It might seem preordained, inevitable that “Cracked Rear View” — the humble little 1994 debut from Hootie & the Blowfish — would go on to become a Grammy winner and among the top five best-selling debut albums of all time, now certified 21 times platinum. Anchored by the warm, sonorous voice of frontman Darius Rucker, who went on to pursue a successful solo career in country, the soulful disc is brimming with some of rock’s most memorable standards, like “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be With You.” It deserves all the fanfare, plus two new remastered bonus-track editions and a 25th anniversary Group Therapy Tour. But looks are deceiving, says Rucker, who remembers the deck being stacked against him from the very start, with zero guarantees.
With the blessing of label honcho Danny Goldberg, Atlantic A&R exec Tim Sommer signed you guys. And they were your only cheerleaders initially; nobody else there heard it, right? Tim got it. He came and saw us play and understood that this could be something big if given the chance. But he was still the only one at the label who saw that until it happened. He was getting bulls—- from all directions, and there were people, real higher-ups, saying that Atlantic would be the laughingstock of the music business if they put our record out.
So it was a Little Red Hen kind of situation? As the record started taking off, after we played Letterman, we didn’t think it was going to be as big as it was. But the people got it, and that was the important thing. And the label was putting a little bit of money behind it, but it wasn’t like this big thing. We weren’t costing anybody any money, but we weren’t a priority, either. Then when it started working, all of a sudden we became a priority.
What were you trying to do with your music back then? We were that little band from South Carolina, we had our own audience, and we just wanted to make our music. We never cared about being anybody else but us. And when we were playing the clubs, the rap-rock thing was really happening, and the grunge thing was really happening. They were both getting really big, but there we were doing our little pop rock songs. So we were selling out the bars, but we were never the critics’ darlings.
How did you select the songs for “Cracked”? We were lucky. We had played those songs for years. We’d played “Let Her Cry” for seven years, and we knew it was a song that people loved. We knew we’d recorded some great songs. We just wanted to see if grunge radio would play ‘em.
IF YOU GO
Hootie & the Blowfish
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $25 to $149