One of the biggest misconceptions to most people is that Hootie & the Blowfish became an overnight success in 1994 when their debut album Cracked Rear View, moved over 16 million copies (and counting) in the U. S. alone. What most people don't know was that the album's triumph came after a decade of hard work.
The quartet met when they were freshman at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Mark Bryan heard Darius Rucker singing in the showers of the dorm they shared and was impressed by his vocal ability. Bryan and Rucker began playing cover tunes as The Wolf Brothers; eventually Bryan and Rucker hooked up with Felber, a former high school band mate of Bryan's, and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld as Hootie & the Blowfish. (The unlikely moniker was borrowed from the nicknames of two college friends.)
By the time they graduated, endless gigs at frat parties and local bars had built a major local buzz. "We'd started adding original material to our repertoire," Bryan recalled. "Our songs went over well, so we decided to see if we could make a career out of it. Even if we hadn't had a hit, I know we'd still be making music today, because it's exactly what we want to be doing. I played a club show with some friends of mine last night to 100 people, lugging my own gear, if that tells you anything."
In the next five years Hootie & the Blowfish worked their way up the food chain from local draw to gigs all over the Carolinas and finally, the entire East Coast. Their blend of pop, folk, blues, soul and rock made them hard to pigeonhole, but easily accessible to anyone who loved good music. Atlantic Records, impressed by their regional draw, signed them and released Cracked Rear View in 1994. The album had been out for six months before the band played on the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman told his audience "If you don't have this album, there's something wrong with you." The day after the show aired, sales went from four or five thousand a week to 17,000 a week, and eventually Number One on the Billboard charts the following spring. It remains a strong seller today. "It became dream-like," Rucker recalled. "I'd wished for it, but I'm not sure I believed it, even as it was happening. We were on tour constantly; the whole thing is still kind of a blur."
At the end of the year, Cracked Rear View and the band won two Grammy's - Best New Artist and Song of the Year by duo or group for "Let Her Cry." They also took home an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist for "Hold My Hand," a Billboard Music Award for Album of the Year, a People's Choice Award for Album of the Year and a People's Choice Award for Best Selling Artist, a feat they duplicated in 1996.
Cracked Rear View went on to earn the band Billboard's Band of the Year Award in 1996 and the RIAA's Diamond Award for sales of 10 million units. Cracked Rear View remains the 12th best selling album in music business history, and all albums combined, have moved over 25 million worldwide.
The band kept touring, remaining a top draw nationwide and released five more albums for Atlantic: Fairweather Johnson, (three million); Musical Chairs, (one million); Scattered, Smothered & Covered; Hootie & The Blowfish and The Best of Hootie & The Blowfish as well as a solo album by Mark Bryan 30 on the Rail. Rucker has also released a solo effort, Back To Then, on the Hidden Beach label. The band left Atlantic by mutual agreement in 2004; Looking For Lucky is their first album on their own Sneaky Long Records, manufactured and distributed in North America by Vanguard Records.