We’ll rise above the mess. We’ll take the world together. I got a hand for you.
I will have two more albums left on this #MusicalNes journey but Hootie and The Blowfish are the final band that “mattered” in my life. At least so far…
And “Hold My Hand” is one of the greatest songs ever written.
What a time in the world to be listening to “Drowning” this weekend as we all look for a hand to hold from an integrated, intelligent, rock band borne in the Deep South.
And 25 summers later, I look back at every aspect of “Cracked Rear View” as a masterpiece – an 11-song pop rock banquet with all sorts of sounds and rich musical influences and graceful songwriting.
Race. Friendship. Love. Drug addiction. Loneliness. Loss. Homesickness.
All of the things you learned about in college these guys were writing about. And, after all, Hootie And The Blowfish is the frat band that everyone went to college with back in the day!
They became, quite simply, the biggest band in the country from this album and invariably dealt with massive blowback from their immense success. They were almost victimized by what an incredible album this was, even though I have loved everything they’ve ever done.
Darius Rucker can sing me the phonebook!
(Well, as long as it’s not in country…)
They were the last band that I ever fell in love with that I wanted to go see on the road –and wait for every new album, knowing I was going to love at least some of it.
Don Gehman produced this. He also produced R.E.M. “Life’s Rich Pageant,” which makes him like Bruce Fairbairn and Mutt Lange, repeat offenders to my list. Gehman didn’t get a Mellencamp album on my list but that’s him, too. Jimmy Iovine didn’t make it with Petty or Springsteen but I will also tip my cap.
Never, ever say the production doesn’t matter. It does. Leadership always does.
Hootie and The Blowfish is an underrated, historically great American rock and roll band. They should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And Darius Rucker could be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, too, someday if he ever wanted to rev up the wagon wheel.
And what a career and journey and path he’s had, right?
And you want local connections?
Darius was always around Baltimore back in the day and owned a home and had family in Towson. Mark Bryan and Dean Felber went to Seneca Valley High. They were Orioles fans and Redskins fans. (Remember: the Ravens didn’t’ exist!)
My final never-before-told-story as best I can remember it:
A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless because he’d probably prefer it that way) knew the newly famous band and their management well. Remember: I had been a major metropolitan newspaper music critic for an #AlmostFamous decade before I started doing sports radio so I knew a lot of folks in the industry.
The Baltimore Orioles were into the grasp of Angelos by then but not so far as that there weren’t still civil, normal people around to grab an ear and said: “Hey, do you guys want Hootie and The Blowfish to sing the National Anthem at a game before they play Merriweather?”
This was June 1995. “Let Her Cry” is about to become the No. 1 song in the country. Cal Ripken is 60 days away from 2131. I spent a few weeks setting this up because I heard the guys in the band were really interested in doing it because they loved sports. Like everyone, they wanted to meet Cal Ripken, too! I didn’t know them. I met them that night in the Orioles media lounge.
Somehow, there was a miscommunication within the chain of command and Rucker was on a golf course in Howard County after 5 o’clock and needed to be summoned off the 13th hole to get to Camden Yards amidst 45,000 people on a summer night against the Red Sox.
The other guys in the band were at the ballpark during batting practice and the tension mounted for a good hour in the early cellphone era as to whether Darius was going to get to the ballpark. But, in just in time, Rucker showed up with a cape and nailed the National Anthem before Roger Clemens tossed a gem against a feckless Orioles lineup.
I had nights that I wrote about in Purple Reign with Jim Harbaugh, Tony Siragusa and Michael McCrary piling into a limo to see them at the Bayou in 1998. I saw them on New Year’s Eve 1996 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas with my infamous young Tiger Woods story. They once shouted me out at a Super Bowl media party in Jacksonville in 2005 and then proceeded to play cowboy songs with John Daly.
Great dudes. Great music. Great memories. My wife loves them. I love them. They reunited last summer and it was pure magic. And I would love to see a Hootie and The Blowfish concert again sometime soon.
Let’s get through this pandemic and rise above the mess.