Darius Rucker boasts a massive vinyl and CD collection that numbers in the thousands, with country music accounting for over 1,000 of the selections. But the CMA-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist, who last year was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, says that his introduction to country music came not from records but from a certain '70s-era syndicated TV show, one that mixed a little pickin' with a little grinnin'.
"I was a big Hee-Haw fan," Rucker says. "It’s kind of funny to say that, but Hee-Haw was my show. I watched it religiously every week. I look back now, and I always say that I don’t give Roy Clark and Buck Owens enough credit for my country career. Those are the guys who got me listening to the music back in the day."
By the '80s, Rucker had become an ardent record collector – he even spent some time working in retail, at Sounds Familiar in Columbia, South Carolina, which helped expose him to music both old and new. "I discovered bands like New Grass Revival, and they really blew me away," he says. "Foster & Lloyd had a big, big impact on me, and Nanci Griffith I just can't get enough of. Artists like that changed my life."
Millions of music fans first came to know Rucker in 1994 as the husky-voiced frontman for the multi-platinum roots-rock band Hootie & The Blowfish, but in 2008 he followed his deep and abiding love for straight-up country music and segued seamlessly into the genre, racking up back-to-back smashes with that year's Learn To Live and the 2010 follow-up, Charleston, SC 1966. This summer, Rucker will issue his much-anticipiated third album, True Believers, a record that he calls "more country than my other ones. On songs like Wagon Wheel, there's a traditional bluegrass feel. We tried to harken back to the vintage days."
Of that ginormous music collection, Rucker says that his brother-in-law graciously loaded the whole lot into a hard drive, so now the singer can hit 'random' on his tour bus, in a plane or at home and listen to longtime favorites and current singles. "Right now, I'm loving that new song Downtown by Lady Antebellum," he says. "I can’t stop playing it. But then I always go back and listen to Foster & Lloyd’s first record. I like to mix it up."
On the following pages, Rucker narrows down his library and runs down what he considers to be five essential country albums. "These are records I would recommend to anybody," he says, "but if you're a real country fan, then you've just got to hear them."