Yesterday was a day of history. Hootie & the Blowfish were finally honored here in Columbia South Carolina for two decades plus of philanthropy and musicianship. In my opinion fantastic ambassadors of their musical craft and great representatives of Columbia. All of this coming from a person who mainly listens to and exists in a world of jazz.. Every now and then I will come out of my comfort zone. Hootie & the Blowfish are one of the few bands that can do that. And they have endeared themselves to me ever since I saw them live when they returned to Columbia. After their triumpant tour around the world for “Cracked Rear” which in 1994 launched them into orbit into the musical galaxy and currently it’s the 15th best selling album/cd of all time. Currently the band has sold 25 million records worldwide. And I am sure that that number could even be higher.
“How old were you in 1994?(The year of Hootie’s debut album”Cracked Rear View) I asked a couple of freshman students from the University of South Carolina. One of them said he was three years old. Now one of them is majoring in Psychology and the other in Geology. ” My dad use to do a lot of electrical work for the band,” the Psychology major said. They asked me did I get the chance to see Hootie & the Blowfish during the timein which they were growing up. I told them prior to “Cracked Rear View” I may have seen them in 5 Points as they made quite a lot of appearances for the college crowd. Then as we all gazed at the wonderful public art work created by Matthew Kramer and Christopher Stucyk that had been unveiled for Darius,Mark,Dean and Jim. I responded that what I liked about them(Hootie) the most and what I still vividly remember is the free concert that they had for Columbia and the state in Finlay Park. I am not so sure on the actual date but I believe it was after the bands completion of their tour for “Cracked Rear View.”
Even now I can still remember seeing MTV,helicopters, television network crews and boom-trucks. I mean so much was going on. We could have been anywhere on the planet. With all those lights. All the excitement. For that brief period of time when Hootie & the Blowfish gave that performance in the park. I did not think about the confederate flag. I did not think about how many of the native Southerners did not take too kindly and they still don’t to the Yankee invasion and the Yankee’s non-southern genteel way of life. Especially the African-American and foreign transfer”yanks” that move to the city and state like myself.But I think the concert in the park especially with MTV made us all kind of one just enjoying the music. And not anything else. And so in 2001 when duty called me over to Kuwait as a volunteer in the Air Force Reserves. When I was chided about the confederate flag as a negative thing in the state of South Carolina. The controversy was quickly abated when that I told my hecklers I also lived in the state with the band Hootie & the Blowfish. Yes, even in a land as far away as the Persian Gulf city of Kuwait people knew who Hootie & the Blowfish were.
And just like in Kuwait and overseas in general. Yesterday was no different for the crowds of people who came to the Columbia to see” Hootie” get honored. I briefly heard a older couple much older than my fifty years of youngness say they were from Missouri. And “Cracked Rear View” was how they were introduced to the groups music just as I was. And after the revealing of of the public art for the band “Hootie” band member Jim”Soni”Sonifeld had this to say, “Thank -you it’s really and honor. It’s just a great tribute. Thank -you! We have traveled a lot over the years. But our home is here (Columbia and the University of South Carolina). Which is where the band formed in 1986. Now twenty-five years later they are still going strong. After Jim finished speaking he introduced the Benedict Gospel Choir (which is world famous) they quickly broke into their version of the “Hootie” hit HOLD MY HAND. And were applauded enthusiastically.
Since many when they read this will have questions as to what is in store for the group in the future and did they perform on Thursday night.
And since I live in Columbia and I was actually in Columbia in South Carolina where they were honored and when they were honored. I will try my best to update you. Giving respect to Chris Carney,”Hooties” director for the bands foundation and also he manages FISCHO (the Headquarters for the band on Devine street). When I visited Hootie’s HQ Mr. Carney was super busy. But he was nice enough to greet me. I asked him for a auto graph but he explained that it could only come from the band members. And of course it was well worth the wait.
Because after the public art was fully displayed Dean,Jim,Darius and Mark were nice enough to sign autographs and take pictures with the public. I did not have a camera but Mark, Jim,Darius and Dean all in that order autographed the back of my Michael Jackson press pass from his “This is It” world concert and movie. I wore it because both Michael and “Hootie” have my most upmost respect. Because both have superb music and both gave back so much in charity and did not expect to have it paid back. I don’t know but I believe even Michael Jackson was a fan of “Hootie & the Blowfish” and I am sure that they are fans of Michael Jackson. To finish my update. Eight local bands paid tribute to “Hootie”:The Blue Dogs,Danielle Howle, Tootie and the Jones, The Soul Mites,Five Way Friday,Treadmill Trackstar,Cravin’ Melon and Patrick Davis. And even more musical types were located all over 5 Points. And as I listened to each one the main component from all is that they came to honor and pay tribute to “Hootie & the Blowfish” . Recognizing that “Hootie” inspired them with their hardwork and success and even in hardtimes sticking in there and not giving up or giving in. At the end of the night as the clock turned into the eleventh hour chants of “Hootie”,”Hootie”,Hootie” reverberated from the crowd. TV network news anchor personality Craig Melvin quickly sprang into action. Melvin was the MC from the first tribute band. Now he finally presented HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH. The crowd including me went wild.
Through the course of the day I had been interviewd several times because I was holding a sign paying tribute and honor to “Hootie” as I completed each interview. I ended by saying that “Hootie & the Blowfish” has come a very long ways. As Mark Bryan said”We use to sneak into bars!” Back when they were just a bunch of college kids. Now they are almost in their thirties. And the best from “Hootie and the Blowfish” is yet to come.
(With great thanks I wish to thank these sources for my opinion piece: The State Newspaper,The Free-Times,wikipedia,Hootie & the Blowfish and most of all FISCHO Management)