Hootie & the Blowfish is an American rock band that formed in 1986 at the University of South Carolina by Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Jim Sonefeld, and Mark Bryan. As of July 2010, the band had charted sixteen singles on various Billboard singles charts and recorded five studio albums; and their 1994 debut album, Cracked Rear View, was the 16th-best-selling album of all time in the US, having been certified platinum 16 times. The group was especially popular in Canada, having three number-one singles in the country. They have sold over 20 million albums in the United States alone.Early yearsHootie & the Blowfish formed in 1986. The quartet met when they were freshmen at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Bryan heard Rucker singing in the showers of the dorm they shared and was impressed by his vocal ability. They began playing cover tunes as The Wolf Brothers; eventually they collaborated with Felber, a former high school bandmate of Bryan's, and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld as Hootie & the Blowfish. Brantley Smith was the original drummer for the band. He left the group to pursue music ministry, but he has made scattered guest appearances with the band (he played cello on their MTV Unplugged performance in 1996, and played drums at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas, on June 27, 2008).The group independently released two cassette demo EPs in 1991 and 1992. In 1993, they pressed 50,000 copies of a self-released EP, Kootchypop.1994–1995: Cracked Rear View and mainstream successTheir mainstream debut album was Cracked Rear View (1994). It was an instant success, ultimately going platinum 16 times in the U.S. and becoming the best-selling album of 1995, as well as one of the fast-selling debut albums of all time. The album was propelled by four hits, "Hold My Hand" (U.S. No. 10), "Let Her Cry" (U.S. No. 9), "Only Wanna Be with You" (U.S. No. 6), and "Time" (U.S. No. 14). The album's last single, "Drowning", was not as successful as its predecessors, peaking only on the Mainstream Rock chart. In 1995, Hootie and the Blowfish and Bob Dylan reached an out-of-court settlement for the group's unauthorized use of Dylan's lyrics in their song "Only Wanna Be with You." Miami Dolphins' Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino appeared in the band's video for the song "Only Wanna Be with You", along with several other athletes.1996–1997: Fairweather Johnson and promotional singlesThe band won the "Best New Artist" award at the 1996 Grammy Awards. Hootie & the Blowfish appeared on MTV Unplugged on the eve of the release of their second album, 1996's Fairweather Johnson. Though sales began promisingly, and it contained the hit single "Old Man and Me" (U.S. No. 13), the album sold four million copies in the U.S. Hootie & the Blowfish has since released three more studio albums: Musical Chairs, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Looking for Lucky. They also released a B-sides and rarities compilation in 2000 entitled Scattered, Smothered and Covered. This album is named in tribute of Waffle House, a popular Southern chain of all-night diners. Specifically, the title refers to an order of hash browns scattered on the grill, smothered with diced onions and covered with melted cheese.In 1995, Hootie & the Blowfish contributed the song "Hey Hey What Can I Do" to the Encomium tribute album to Led Zeppelin. Their cover of Canadian group 54-40's "I Go Blind", originally released on the soundtrack to the TV series Friends in 1995, did not appear on Cracked Rear View or Fairweather Johnson, but nevertheless became a hit at radio in 1996 after three singles from Fairweather Johnson had been released. Both "Hey Hey What Can I Do" and "I Go Blind" were later released on the collection Scattered, Smothered and Covered.1998–2008: Later yearsIn 1998, they performed on Frank Wildhorn's concept album of the musical The Civil War. The group covered the 1968 Orpheus hit "Can't Find the Time" in 2001 for the soundtrack of the Jim Carrey movie, Me, Myself and Irene. Orpheus creator and the song's writer Bruce Arnold traded verses with Darius on several occasions, when the band played live on the West Coast. The band had an extensive touring schedule, including an annual New Year's Eve show at the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. In 2008, the band started releasing their concerts as downloads through trueAnthem. In 2009, Hootie and the Blowfish performed live in a ballet which chronicled their rise and success in the 1990s.2008–present: Hiatus and solo workIn 2008, Rucker announced in an AOL Sessions interview that Hootie and the Blowfish would be going on hiatus so Rucker could pursue his solo career as a country music performer. Although the band will no longer be recording or touring, Rucker confirmed that they will still perform their scheduled charity concerts, stating, "We have four charity gigs every year and we will still do them, but we will not do a record or tour." Rucker also said that the split will last "for five or six years, or until I record three or four country albums". He later amended his statement, saying, "To be honest with you, we're not even split up right now, and we're not really thinking about splitting up."Rucker has recorded a solo album, Learn to Live, for Capitol Records. It includes the singles "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", "It Won't Be Like This for Long", "Alright", all three of which have reached No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart, and "History in the Making" which peaked at No. 3 on the U. S. Hot Country Songs chart. Rucker's second solo album Charleston, SC 1966 was released October 8, 2010. A third studio album, True Believers was released in 2013.Record labelHootie and the Blowfish started their own record label, Breaking Records, in 1996 as a subsidiary of Atlantic. They had planned to focus on signing local Carolina acts. Edwin McCain and Cravin' Melon were both associated with the label at one point, but did not release any material on it. The Meat Puppets, Jump, Little Children, Treadmill Trackstar and Treehouse released one album each on Breaking Records. The label folded in 2000.Charity workHootie & The Blowfish have become known not only for their music, but also for their charity work. The entire band and crew traveled to New Orleans for five days of building houses in Musicians' Village, on October 16–20, 2006. The band's members are avid golfers, and have sponsored the annual spring Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament, benefiting local charities, since 1995.Hootie and the Blowfish toured through the Middle East and Europe supporting American troops during a USO Tour. One highlight of the tour was on December 5, 1998, when Darius Rucker broke into an a cappella solo of the National Anthem during the lowering of colors on board USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was docked in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. The band then played an extended concert for crew members of the aircraft carrierEach year from 2005 through 2009, Hootie and the Blowfish performed at The Animal Mission’s 'Party Animals' silent auction and concert to benefit the shelter animals in Columbia, South Carolina. Each year the event raised over $100,000 and allowed the organization to provide a free spay/neuter program for the Southern community’s pets. Hootie and the Blowfish reunited to do a show at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey on 18 October 2008, to show their support for the troops."Grammy award winning artists Hootie and The Blowfish are taking their charity work to a new level by donating the rights to their best-selling song "Hold My Hand" to aid the working poor. Leading the effort for the band is songwriter and drummer Jim Sonefeld who teamed with the nationally-ranked Benedict College Gospel Choir to produce a new recording of the song. Taking its cue from the song's lyrics, organizers are calling the project, With A Little Love. The idea came about last year as non-profits across the country struggled to raise money during the recession.The message behind "Hold My Hand", first recorded in 1994, was a perfect fit for the current day struggles of many working poor."