It’s been15 years since his first visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and three-time GRAMMY Award winner Darius Rucker has continued his promise to do all he could to support the foundation. Keeping true to his statement, the South Carolina native has continued to give back year after year.
Rucker hosted the 13th annual “Darius & Friends” benefit concert on Monday night, June 6th. The concert was followed by his corresponding golf tournament and silent auction on Tuesday, June 7th. Raising over $3 million to date, this year raised the most money, creating an all-time high of $516,000. The event sold out the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and had fans watching at home through a live stream.
Speaking of his first visit to the hospital in 2008, Rucker told the crowd, “I’m talking to one administrator and she said, ‘when you bring your kid to St. Jude, we fly you in, we put you up, we feed you and we never send you a bill.’ I started talking to people there and it’s true. That day I said, I want to do something to help. I’m doing this for St. Jude – thank you guys for coming out!”
Rucker’s passion for St. Jude has turned into an annual effort to fundraise. The benefit concert serves as an unofficial kickoff to CMA Fest and is known for its surprise lineup of well-known artists Rucker brings out onto the stage.
“Tonight is ladies’ night!” Rucker stated while the show kicked off. The night consisted of 30 hit songs and covers by Rucker and his friends: Sheryl Crow, Lindsay Ell, Sara Evans, Caylee Hammack and Rachel Wammack.
Fans got to see firsthand the effect St. Jude has had on those diagnosed. Addie, a St. Jude cancer survivor who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 15 years old, had the crowd on their feet cheering after her acapella rendition of “Never Be Enough” from The Greatest Showman. She has been in remission for five years.
The event began with Rucker singing some of his most famous hits – including his Platinum-certified No. 1s “This” and “For the First Time” followed by his latest release, “Same Beer Different Problem.” Rucker then introduced Sara Evans to the stage where she performed her hit songs “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger.” She closed out her set with a cover of “If I Can’t Have You” by Yvonne Ellman.
Back on center stage, Rucker performed his Double Platinum-certified No. 1 “Alright” and Platinum-certified chart-topper “Come Back Song.” He then announced rising artist Rachel Wammack to the stage where she performed “Bless Your Little Heart” and “Like Me” before wowing the crowd with a rendition of Miranda Lambert’s “Little Red Wagon.”
Rucker continued on to sing “Homegrown Honey,” “If I Told You,” and a Hootie & the Blowfish classic “Hold My Hand.” He then introduced his former tourmate Caylee Hammack, who performed her debut single “Family Tree,” “Forged in the Fire,” and her own version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Rucker joined Hammack for a duet of his unreleased song “Never Been Over,” which was penned with Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne.
Rucker also sang Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry” along with his latest No. 1 hit, “Beers And Sunshine,” which had the sold-out venue singing.
Sheryl Crow had the fans going wild when she performed her Platinum-certified chart-topper “If It Makes You Happy” and “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” She and Rucker sang “The First Cut is the Deepest,” as a duet while she referred to him as “a true legend.”
Wearing a white tuxedo jacket, he performed Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” and “Fly Away,” with a brass quartet in the background. He then introduced the final guest of the night, Lindsay Ell, who played an extended guitar solo during her performance of her latest single “Right On Time” and “I Don’t Love You.” She also blew away the crowd with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
Closing out the meaningful event, Rucker sang a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” As per tradition, the show ended with Rucker singing “Wagon Wheel” with the sold-out Ryman Auditorium,
In past years, Darius Rucker has invited Lauren Alaina, Jason Aldean, Brooks & Dunn, Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, John Daly, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Ashley McBryde, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Brad Paisley, Kenny Rogers and Tommy Thayer of KISS, among many others to be a part of his benefit concert.
Full 13th Annual “Darius & Friends” Set List:
Darius Rucker: “This,” “For the First Time,” “Same Beer Different Problem”
Sara Evans: “Suds in the Bucket,” “A Little Bit Stronger,” “If I Can’t Have You”
Darius Rucker: “Alright,” “Come Back Song”
Rachel Wammack: “Bless Your Little Heart,” “Like Me,” “Little Red Wagon”
Darius Rucker: “Homegrown Honey,” “If I Told You,” “Hold My Hand”
Caylee Hammack: “Family Tree,” “Forged in the Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues”
Darius Rucker: “Never Been Over” (with Caylee Hammack), “Let Her Cry,” “Beers And Sunshine”
Sheryl Crow: “If It Makes You Happy,” “The First Cut is the Deepest” (with Darius Rucker), “Every Day Is A Winding Road”
Darius Rucker: “Summer Wind,” “Come Fly with Me”
Lindsay Ell: “Right On Time,” “I Don’t Love You,” “Superstition”
Encore – Darius Rucker: “Valerie,” “Wagon Wheel”