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Hootie & the Blowfish
Hootie and the Blowfish made a spectacular debut on the pop music scene in 1994, releasing an album, Cracked Rear View, that took the entertainment world by storm. By early 1996 the album had racked up 13 million sales, making it the second best-selling debut album of all time (behind Boston's eponymous 1976 release). Bristling with listener-friendly hooks, hummable melodies, and a "regular-guy" sensibility, the album and its songs weathered a slew of negative reviews to become radio and VH-1 fixtures. "Cracked Rear View? came across as something fresh and different, in large part because it didn't try to come across as anything fresh or different," explained critic Christopher John Farley in Time. "Hootie was embraced as an alternative to alternative, a straight-ahead zig to the posturing zag of the rest of contemporary rock." In 1996 the band released a follow-up album, Fairweather Johnson, that garnered somewhat more favorable reviews but also - perhaps inevitably - smaller sales. Hootie and the Blowfish came together in 1986 on the Columbia campus of the University of South Carolina, where the band members- -vocalist Darius Rucker, bass player Dean Felber, guitarist Mark Bryan, and drummer Jim Sonefeld -- all attended undergraduate school. The three white members of the band had arrived in Columbia after enjoying comfortable middle-class childhoods -- Sonefeld in Naperville, Illinois, Felber and Bryan in Gaithersburg, Maryland -- while Rucker had grown up in the poorer black neighborhoods of Charleston, South Carolina. "I had a typical Southern African-American upbringing," Rucker told Rolling Sone writer Parke Puterbaugh. "Went to church every Sunday for three hours. We weren't rich by anyone's standards. There was one point where we had my mom and her two sisters, my grandmother and fourteen kids living in a three-bedroom place. We had a lot of hard times, but I loved it. I look at my childhood with very fond memories." Family members recalled that Rucker loved music from an early age. As one of his sisters told Puterbaugh, "he was always singing around the house, using a broomstick as a guitar. Mom played Al Green and Betty Wright, stuff like that, but Darius had his own tunes -- a lot of what he heard on the radio and at school. Being a singer was always his dream."
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