Darius Rucker Recalls His Early Days In Country Music and Being Told the Audience May Not Accept Him

“I wanted to come in and be on the bottom of the rung and work my way up,” Rucker recalls.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

September 7, 2021


9:42 am

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Darius Rucker; Photo by John Russell, CMA

After he made the decision to take a break from GRAMMY award-winning band Hootie & the Blowfish to become a solo headliner, country music icon Darius Rucker needed to reinvent himself, but in his own way. Although he was not new to the music industry, he wanted to start from the bottom, just as any up and coming artist would have to do to get their name out there. 

In a recent episode of episode of Apple Music Essentials, Darius Rucker joined Kelleigh Bannen to discuss what the beginning stages of his country career looked like, as he created a new image for himself and his music.

“It was funny, because it was probably the second time meeting I had at Capitol and I said, ‘Do you guys do anything with radio?’ And they were like, ‘Well, we do a radio tour.’ I was like, ‘All right. Let’s do that,’ Rucker recalled. “They were like, ‘You’ll do that?’ I was like, ‘I’ll do every single one.’ They were like, ‘We weren’t even going to ask you. We didn’t think you would do it.’ I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ And the thing was it was fun and it did what we wanted [it] to do.”

“We got, instead of just sending somebody a record, I took it to them,” he continued. “It was doing what I would want to do because I didn’t want to come in here telling everybody, ‘I’m Hootie. I’ve sold all these records. You’ve got to play my record.’ I wanted to come in and be on the bottom of the rung and work my way up.”

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In the last few years, country has evolved greatly in terms of taking steps to bring more diversity and representation into the industry, but unfortunately, that has not always been at the forefront of the genre.

Coming in as a Black country artist, Rucker was told he might not make it, but between the support from friends in the industry and his impeccable musical talents, he broke down those stereotypical walls. 

“I heard some great stories about some radio guys not letting people in the building that were rock stars and stuff like that. I was not hesitant,” Rucker explained to Bannen. “I was just going to do what we were going to do, but I was ready for anything. I had some great moments. I had some moments to this day that were very important to my life. You’ve heard the stereotype. You know, there’s no black folks in country music on the radios. There’s not going to be anybody on the radio.”

Darius Rucker; Photo Courtesy Of NBC
Darius Rucker; Photo Courtesy Of NBC

“When I would visit the radio the first time, there was three guys who are now great friends of mine, champions,” he added. “And I don’t think they were trying to be mean. They were being honest with me, who said to me that I don’t think the audience will accept a Black country singer. I mean, straight up. ‘I love the song, I’m going to play the song. I’m going to play it. I’m going to add it, but I just don’t think it’s going to work.’ I was like, ‘Okay, thank you for playing it. Let’s see.’ They’ve all come to me and said, ‘I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong.’”

Rucker has certainly worked hard and climbed his way to the top. Earlier this year, the country superstar returned to the top of the charts with “Beers And Sunshine,” and he followed the success of that track with his romantic “My Masterpiece” single and music video. 

Recently, Rucker hosted his 12th Annual Darius & Friends concert in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year’s event alone raised over $410,000 and to date, Rucker’s efforts have surpassed $2.5 million. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.