I also feel like I’ve witnessed the evolution and growth of Rucker’s career, not just from rock to country star but from a partying 20-something to a proud dad of three who was so sad to recently drop his youngest at college that he described the experience as “just awful.”
Watching him now, spitting distance from the stage, is surreal, and takes me back to that first concert.
1997, Florida. There was a notice in the local newspaper announcing that Hootie and the Blowfish would be doing a pop-up show at a tiny music venue in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The band hit the small stage belting out popular songs such as “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You,” and the crowd was electric. The show was especially meaningful for me at the time because my then-fiancé, Brian, was literally “holding my hand” and we both knew the words to all the songs.
After sound check at 30 Rock, the crowd simmers as we wait for the real concert to begin. An hour and a half (and a Starbucks coffee break) later, it does. Rucker and his band begin the concert with a new song, “Fires Don’t Start Themselves,” from his upcoming album, “Carolyn’s Boy,” out in October.
“I wanted to name the record “Carolyn’s Boy” because Mom never got to see any of my success.”
Darius Rucker told today’s craig melvin in 2022
“Carolyn’s Boy” is a tribute to his single mom, Carolyn Rucker, who was a nurse. She died in 1992, and while she got to see Rucker’s success with Hootie and the Blowfish, she never saw his ascension in country music.
“I wanted to name the record ‘Carolyn’s Boy’ because Mom never got to see any of my success,” Rucker told TODAY’s Craig Melvin in November of 2022. “She died before any of this happened, so it’s just another homage to the greatest woman I’ve ever known.”
Melvin — who shares a South Carolina lineage with Rucker and has known him closely since 2007 — is one of the singer’s biggest supporters. He introduces Rucker to the TODAY crowd as “the pride of South Carolina,” and as he watches his friend perform, he mouths the lyrics.
So do the hundreds of fans in attendance.
Allison Urtell, 60, of Edison, New Jersey, has been listening to Rucker since Hootie and the Blowfish. Carissa Gurgul, 25, got her mom, Beth, into Rucker. Seeing their intergenerational bond over music reminds me of another concert memory — this time, with my own daughter.
2017, Washington. Brian and I went to Watershed, a three-day summer country music festival, where Rucker was a headliner. It had been 20 years since we’d first seen him. In that time, we had married, raised two kids and moved across the country. Seeing Rucker (who had also married and had three kids by then) was comforting. We could relate to the Darius who was a dad wearing cowboy boots. As we watched his high energy performance, a familiar face popped up onto the jumbo screen featuring Rucker. It was our 17-year-old daughter, who had made her way through the crowd to the stage’s edge. I still have the photo I took of them.