploded in 1995 following the release of the popular radio hits “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” and “Only Want to Be with You.” The album became one of the best-selling recordings in popular music history, selling more than fifteen million copies in the United States by 2002.
Marked by Rucker’s soulful singing, and the group’s chiming acoustic guitar and sing-along lyrics, “Hootie” (as the band came to be known) fell to earth as quickly as it soared. After winning two Grammy Awards for the first record, the band’s second album, Fairweather Johnson (1996), reached the number one spot on all music charts, as did its predecessor, but sold only about three million copies. They followed up with Musical Chairs (1998) and Scattered, Smothered, and Covered (2000), which each garnered respectable reviews if not impressive sales figures. Nevertheless the band continued to make music, releasing Hootie and the Blowfish in 2003 and a “best of” record in 2004 while touring and making national TV appearances.
In 1996 the group performed a live, nationally televised concert on the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina campus. That same year the band also helped Columbia obtain the annual Farm Aid concert, starring country singer Willie Nelson and others. The band played for President Bill Clinton’s second inaugural ball in Washington. Known for their friendly personalities, the band still sometimes hangs out at the same Five Points bars where they played some of their first concerts, sipping beer and greeting fans.
Bogdanov, Vladimir, Chris Woodstra, and Stephen Thomas Erlewine, eds. All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music. 4th ed. San Francisco: Backbeat Books / All Media Guide, 2001.