Who in the world are Hootie & the Blowfish? Inquiring minds are baffled by the name but love the music anyway.
In truth, they’re a rootsy, biracial band from South Carolina that has stormed the charts in recent weeks. Their album, “Cracked Rear View,” has sold 3 million copies, and this week is No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, thanks to overwhelming collegiate interest spurred by saturation play on MTV and VH1.
“Our management and our friends try to tell us what’s going on, but even then it doesn’t click,” said Hootie singer Darius Rucker. “We’re still just playing and hanging around, drinking and making fun of each other. The only thing that has changed is our bank accounts, but that’s not really that important because we’ve got no time to spend any money.”
Hootie & the Blowfish formed at the University of South Carolina in the late ‘80s. Rucker is black and the three other members - Mark Bryan, Soni and Dean Felber - are white.
“We hadn’t even thought about (the biracial aspect) until the record came out, and that’s when everybody else started talking about it,” Rucker said during a phone interview from Baltimore. “It’s funny. We’re just a band. We just happen to be the colors that we are. It’s no big deal.”
The group’s recent landslide hit, “Hold My Hand,” states the band’s position: “With a little peace and harmony we’ll take the world together … because I’ve got a hand for you. … I want to love you the best that I can.”
The band doesn’t view itself as message-oriented, however. Most of the songs on “Cracked Rear View” are love songs pertaining to Rucker’s past, though a couple of tracks do have a political bite.
One is “Drowning,” which sounds like a musical bridge between the Allman Brothers and R.E.M., while taking dead aim at racism and bigotry.
“Why is that rebel flag hanging from the statehouse? Why must we hate one another?” Rucker sings with an urgency that comes from studying Al Green and other soul music idols during his youth in Charleston, S.C.
At the University of South Carolina, Rucker fell in with his three Blowfish bandmates and things started to happen spontaneously.
Since 1991, the group has played 250 nights a year.
The megahit “Hold My Hand” was actually written back in 1989 and was an attempt to write “a ‘70s pop song,” Rucker said. It was only natural, though, to add it to their national debut album “Cracked Rear View” and then release it as a single.
“We figured if we had one shot, we wanted it to be ‘Hold My Hand,’ not because it’s the best song of ours, but over the years it’s always been the one that the crowd really liked and sang along to.”
Finally, there’s the question of where the bizarre name Hootie & the Blowfish came from.
“OK, here it is,” said Rucker. “There were two friends of mine in college. One guy had big eyes and I called him Hootie. The other had huge cheeks and I called him Blowfish. They walked into a party one day and I said, ‘Look, Hootie and the Blowfish!’ And that’s where the name came from.”
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