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Published:March 25th, 2009 13:41 EST

Hootie's New Gig As Country Crooner Seems Legit

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Hootie & The Blowfish`s ex-front man Darius Rucker met some criticism that his first foray into country, 2008`s Learn To Live was merely a flash in the pan for the roots adult pop rocker. But when Billboard`s Hot Country Songs list showed Rucker`s second single from the album "It Won`t Be Like This For Long" went to number one last week, skeptics soon learned their place.

This is Hootie`s (or Rucker`s, I have to keep reminding myself that) second country single peaking at number one from his country debut album. The first was "Don`t Think I Don`t Think About It" which stood atop the country charts late last year.

It`s not only a feat dispelling doubts over his future in the music business, but also an accomplishment seldom seen in all of pop music history.

This marks the first time a male artist has had both of his first singles reach number one on the Hot Country Songs chart since Clay Walker did it 15 years ago, and the first time a country artist`s first two format singles have dominated the genre for several weeks since March 1997.

The first single from Learn To Live held number one for two weeks back in October, making him a member of a select few artists with that distinction. Brooks & Dunn, Clint Black, Deana Carter, Jamie O`Neal, Wynonna Judd, and Faith Hill are the only others to have released singles that stayed at number one for more than a week in the month.

If it wasn`t enough to be the most commercially recognized country artist, Rucker also has another title to his name. When he released the album`s first single, he became the first African-American country artist to have a number one single since Charlie Pride recorded "Night Games" over 25 years ago.

According to Rucker, "It Won`t Be Like This For Long" spawned from brainstorming with fellow songwriters Chris Dubois and Ashley Gorley.

Darius recounted: "We had written this big drinkin` song called `Drinkin` and Dialin`, so we got together to write another drinking song. And before we wrote it we were talking about our kids. And afterward we were still talking about our kids, and we decided we were going to write a little lullaby song for me to sing to my kids and before long we had `It Won`t Be Like This For Long.""

Concerning his recent chart success, Rucker delighted to say that "the acceptance has been really great, much more than I ever expected. I`ve been going to Nashville for so long and I`m on a Nanci Griffith record and the Radney Foster records and I worked with Mark O`Connor. I`ve been writing songs with people there and just have been around the whole country music world."

With the enormous success of his second single, people are expecting his third, which will be arriving in stores soon. Until then, he begins touring with Rascal Flatts in the spring. Dates and locations for the shows will be posted shortly.

While country is normally considered a genre performed by and catered to whites, perhaps Darius Rucker will continue having success and pave long overdue inroads for fellow African-American artists to cross over.