Darius Rucker (born May 13, 1966) is an American musician. He first gained fame as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, which he founded in 1986 at the University of South Carolina along with Mark Bryan, Jim "Soni" Sonefeld and Dean Felber. The band has released five studio albums with him as a member, and charted six top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Rucker co-wrote the majority of the band's songs with the other three members. He released a solo R&B album, Back to Then, in 2002 on Hidden Beach Recordings but did not chart any singles from it. Six years later, Rucker signed to Capitol Records Nashville as a country music artist, releasing the album Learn to Live that year. 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 Charley Pride in 1983. It was followed by two more number-one singles, "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright" and the number three "History in the Making". In 2009, he became the first African American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association, and only the second African American to win any award from the association. A second Capitol album, Charleston, SC 1966, was released on October 12, 2010. The album includes the number-one singles "Come Back Song" and "This". Early life edit: Darius Rucker was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where his family history goes back generations. His single mother, Carolyn, who was a nurse, raised him with his five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. According to Rucker, his father was "never around," and Rucker only saw him before church on Sundays. His father was in a gospel band called The Rolling Stones. Rucker has said that he had a "typical Southern, African-American upbringing." His family attended church every Sunday and was economically poor, and at one point, his mother, her two sisters, his grandmother and 14 children were all living in a three-bedroom home. Even so, he says that he looks back on his childhood "with very fond memories." His sister, L'Corine, recalled that singing "was always his dream". Hootie & the Blowfish edit: Rucker has been the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish since its formation in 1986. He met fellow band members, Mark Bryan, Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, and Dean Felber, while attending the University of South Carolina. Bryan heard Rucker singing in the shower, and the two became a duo, playing R.E.M. covers at a local venue. They later recruited Felber and finally Sonefeld joined in 1989. As a member of Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has recorded five studio albums: Cracked Rear View, Fairweather Johnson, Musical Chairs, Hootie & the Blowfish and Looking for Lucky, also charting within the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 six times. All six albums feature songs that Rucker, Bryan and Felber wrote. As the frontman, Rucker began to be called simply "Hootie" in the media, though the band title combines the nicknames of his college friends. ~ Rucker's signature contribution to the band is his baritone voice which Rolling Stone has called "ingratiating,"TIME has called "low, gruff, and charismatic," and Entertainment Weekly has characterized as a "barrelhouse growl." He has brought additional attention as the sole African-American member of a major rock band with otherwise white members. Rucker said they "flipped" the formula of the all black band with a white frontman, like Frank Sinatra performing with Count Basie. Musically, he has sometimes been criticized or spoofed for not being "black enough".Saturday Night Live ran a sketch of Tim Meadows playing Rucker leading beer-drinking, white fraternity members in a counter-march to Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. He also received death threats for singing the Hootie song "Drowning," a protest song against the flying of the Confederate flag above the South Carolina statehouse. The other band members were protective of Rucker in regards to the issue, and had a policy of generally ignoring racist comments. Shortly after gaining a measure of fame, Felber and Rucker (who consider themselves best friends) moved into an apartment in Columbia, South Carolina. With Rucker's recognition as the frontman of a successful band came increased opportunities. In October 1995, Rucker was asked to sing the national anthem at the World Series. Frank Sinatra invited Rucker to sing at his 80th birthday party; Rucker sang "The Lady Is a Tramp." That same week, he made a voice cameo in an episode of the sitcom Friends. He also joined Nanci Griffith on the song "Gulf Coast Highway" from her 1997 album Blue Roses from the Moons, and sang backing vocals on Radney Foster's 1999 album See What You Want to See. Rucker encouraged Atlantic Records to agree to a deal with Edwin McCain, and made a guest appearance on McCain's debut album, Honor Among Thieves. In regards to the future of Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker was quoted by CBSnews as stating in late 2011 that "I don't think we'll ever break up totally. We're Hootie & the Blowfish ... We'll make another record and do another tour someday. I don't know when, but it will happen. There's one more in us." Solo career edit: In 2001, he made his solo R&B debut album, The Return of Mongo Slade, for Atlantic Records. Because of contractual changes, it was never released by the label.Hidden Beach Recordings, an independent label, acquired the masters from Atlantic and released the album as Back to Then in July 2002. The album included work from the production team of Jill Scott and she made an appearance on the track "Hold On." Rucker appeared on a pop-star edition of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in July 2001. He also portrayed a singing cowboy in a television commercial for the fast food chain Burger King, promoting their TenderCrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwich in 2005. In 2006 he lent his voice to "God's Reasons" a song co-written by Dean Dinning Toad the Wet Sprocket for the independent film "The Still life." In the commercial, he sang a jingle set to the tune of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Country music edit: 2008-2009: Learn to Live (solo debut) edit In early 2008, Rucker signed to Capitol Records Nashville as the beginning of a career in country music. His first solo single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" (which he co-wrote with Clay Mills) debuted at number 51 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts for the week of May 3, 2008. It is the first single from his second album, Learn to Live. For this album, Rucker worked with Frank Rogers, a record producer who has also produced for Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins. Rucker also made his Grand Ole Opry debut in July 2008. "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" became the first top 20 hit for an African American on the country music charts since Charley Pride's last Top 20 hit, which came in 1988. The single reached number one in September, making Rucker the first solo, African-American artist to chart a number one country hit since Pride's "Night Games" in 1983. Learn to Live was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 6, 2009, and received a platinum certification on August 7, 2009. The album's second single, "It Won't Be Like This for Long", spent three weeks at the top of the country charts in mid-2009. Its follow-up, "Alright", became Rucker's third straight number one hit, making him the first country music singer to have his first three singles reach number one since Wynonna achieved that feat in 1992. The album's fourth single, "History in the Making" was released in September and peaked at number three on the country charts. The singles from the album also crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, respectively peaking at numbers 35, 36, 30 and 61. "You see a lot of people doing a one-off, saying, 'This is my country record.' But this is a career I'm trying to build. The people that say that they don't get it, I'll let the music speak for itself. I plan to do a lot of country records." --Rucker, Billboard, 2008 Rucker's entry into the country world was met with some intrigue, largely because of his history as a rock musician and because he is African-American. Billboard magazine said that "there's a sense of purpose that makes Rucker feel like a member of the country family, rather than calculating interloper." Rucker made visits to various country stations around the US, explaining that he was aware that he was the "new kid on the block." Mike Culotta, the program director of the Tampa, Florida radio station WQYK-FM expected that Rucker would be "somebody who would have entitlement," but instead said that "Darius engaged everybody." When Rucker found that "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" went to number one, he cried. On November 11, 2009, Rucker won the Country Music Association New Artist of the Year award (formerly known as the Horizon Award), making him the first African American to do so since the award was introduced in 1981. Only one other African American has won at the CMAs: Charley Pride, who won entertainer of the year in 1971 and male vocalist in 1971 and 1972. 2010-2011: Charleston, SC 1966 edit Rucker released his second country album, titled Charleston, SC 1966, on October 12, 2010. The title is inspired by Radney Foster's solo debut album, Del Rio, TX 1959. Its first single was "Come Back Song," which Rucker wrote with Chris Stapleton and Casey Beathard. It was his fourth number one on the country charts as well as a number 37 hit on the Hot 100. The album's second single is "This", which was released to radio in November 2010 and also reached number one in the country charts. Rucker wrote this song with Rogers and Kara DioGuardi. "I Got Nothin'" is the album's third single, peaking at number 18. Also included on the album is a duet with Brad Paisley titled "I Don't Care".Charleston, SC 1966 received a gold certification. 2012-present: True Believers edit On December 14, 2011, CBSnews.com reported that Rucker is currently working on a third country album with recording set to begin January 2012 followed by the release of the album early in the year. The article also states he will be touring with the country music trio Lady Antebellum in 2012. The album's lead-off single, "True Believers", made its chart debut in September. On October 12, 2012, Rucker told Broadway's Electric Barnyard that his album would also be titled True Believers, and would be out in January 2013. Its second single is a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel", featuring backing vocals from Lady Antebellum. On October 2, 2012, Rucker was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. Halfway through his set at the Opry that night Rucker answered questions from the audience which included a question from Brad Paisley. Paisley stood up, took the mic and asked Rucker "I have two questions. "One, are you still the worst poker player in the world? And two, would you like to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry?" Rucker accepted, and it became official on October 16. Rucker has been confirmed to perform at the C2C: Country to Country festival in London on March 17, 2013. Personal life edit: Rucker is a Miami Dolphins fan as well as a South Carolina Gamecocks and Cincinnati Reds fan. He also likes the film Stir Crazy, which he has seen more than 100 times. Rucker's mother died in November 1992 of a sudden heart attack. His grief inspired two Hootie & the Blowfish songs: "I'm Goin' Home" and "Not Even the Trees." On April 21, 1995, Rucker became a father to a daughter, Carolyn Pearl Phillips. The girl's mother is Rucker's former girlfriend and the subject of "Let Her Cry", in which he flipped gender roles from those of reality. Daniella Rose--his second daughter and his first with his wife Beth--was born on May 16, 2001, in Charleston, South Carolina. Rucker and his wife Beth have a son, Jack who was born in 2005. The Hootie song "Where Were You" is about Rucker's strained relationship with his father, and was only released in Europe, where Rucker thought that his father would be unlikely to hear it. His country single "Alright" was inspired by his marriage to his wife, Beth. Rucker is close friends with golfer Tiger Woods, whom he met in a bar when Woods was 18. Rucker sang at the golfer's wedding with Hootie & the Blowfish, and at his father's funeral.