Hootie & The Blowfish Monument - Atlas Obscura

Hootie & The Blowfish Monument

One of the best-selling bar bands in American music history is commemorated in their hometown's Five Points neighborhood. 

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The college bars of Columbia, South Carolina may seem like a surprising crucible for musical greatness. But for a brief time, one local bar band briefly became the most popular music group in the world. Today, a monument stands in the city’s Five Points neighborhood to acknowledge the musical contributions of their local heroes: Hootie & the Blowfish. 

One of the more unlikely acts ever to make it big, Hootie & the Blowfish was formed at the University of South Carolina in 1986 after a meeting between two freshmen, Mark Bryan and Darius Rucker. Eventually, they were joined by two other members, Dean Felber and Jim Sonefeld, gigging around town during and after college, playing cover songs in the Five Points area. Southern college rock, as typified by bands such as R.E.M., was still popular, but had fallen out of vogue with the rise of grunge. 

They began to see some regional success with a self-printed EP, eventually attracting the attention of an Atlantic Records A&R representative. The label agreed to release their next album Cracked Rear View (as with everything named by Hootie & the Blowfish, the name was terrible). What happened next shocked everyone, including the band themselves. 

Not hearing an immediate single, the label put together a plan to trade on the band’s local popularity, putting all their promo efforts into the Carolinas. It worked like gangbusters, and the band’s combo of amiable jangle pop and Darius Rucker’s gruff and resonant voice took off. Cracked Rear View exploded in popularity across the U.S. in 1994, becoming the highest-selling album in Atlantic Records history at the time, spawning four hit singles and even a controversy with Bob Dylan. It remains the 19th best-selling album of all-time in the United States, ahead of Tapestry, Purple Rain, Abbey Road, and millions of others. Through it all, they’d continue to announce themselves at each show by saying, “We’re Hootie & the Blowfish, from Columbia, South Carolina.”

The band never again scaled those heights, but they remained active and thankful for their good fortune, and noted for their charitable work. Darius Rucker also established a pathbreaking solo career in country music. To celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary in October 2010, the Five Points Association planned a monument and street renaming to honor the local heroes. A local stone carver, Ron Clamp, was hired to create a fitting monument to be installed at the new Hootie & the Blowfish Blvd. A nine-foot long guitar pick made from black granite is inscribed with the band’s biography and inlaid into the ground, while above, swirling steel lines form an abstract musical staff. When asked about it, Darius Rucker called it “wild.” “We’re just some bar band that got lucky,” he said. Right though he is, this bar band from Columbia will forever be immortalized in their adopted home of Five Points.

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