"Welcome him home, everybody! This is his new home right here," said Darius Rucker's good friend Brad Paisley to a Grand Ole Opry audience on October 2, 2012 just after Brad had invited Darius to become an official member of the Opry. The invitation cemented a place in both country music and the genre's undisputed home for the soulful, rich baritone singer whose diverse career first landed him in pop music as the lead singer/co-writer for the wildly successful Hootie & the Blowfish. The Grammy-winning group's 1994 debut, Cracked Rear View, continues to be one of the best-selling albums in history, surpassing the 16 million album mark.
Success as a solo country artist came quickly for Darius, whose first single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and the album on which it was included, Learn To Live, became No. 1 smashes. As "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" was on its way up the charts in 2008, Darius played the Opry for the first time.
"When I was asked if I wanted to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, I yelled, 'Are you kidding me?'" recalls Darius. "I've been waiting for that my whole life. To be invited where so many of the greatest country artists have performed is an honor, and I still can't believe it has been bestowed on me. Just to stand in the circle where so many greats have stood — Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, I just couldn't believe it."
Darius topped the charts again with the release of his second country album, Charleston, SC 1966, on Capitol Records Nashville. USA Today raved, "Rucker has made a fine-sounding country album, full of singable choruses, bittersweet fiddle and steel, and guitars with bottomless twang," and 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."
In addition to his smash debut single, the two albums included other radio favorites: "Alright," "It Won't Be Like This For Long," "Come Back Song," and "This," among others. As his hits topped the charts, Darius made frequent returns to the Opry.
"Being backstage at the Opry is different from being backstage anywhere else because it's the Opry," he says. "It's such a great hang with everybody back there. Whether people are playing music or practicing or getting their song together with the band – it's just a whole bunch of music back there, and it's pretty awesome."
Presenting him with the Opry Member Award during his October 16, 2012 induction, Vince Gill said to Darius, "I don't think there's a more beloved guy in our music than you. … Before you even open your mouth and sing a song you've written, everybody is really crazy about you. You will find this place right here to be one of the greatest homes you'll ever have. Thanks for wanting to be a country music singer!"
“I’ve done a lot of cool things over the years, but I couldn’t believe the call came in and thought wow, I finally get to play the Grand Ole Opry.”
- DARIUS RUCKER
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