Last week, Darius Rucker received an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry.
Opry member Brad Paisley surprised Rucker with the invitation at Tuesday night’s Opry show — posing as an audience member as Rucker fielded questions from the crowd.
Rucker, who found fame as frontman for rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, decided to go country in 2008 with his platinum-selling Capitol Records debut, Learn to Live, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Learn to Live produced three No. 1 singles, making Rucker the first African-American country artist with a No. 1 country hit since Charley Pride’s “Night Games” hit the top spot in 1983. Rucker’s second country album, Charleston, SC 1966, came out in 2010.
Pride, whose illustrious career includes 36 No. 1 hits, 25 million albums sold and winning the 1971 CMA Entertainer and Male Vocalist of the Year awards, was the second black performer inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Legendary harmonica player DeFord Bailey, who performed on the Opry from the 1920s until 1941, was the first.
The City Paper checked in with Pride last week after Rucker’s news. Pride, who joined in 1993, said he had a long-standing invitation to join the Opry, but didn’t accept until 26 years after his first performance.
“I had a standing invitation from when I first went on in 1967,” Pride explained. “[But the Opry] had different criteria back then — you had to do 26 Saturdays out of a year, and Saturdays were the most lucrative dates.”
When the criteria to join the Opry changed, Pride was ready to accept the invitation. As for Rucker, Pride said he’s a fan and is happy to see him inducted into the Opry.
“I like him. I met him at the Opry a year or two ago,” Pride said. “We sat down and sang together. I like his singing. I think he’s a fine man. I congratulate him and look forward to seeing him again.”
Pride recently donated items to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open in 2015.
Rucker is scheduled to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 16.