Darius Rucker Surprised With Special CMA Award During Appearance On ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’

Clarkson surprised Rucker when she presented him with the 2023 CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

October 24, 2023

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Darius Rucker, Kelly Clarkson; Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal

Darius Rucker has been named the recipient of the 2023 CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award. 

The country star was surprised with the distinguished honor during his appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show on Monday (Oct. 23), where he discussed his new album Carolyn’s Boy, and the lessons he learned from his late mother Carolyn growing up on the importance of helping others. 

A Lesson Learned From His Mother

As he dove into the stories from his past while sitting beside Clarkson, it became clear as to why Rucker leads his life with a good heart and appreciation for others. 

“When I was a kid, she instilled in us that you help people – not people that are less fortunate; you help people that need help,” Rucker shared with Clarkson of one of his mom’s greatest lessons, also noting, “We grew up in a really poor neighborhood with not much and, you know, there was no reason for me to believe that I was gonna be here and make it. But she always instilled in me ‘believe in yourself, you can do whatever you want,’” he shared.

Rucker went on to further explain this sentiment through a story he recalled of his older brother and the time he learned his lesson on bragging about the dollars in his pocket. 

“I was probably seven or eight, and my brother was 14, and we had this couple that lived in our neighborhood. The husband was in the Navy, and so he went away on the ship and the yard was growing up,” he began, “My brother went over and cut her grass, and she gave him $10. He came home bragging about the $10 he got, and my mom whooped his butt and told him, ‘you take that $10 back down and you give it back to her because we don’t help people for money. We help people to help people.’ And that was just something she instilled.”

Clarkson commended Rucker’s mom on her humble parenting style and then proceeded to let the “Wagon Wheel” singer know they had a surprise in store for him. She assured the crowd that Rucker had no idea that in just moments, he would be awarded for his years of charitable efforts. 

On-Camera Surprise

“I was very excited to be able to do this…he really doesn’t know about it. This is not TV. This is real,” Clarkson said.

Darius Rucker; Photo by Weiss Eubanks
Darius Rucker; Photo by Weiss Eubanks

Upon hearing the news and being presented with the humanitarian award, a look of shock instantly crossed the South Carolina native’s face. With his eyebrows raised, he said “Wow, that is awesome” and stood up to give Clarkson a hug.

This news comes just a few weeks before the 57th Annual CMA Awards is set to air live from Nashville on Wednesday, November 8 at 8/7c on ABC.


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The three-time GRAMMY Award-winner has continued to carry on his mom’s wisdom and advice throughout his life and career, and to this day, Rucker has lent his time to those in need through a variety of different charitable efforts. 

The CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual who has served as a humanitarian through community leadership, financial support, personal volunteerism and advocacy. The individual honored has evidenced commitment to worthwhile causes that are important to the Country Music Association and the Country Music community. Rucker is a four-time CMA Awards nominee, taking home the CMA New Artist of the Year honor in 2009. 

Giving Back

One way Rucker has pledged his support to others is by raising funds to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He first visited the campus 15 years ago and that experience inspired him to create the “Darius and Friends” charity auction, golf tournament and concert in 2010. 

This annual event takes place in the days leading into CMA Fest and features star-studded performances. Some of the country artists who have previously taken the stage for this good cause include Brooks & Dunn, Brothers Osborne, Kane Brown, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Ashley McBryde, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Brad Paisley and Kenny Rogers among others. With the help of these stars, the event catered towards helping raise funds to benefit the research hospital has now surpassed the $3.6 million mark.

Darius Rucker; Photo by Todd Owyoung
Darius Rucker; Photo by Todd Owyoung

Additionally, Rucker serves as a co-chair on the capital campaign that generated $150 million to help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in his hometown of Charleston, S.C. This particular effort is directly inspired by his mom’s career as a MUSC nurse.

On top of all that, his generous acts extend into his role as a National Chair for the National Museum of African American Music and being an advocate for over 200 charitable causes supporting public education and junior golf programs in South Carolina through the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation. 

2024 Tour

Now that his first album in six years has been released into the world as a tribute to his mom, Darius Rucker is planning to embark on the 2024 European leg of his popular Starting Fires Tour.

This extended trek will launch on April 27, 2024 in Manchester and continue with shows through May 11. 

For a full list of upcoming tour dates, visit Darius Rucker’s official website.

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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.