Hootie & the Blowfish
HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH
Formed: 1989, Columbia, South Carolina
Members: Mark Bryan, guitar (born Silver Spring, Maryland, 6 May 1967); Dean Felber, bass (born Bethesda, Maryland, 9 June 1967); Darius Rucker, vocals, guitar (born Charleston, South Carolina, 13 May 1966); Jim Sonefeld, drums (born Lansing, Michigan, 20 October 1964).
Best-selling album since 1990: Cracked Rear View (1994)
Hit songs since 1990: "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry," "Only Wanna Be with You"
With a feel-good rock style appealing to all ages, Hootie & the Blowfish enjoyed one of the most successful debuts ever. Unfortunately it set the band up for what would be one of the biggest falls from mainstream prominence.
Named after two eccentric friends of the band, Hootie & the Blowfish formed in 1989 at South Carolina University. The band slowly built a following by playing bars and colleges throughout the Southeast. Hootie & the Blowfish released two independent albums before attracting the attention of JRS Records in 1992. The relationship with JRS failed, and the band had no choice but to return to self-release for its third album, Kootchypop (1991); the band sold a remarkable 50,000 copies of Kootchypop, largely on the strength of sales at the band's concerts. Atlantic Records took stock of Hootie & the Blowfish's grassroots appeal and signed the band to a recording contract in 1993.
Hootie & the Blowfish's fourth album and first major label release, Cracked Rear View (1994), did not make an immediate chart impression. Ultimately, the single "Hold My Hand" became a major hit through word-of-mouth; the band received a huge boon when talk-show host David Letterman pronounced the heretofore-unknown rockers to be his "favorite new band." A slow-building rocker, "Hold My Hand" features Darius Rucker's trademark soulful vocals. The song soars to memorable heights on the chorus, when seminal rocker David Crosby appears to lend a hand with background vocals; while Crosby and the other band members wail the "Hold my hand" refrain, Rucker jumps in with husky lyrical exclamation points: "I want you to hold my hand" and "'Cause I want to love you the best that I can." "Hold My Hand" reached the Top 10 on the Billboard singles chart.
Spot Light: Cracked Rear View
In commercial terms, Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View (1994) was as remarkable a debut as they come. The album was the fastest-selling debut album in Atlantic Records history. It spent eight weeks at number one on the Billboard album charts and fifty-five weeks in the Top 10. Cracked Rear View ultimately sold 16 million units, tying rock group Boston's self-titled album from 1976 as the biggest-selling major-label debut in history. In so doing, the unassuming South Carolina quartet outperformed the massively successful debuts of many well-known artists, including Guns N' Roses (15 million), Meatloaf (14 million), Backstreet Boys (14 million), Whitney Houston (13 million), Britney Spears (13 million), matchbox twenty (12 million), and Carole King (10 million). Not surprisingly, given such sales numbers, Cracked Rear View also ranked among the top-selling albums of the 1990s. According to SoundScan (an information system that tracks sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada and acts as a sales source for Billboard ), the album charted sixth behind albums by mainstream luminaries Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Metallica, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion.
The band also scored hits with the follow-up singles "Let Her Cry" and "Only Wanna Be with You." The former, a mournful ballad, allows Rucker ample room to emote in his trademark soulful style, while the latter returns the band to familiar, feel-good environs. The rollicking acoustic-guitar-driven "Only Wanna Be with You" won over many male fans with its memorable hook about football-watching frustrations: "And you wonder why I'm such a baby / 'Cause the Dolphins make me cry." Miami quarterback Dan Marino lent his star power to the band by appearing in the promotional video for "Only Wanna Be with You."
Its nonthreatening classic rock sound appealing to older fans and its catchy pop melodies ensnaring the young, Cracked Rear View ultimately sold an astounding 16 million copies—a record performance for a band's major label debut. Despite the public acclaim, critics savaged the group for what they considered punchless soft rock. Critics also predicted the band's ultimate chart demise, charging that they were incapable of a follow-up album anywhere as successful as Cracked Rear View.
Though the follow-up album Fairweather Johnson (1996) debuted at number one and sold a respectable 2 million copies, the Hootie & the Blowfish phenomenon clearly had begun to dissipate. The album spawned a couple of minor hits, but none came close to approaching the popularity of "Let Her Cry" or "Hold My Hand." A third major-label release, Musical Chairs (1998), was a commercial flop, confirming the band's fall from grace.
Despite the bottoming out of the band's mainstream appeal, Hootie & the Blowfish continued to tour and play to enthusiastic, if small, crowds. In 2000 the band returned to its bar-band roots by releasing a collection of cover songs titled Scattered, Smothered and Covered.
Cracked Rear View (Atlantic, 1994); Fairweather Johnson (Atlantic, 1996); Musical Chairs (Atlantic, 1998); Scattered, Smothered and Covered (Atlantic, 2000).
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