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Which one is Hootie? Not one of the four members of Hootie & The Blowfish is known as "Hootie."
It's the summer of 1998 and Hootie & the Blowfish are about to step on stage downtown in New York City's Battery Park as part of the opening ceremonies of the Goodwill Games. On the surface, you wouldn't think all that much had changed with the band. It's still the same four unassuming guys who introduced themselves in the summer of 1994 with the release of their Atlantic Records debut; the same band that went on to sell more than seventeen million albums across the U.S. and earn a pair of Grammy Awards along the way. Not to be overlooked, they're also the same South Carolinians who, when they find themselves with a day off on the road, might just as well book themselves into a club for a surprise show...for the fun of it.
The Hootie family has been enlarged by marriage and the late nights out are not quite so frequent.
"Having input on a song from all four people is key," says Mark Bryan. "I can write what I might think are fantastic lyrics, but if Darius doesn't vibe on them, then they're not making it into a Hootie song."
In a review of the band's three-hour performance at Boston's Avalon, The Boston Globe praised the group's set of ten new songs for revealing a "greater depth and expanded songwriting chops," adding that "the band has matured and is not afraid to take chances. The increased song variety, and its lyrical richness, suggested that the Blowfish is not resting on any laurels..."
Sonefield stated in Rolling Stone, "Everyone says we're one black guy in an all-white band, but that's not true – we're actually three white guys in an all-black band." Bryan and Rucker played together in a soft rock duo as the Wolf Brothers. Following an aborted contract with J.R.S. Records they put out a self-financed EP, which contained "Hold My Hand." They sold it at gigs and after a short time it had sold more than 50,000 copies.
Their spectacularly successful debut, 1994's "Cracked Rear View," was a slow burner on the US charts, climbing into the Top 10 after seven months on the chart. Rucker was a strong live performer on their vast 1994 tour (of more than 300 dates), presiding over a clutch of songs about emotional isolation and yearning. Part of the "buzz" surrounding the band followed U.S. television talk show host David Letterman's pronouncement that Hootie And The Blowfish were "my favorite new band."
"Cracked Rear View," took its title from a John Hiatt lyric and was produced by R.E.M. / John Mellencamp associate Don Gehman. It documented the band's career, and included the single "Hold My Hand," one of several numbers to address ecological concerns and human frailty, which featured guest vocals from David Crosby. The album became one of the most successful rock debuts of all time – sales in its homeland surpassed 15 million (by February 1997). Strong sales over the rest of the world indicated that theirs would be the most "difficult second album" in rock history.
At the 1995 Grammy Awards, however, they picked up two statuettes, for Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance By A Group. It was inevitable that the follow-up proved to be anti-climatic. Having performed songs from "Fairweather Johnson" onstage, they were now familiar to their loyal fans. It debuted in the U.S. at number 1, and by anybody's standards it was a massive success.
"Musical Chairs," debuted at number 4 in October 1998, and sales have not harmed the band's popularity as a live act. They re-affirmed their college rock credentials with the enjoyable cover versions collection, "Scattered, Smothered & Covered," which features both live and studio recordings.
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