For a short time, Hootie & the Blowfish was the most popular band in America. Grunge music ruled the airwaves during the mid-'90s, but Hootie played a mainstream pop variation of blues-rock, and their easy-going sound netted them a string of Top 40 hits. Formed at the University of South Carolina, the group featured lead vocalist/guitarist Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld, and the band's name referred to two mutual friends (not Rucker and the group itself). Cracked Rear View, the quartet's first album, was released in the fall of 1994 and became enormously successful, due in part to the album's first single, "Hold My Hand." The song had worked its way into the Top Ten by the beginning of 1995, propelling the album to number one and paving the way for three additional Top 20 singles: "Let Her Cry," "Only Wanna Be With You," and "Time."
Cracked Rear View became the most popular album of 1995. By the time Hootie & the Blowfish returned to the scene with a second album, Fairweather Johnson, in early 1996, the debut had sold 13 million copies in America alone. Fairweather Johnson didn't replicate that success. It entered the charts at number one and sold two million copies within its first four months of release, but it didn't produce any singles on the level of "Hold My Hand" or "Let Her Cry." Musical Chairs followed in 1998 and experienced even less success, and the bandmates decided to take a short break after its release.
Scattered, Smothered, and Covered was issued two years later, featuring previously unreleased material and several cover songs. The band returned with new studio material on a 2003 self-titled effort for Atlantic, and followed in 2004 with an engaging Best of set. It included all their big singles, as well as cover songs like 54-40's "I Go Blind" (which had previously appeared on the Friends Original TV Soundtrack). Hootie & the Blowfish toured for most of the year in support of the hits collection, then returned to the studio to record Looking for Lucky, which was released in August 2005 through their own Sneaky Long imprint. As the decade drew to a close, Darius Rucker took some time to launch a solo career in country music. He became one of the genre's breakout stars in 2008, selling over a million copies of Learn to Live and sending three songs to the top of the country charts.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine